Thursday, April 2, 2009

Olive Oil Cake

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The first time I grasped the fact that all olive oils aren’t created equal, I was sitting in the back office of the public relations agency where I worked, taking part in an olive oil tasting. We had just landed a new California olive oil company as a client and the owner was taking us through a tasting to point out the significant differences between oils. While up until this point I had been entirely happy to use cheap brands found in every grocery store, after having sipped a tiny bit of the stuff (yes you’re supposed to sip olive oil during a tasting), I swore it off for good. It was rancid. It would have been clear to the most unsophisticated palette that it was rancid and our taste test director assured us the bottle had just been purchased that morning.

The test went on and we were able to recognize the differences between the good oils as well. Some were fruity, some were peppery with an almost spicy finish felt just at the back of your throat and my favorite was a bright grassy one that luckily belonged to my new client. I was thrilled with my education on what had just hours before seemed a most basic and somewhat boring ingredient. Little did I know the bill I would run up in years to come as I sought out distinctive bottles of oil with varying characteristics.

Don’t think I’m suggesting that you must spend lots of money in order to have a nice olive oil. My standby, use-in-everything-oil, is the California Estate Olive Oil from Trader Joe’s. It costs just under six dollars. I save the more expensive oils for finishing dishes and salad dressings where I know the flavor will be most prominent. If you’re interested in learning more about California olive oils, visit the California Olive Oil Commission. You’ll find a wealth of information including locations in California where you can visit producers and have your own olive oil tasting.

Since I’ve developed this appreciation for olive oil I took note when recipes for olive oil cakes started showing up in a number of places. A few weeks ago it came up again when Melissa Clark wrote about her olive oil cake in the New York Times. I clipped the article and decided it was finally time to try my hand at one. The opportunity presented itself last weekend when my father was in town visiting for the wedding of a family friend. We needed a quick pick me up before the wedding and this, along with a pot of PG Tips, was the perfect solution. I would recommend eating this cake the same day you make it. It did not have the same delicious flavor the next day. It may have been my imagination, but it tasted as though the oil was off. Don’t let that deter you. It really was delicious the first day it was made.

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Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake
From Melissa Clark in The New York Times

3 blood oranges
1 cup sugar
1/3 – 1/2 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350*
Grease a loaf pan (mine was 9-by-4). Grate the zest from two of the blood oranges into a medium bowl. Add the sugar to the zest and rub together until the zest is well incorporated and the mixture resembles damp sand. Supreme the zested oranges (Clark gives great instructions for this in the New York Times article). Break up the resulting orange segments into small pieces in a bowl. Go small - I did not go small enough. Clark suggests 1/4" pieces. Mine were probably closer to 1/2" so make sure you follow her suggestion.

Juice the remaining orange into a glass measuring cup and then add enough buttermilk to bring the liquid to 2/3 cup. Add the liquid to the sugar mixture and then whisk in the eggs. In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) and gently add them to the wet ingredients. Use a spatula to fold in the olive oil, a little bit at a time. Fold in the orange pieces and pour the mixture into your prepared loaf pan.

Bake the cake for 55 minutes (I started checking mine after 45 and it needed the full cooking time). Let the cake cool slightly in the pan and then unmold onto a cooling rack to cool completely before serving.

31 comments:

Erica said...

I've never made a cake like his but it sounds really good. I want to go to an olive oil tasting so bad! I def utilize the average everyday olive oil and know that I must be missing out (especially given I use this olive oil on my salads that I consume on a daily basis). Thank you for the info

Hopie said...

Mmmm, the first I did olive oil tasting it was, likewise, an eye-opening (or should I say palette-teasing) experience. Funny how the tastes are really different from different regions.I use a supermarket brand most of the time, but for special occasions, there's nothing like good olive oil.

Mary said...

I made an olive oil cake years ago. I wasn't impressed, but having read your advice about the oil I suspect what I used was not fresh. I'll have to give your recipe a try. Your photos are gorgeous.

squirrelbread said...

These olive oil cakes are always so intriguing to me. I think yours is gorgeous enough to push me over the edge into finally putting my hands to work on one! Now if only I could take photos like you...

Cheers!

*Heather*

Sara said...

I used to use TJ's CA estate olive oil. Then they recently released spanish olive oil, in a large clear bottle, I think it's about $8. In my opinion, it's so much better than the CA estate oil. Your cake looks great!

angelo said...

The cake looks amazing. I am all over this recipe this weekend. Thank you.

Culinary Wannabe said...

I've heard of baking with olive oil, but always wondered what the end result would taste like. It's funny, from the picture I thought it was a lemon cake.

