Citrus is its own exclamation mark, boldly making its presence known punctuating countertops, fruit baskets and baked goods alike with its brilliant colour and fresh flavour. My February certainly got brighter when I spent the afternoon carefully supreming navel oranges, blood oranges, and tangerines to accompany a lemon olive oil cake that filled my kitchen boudoir with a sweet and happy scent. The recipe is one I found in a cookbook I'm rather fond of: Anna & Michael Olson Cook at Home. It sounded rather odd to me at first...olive oil??...in a cake?! Perhaps this was because I was reminded of an earlier mini-chef version of Sonja who didn't know that olive oil was more savoury and flavourful than other oils and used it unconsciously in a sweet dessert and as an unconscious acting exercise for those lucky few who tried it and were kind (or cruel, depending on how you see it) enough to tell me it was 'delicious.' But this cake certainly is.
To begin this recipe, I supremed. Not Diana Ross-style, but citrus-style by carefully separating the juicy wedges of fruit from the skin, pith, seeds and thin membrane that surrounded them. I am sincerely struck by the beauty that is the inside of a citrus fruit – each tiny bead holding its allotment of juice, nestled one next to the other in the colourful sunburst sections of the flesh. Blood oranges are currently in season and add a punchy pop of red to the citrus mix. Red grapefruit would also work nicely in this combination. Supreming is a very juicy endeavour, so be sure to have a damp cloth or a roll of paper towel nearby to catch the juice.
Supreming is also very sexy. You are quite literally completely undressing an orange.
These fleshy multi-coloured wedges are set aside in a bowl and left to let their juices mingle with the good quality extra-virgin olive oil. The flavours marry well and the taste is like perfectly balanced vinaigrette - a union of the bite of acid and the balm of oil.
The oil also finds its way into the cake batter along with tart lemon zest, flour, sugar, milk, eggs, extracts and rising agents.
Although I used a very-good-quality olive oil to steep with the citrus, I don't think it's necessary to use the good stuff in the batter - I used my grocery-store standby. The liquid ingredients barely have time to meet the dry before they are poured into a prepared pan and baked for 40 minutes or so, during which time you will wish you could bottle how your kitchen smells and wear it.
The cake comes out golden with a perfect moist crumb. It tastes of lemons and the olive oil gives it a depth of flavour that unfolds as you savour each bite. A sprinkling of confectioner's sugar and the cake stands alone (great the next day too, if there's any left!) but the steeped citrus is a beautiful accompaniment.
Lemony Olive Oil Cake with Steeped Citrus - Adapted from Anna & Michael Olson Cook at Home
FOR STEEPED CITRUS:
FOR STEEPED CITRUS:
2 navel oranges
2 blood oranges (grapefruit works too)
2 TBSP good-quality olive oil
Carefully supreme these beauties and let sit in a bowl to mingle with the olive oil at room temperature while you bake the cake.
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/4 CUPS sugar (I used my homemade vanilla sugar)
2/3 CUP extra virgin olive oil (no need to get fancy here, unless you want to!)
3/4 CUP milk
2 TBSP lemon zest
1/2 TSP vanilla extract
1/4 TSP coconut extract (you can simply use vanilla, if you like)
1 CUP all-purpose flour
1/4 TSP baking powder
1/4 TSP baking soda
Preheat oven and grease, flour & paper an 8-9" cake pan.
Whisk the liquid ingredients with the sugar, egg, egg whites & lemon zest till frothy. Combine dry ingredients and add to the liquid mixture, stirring just to combine. Pour batter into pan and bake for 40-45 min, until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature in the pan.
Remove from pan gently, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar, and slice to serve with accompanying steeped citrus, or enjoy on its own. This cake tastes like sunshine feels and is bound to brighten your day and the day of whomever you decide to share it with.