I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect olive oil cake for some time now. I was hoping for one that would use olive oil alone for fat, and resist the temptation of butter, you know, better than I ever have. I was hoping for it to bake in a loaf pan, as rustic everyday cakes should, have a slight crunch at the edges, like a beloved one at a nearby coffee shop does. And above all else, I wanted it to be plain, simple, maybe a little zest for flavor but more less, about the olive oil which needs little in the way of a supporting cast.
Well, I found most of those things, but I was tempted as most of us are in wintry areas by the startling red-rust-maroons of blood oranges and they landed up in the mix, too. Melissa Clark is convincing like that. Who is she? Well, take a walk over to your cookbooks shelf, if you will. Recognize any of these? Then you already know her. This woman has worked on more cookbooks than I can count on all of my fingers and toes (kindly, Jacob lets me borrow his from time to time, or he did until we did this to him) and has been writing the Good Appetite column for the New York Times for several years. So, when I learned that she was writing her own book, with her own recipes, under her name only, I was delighted. Her stories are brief but warm and her book seems like a natural fit for anyone who enjoys reading food blogs.
But I know, you’re just here for the cake. And you should be, as it meets all of the aforementioned olive oil requirements, but gets a little pretty-pretty boost from blood oranges. Oranges and olive oil are wonderful together; they both have bitter undertones and fruity finishes and in this cake, you taste both things with each bite. The cake has a wonderful rainy afternoon quality; the crumb of a great pound cake but multiple times more moist. It keeps like a charm; I confess to only remembering to photograph it three days later and I hardly could tell that a day had passed. A day after that, I swore, it was even better. And a day after that, well, it went the way of all great cakes.
One year ago: Ginger Fried Rice
Two years ago: Whole Lemon Tart which I have been meaning to tell you, is perfect again. And you should make it, you really should.
Three years ago: Matzo Ball Soup
Four years ago: Miniature Soft Pretzels and Sour Cream Bran Muffins
Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from A Good Appetite
Butter for greasing pan
3 blood oranges
1 cup (200 grams or 7 ounces) sugar
Scant 1/2 cup (118 ml) buttermilk or plain yogurt
3 large eggs
2/3 cup (156 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups (219 grams or 7 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Honey-blood orange compote, for serving (optional, below)
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Grate zest from 2 oranges and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers, rub ingredients together until orange zest is evenly distributed in sugar.
Supreme an orange: Cut off bottom and top so fruit is exposed and orange can stand upright on a cutting board. Cut away peel and pith, following curve of fruit with your knife. Cut orange segments out of their connective membranes and let them fall into a bowl. Repeat with another orange. Break up segments with your fingers to about 1/4-inch pieces.
Halve remaining orange and squeeze juice into a measuring cup; you’ll will have about 1/4 cup. Add buttermilk or yogurt to juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid altogether. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well. Whisk in eggs and olive oil.
In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ones. Fold in pieces of orange segments. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and a knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up. Serve with whipped cream and honey-blood orange compote (below), if desired.
Honey-Blood Orange Compote: Supreme 3 more blood oranges according to directions above. Drizzle in 1 to 2 teaspoons honey. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir gently.