It's pretty much impossible for me to pass up an olive oil cake, no matter if it's being offered at a restaurant, in a bakery, or in recipe form. There's something about the lightness of the cake combined with the green and fruity flavors that the olive oil lends—I find it absolutely irresistible.
So when I came across this recipe for Orange-Glazed Olive Oil Cake with Fleur de Sel from The Perfect Finish by Bill Yosses, I made sure I had all the ingredients on hand, then made a beeline for the kitchen to start baking.
When a dessert involves orange, it's typically the juice or the zest that does the flavoring but this recipe is a little different. Adapted from a Sicilian recipe, this cake uses the entire orange, rind, pith, and all. The oranges are blanched and then simmered in a sugar syrup to soften them, then they're blended to a paste in the food processor. By using the whole orange the cake takes on that wonderful sweet yet slightly bitter flavor typically found in candied orange peel.
Once the oranges are pulsed in the food processor, the rest of the ingredients are added to the bowl and blended until just combined. The food processor facilitates the cake-making process but can get very full, depending on what size you're using.
Although the photograph accompanying Yosses' cake in the cookbook looked fairly flat, mine rose to nearly double the height of the pan. I'm not quite sure why this happened but can you really complain about having a bigger cake than you expected? Once the cake cools it's glazed with the same orange glaze that finished last week's Blackberry Buttermilk Bundt. The glaze made sure the fleur de sel flakes stuck to the surface, and of course added a fantastically complementary saltiness.
I served part of this cake the day I baked it, but the leftover piece was even better—the orange and olive oil flavors were much more pronounced and the cake became more moist.
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Orange-Glazed Olive Oil Cake with Fleur de Sel
- makes 1 (10-inch) cake, serve 8 to 10 -
- Unsalted butter, for the pan
- 2 navel oranges or thin-skinned juice oranges, such as Valencia
- 2 1/3 cups sugar
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel
- For the orange glaze:
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 1 medium orange)
In a large pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Slice the bottoms and the tops off the oranges (where the rind is the thickest) and quarter the oranges. Plunge the orange, rind and all, into the water, allow the water to return to a boil, remove, and drain. Repeat the process two more times. This blanching will remove the bitterness from the orange rind.
Place the oranges in a pot filled with 1 quart fresh water and 1 cup of the sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then let simmer until the rind is softened and can be easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. At this point, the oranges can be cooled and kept in a container, in the syrup, in the fridge for up to 3 weeks before you proceed with the recipe.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Grease a 10-inch round cake pan.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper and set aside.
Pull the prepared oranges from the syrup with a slotted spoon, and discard any remaining seeds in the cooked orange segments. Cut the oranges into chunks. Place them, rind and all, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment (discard the syrup), and pulse until the oranges form a puree. The puree will be slightly chunky and not perfectly smooth, and this is okay.
Add the eggs, the remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar, the flour mixture, and the vanilla extract to the food processor. Pulse until well blended.
Add the olive oil last and pulse until thoroughly blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake on the center rack until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the top of the cake is golden brown, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then slide a thin knife or offset spatula around the sides of the pan and turn it over to unmold the cake onto a plate, then flip the cake onto a wire rack. Let cool thoroughly on the rack, at least 30 to 40 minutes more, and pour orange glaze over the cake when cool. Sprinkle the fleur de sel over the cake at the last minute.