Sara said...

I have never made an olive oil cake before. Though I did have a similar epiphany about olive oils recently.

Diana said...

You had me scared there a minute! I was thinking, "Rancid olive oil? I hope that doesn't apply to my TJ's version!"

Glad that you use it too! :)

This cake looks fantastic. I have been curious to try olive oil cake since hearing so many good things about the version at Mozza.

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

I love sweet dishes with olive oil in them. Batali's restaurants have olive oil gelato which is one of my favourites.

savour-fare.com said...

I also buy the same Olive Oil from Trader Joe's, and go through it at a prodigious pace.


How much does the olive oil flavor shine in the cake? One of my most favorite things ever is the olive oil gelato they serve at Otto -- Mario Batali's pizzeria in New York (I think they may have started serving it at Mozza as well), and what's fantastic about it is the fruitiness.

we are never full said...

i love how the blood oranges give the cake just a bit of color. so gorgeous. i actually could drink olive oil, i love the flavor so much.

Maria said...

Love your cake. I bet it is amazing with all of that olive oil!

croquecamille said...

I've always been intrigued by olive oil cake - does it really showcase the flavor of the oil? I bet you could have some fun pairing different oils with garnishes in the cake (maybe one with lemon, or pepper, or chocolate...).

unconfidentialcook said...

I clipped this recipe, too, and I'm glad to know it's worth making--thanks! And, thanks for stopping by; please come again soon. (BTW, it's really worth the effort to learn the Japanese products and ingredients...but it is a chore, can't deny that!) I'm so happy to know about your blog--pissaladiere is one of my faves, too!

The Duo Dishes said...

This sounds beautiful, and your photography is amazing. We'll try this version of a citrus cake soon. :)

gammypie said...

All I have to say about olive oil cakes is not to use EVOO. Big difference. In fact, I've stopped using EVOO altogether. I find the taste too bitter. Olive oil is so much creamier.

Grace said...

blood orange is such a morbid name for a succulent, luscious fruit. i'm loving your cake--it looks moist, moist, and more moist. :)

Kerstin said...

Olive oil cake - how cool and it sounds delicious! Very cute blog!

Sophie said...

This cake looks great! I also baked with olive oil & it turned out great too! Love your recipe!!

Holler said...

Your cake looks good! I have heard of olive oil cake before, but not with blood orange, which I adore. Lovely!

Mariana said...

Wow. After visiting Lickedspoon I decided to drop in. Your blog is a visual feast and congrats on the blog award. It certainly seems well deserved!

I must add this cake looks absolutely delish. I make one similar but without the fruit and more eggs and I use cocoa for a marble effect. Yours sounds a little healthier with the oranges though. I'm glad I discovered you.

rookie cookie said...

Lovely pictures you have on here. They look good enough to eat :)

alexandra said...

Olive oil cake is one of my favorites. This looks scrumptious. And I must check out this pissaladiere as well. I've been dying to make something like this.

And, regarding my kitchen, I have to say I am very lucky. I don't use any studio lighting — I just set my cutting board up right next to the window and shoot away.

Lickedspoon said...

This looks wonderful. I really like the idea of using olive oil in a cake and I'm practically addicted to blood oranges at ths time of year, so I'll definitely be giving this a try.

I love the name of your blog by the way - so evocative.

Gigi said...

This recipe looks fantastic. Can't wait to try it! I make a crumbly lemon, olive oil, and corn meal cake that is one of my favorite desserts of all time. It's consistency is much like a shortbread except a bit moister and with the added crunch of the cornmeal. I usually serve it during the summer, whole on a gorgeous plate, and let guests simply break off pieces to dip in their espresso or even their dessert wine. It is great the next morning for breakfast, too, but it usually gets gobbled up before then.

Selba said...

It must be healthier to use olive oil than butter, right? Interesting...

Anonymous said...

WOW what a great recipe. My favorite Ca Olive oils are from the growers at Temecula Olive Oil Company. (they are fabulous!)They press a blood orange olive oil and I think I will try it with this recipe. Thanks for the idea!

Gigi said...

Just wanted to say thanks for posting this recipe. I made it yesterday, and it was a huge hit!
-Gigi

n.o.e said...

There's a restaurant here in Atlanta that has a wonderful olive oil cake with a rosemary ice cream - it's out of this world. I've been looking for a similar recipe, so olive oil cakes have been on my radar. Yours (Melissa's) looks really delicious; I'm marking it!
Nancy

戴佩妮Penny said...

yummy yummy!I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.
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