Orange Olive Oil Cake

Last week’s Whatever’s in the Pantry baking project is an simple and straightforward orange olive cake. The sides and the top of the cake gets golden brown and slightly crisp, but its crumb remains soft and moist. It is undeniably an orange cake since every single component makes use of the some part of the fruit, but the olive oil and the dried herbs add their own flavors as well as a bit of a savory note that works with the sweetness of the syrup and the peels. The cake is best served on the day it’s made, warm and fragrant, with a cup of strong coffee.

For the cake:
2  seedless oranges
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp dried mixed herbs (basil, sage, thyme, rosemary)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange extract

For the orange syrup:
3/4 cup orange juice
6 tbsp white granulated sugar

For the candied orange peels:
peels of 2 oranges
2 1/4 cups white, granulated sugar
3/4 water

Make your cake. Preheat the oven to 176°C/350°F. Grease and flour a 9x2inch cake pan or a 9inch spring-form pan. Line the bottom with parchment or wax paper.

Peel and cut oranges into chunks. Place in a blender or food processor and puree until about blended, leaving some texture. Add olive oil to the oranges. Pulse until well-blended. Set aside.

In one bowl, combine and whisk together the flour, spices, herbs, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, use your hand mixer to beat the eggs until just combined. Add vanilla and orange extracts. Beat eggs. Start from medium and gradually increase to high speed. Add sugar gradually. Beat for about 4-5 minutes or until mixture is light in color and forms ribbons when mixer attachment is
lifted.

Alternately add flour mixture and orange mixture in three parts to the eggs, starting and ending with the flour mixture.

Pour the cake batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or just until a cake tester comes out clean.

Make your syrup. Combine orange juice and sugar in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar dissolves. Stir occasionally. Allow the liquid to cool.

Make your candied orange peels. Rinse the orange peels. Remove the pith. Cut skin into little strips. Place peel strips and water in a saucepan. Boil for 15 minutes. Drain well. Rinse and set aside. Combine water and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add orange peels. Simmer for 45 minutes (occasionally check to make sure syrup does not brown). Drain the peels.

Spread peels out on a plate or piece of foil. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup sugar on top of the peels. Toss until peels are evenly coated. Let it cool and harden for at least 10 minutes.

Put it together. Use a toothpick, knife or fork to poke little holes into your cake. Carefully drizzle and brush the syrup over the tops. Let the cake sit and soak another 10 minutes. Unmold from pan. Top cake with candied orange peels. Serve.

Have a slice. And maybe another slice.

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