The food blog world has been a-buzz about Melissa Clark’s new book, A Good Appetite. It’s hardly surprising, as each recipe starts out with a vignette by-way-of introduction. A blog in book format, you could almost say. I’ve tried several dishes from this book, but you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the baked goods portion of the book just happened to fall open a bit too often. Most serendipitously, I had three blood oranges in my fridge and Melissa Clark had written up an intriguing way to turn three blood oranges into a cake.
This recipe is all sorts of unusual: olive oil in a cake? Not the first time I’d heard this, but you couldn’t quite say it’s mainstream. Oranges in a baked good? Also a bit odd: outside of lemon pound cake, at least. And blood oranges, with their sweet-but-bitter flavor that hints at grapefruit–don’t you usually see these guys rounding out a savory dish or flavoring a marmalade? But weird is intriguing, at least for me.
And somehow it all works together. Jewels of blood orange are nestled in a cake made tender by yogurt, its assertive taste softened by a vegetal hint of olive oil.
It’s easy to mix together, despite the fact that you have to “supreme” an orange–it turns out this is just a way of effectively removing the skin, and it’s quite dramatic to see the black magenta fruit breaking through the white pith that you are slicing away. (I suppose, suitably dramatic–what a name for a technique, to supreme something!)
It feels odd to add juice to yogurt (which I substituted for sour cream), and odder to pour olive oil into a batter, especially as it takes a moment or two to fully incorproate.
But when it’s baked up in a loaf pan, after it’s perfumed the whole kitchen with a warm and cozy citrus aroma, it’s strange not to keep slicing piece after piece.
And lest you think that this mix of flavors is something that only appeals to a particular palate, I’ll let you know that my just-turned-one year old was crazy for this. Though for him I did not serve with creme fraiche, though that’s how I enjoyed it.
And in return for this cake, my just-turned-one year old has also given me a persistent head cold that we are both just recovering from, delaying this post such that I fear that blood orange season may be at an end–certainly others have already discovered and posted on this cake long before me–who else but Deb at smitten kitchen or the people over at Leite’s Culinaria (who also provides some additional serving suggestions and metric measures). But no reason you couldn’t use any other citrus in this cake when blood oranges are not available. In fact I think orange spiked with a bit of pink grapefruit could take you through the rest of the year quite nicely. I’ll certainly be playing around with this!
Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake (from Melissa Clark’s A Good Appetite).
- 3 blood oranges
- 1 c sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 3/4c all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 t baking powder
- 1/4 t baking soda
- 1/4 t salt
- 2/3c extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking pan
- Whipped Cream or Creme Fraiche, for serving, optional
Preheat the oven to 350°F (176° C). Oil a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Zest 2 blood oranges and put it in a bowl with the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the ingredients together until the sugar and zest are well mixed. You will begin to smell the lovely citrus aroma. Supreme two oranges (meaning, slice off the bottom an top so the fruit can sit up nicely on a cutting board; then, cut the peel off in slices from top to bottom). Segment each orange by cutting the sections apart and out of the membranes, then place pieces into a bowl. Further break up the orange pieces with your fingers.
Halve the remaining orange and juice it into a measuring cup. You should have about 1/4c but if, like mine, your oranges are on the small side you can top up with regular orange juice. Add enough yogurt or sour cream to the juice until you have 2/3 cup of liquid. Whisk the mixture together, then whisk this into the sugar-zest mixture. More whisking in as you add the eggs. Make sure it’s all fully incorporated.
Mix your dry ingredients: whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Switch to a spatula and fold in the oil, adding 1/3 at a time. Fold in the orange pieces. Pour the batter into a pan and smooth it out.
Bake for about 55 minutes, until it is golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove it from the pan and finish cooling on a wire rack. Serve with creme fraiche or whipped cream.