I can’t quite get my head around it, but we’ve had another birthday here, and another birthday cake along with it (the birthday boy tried to hide from the candles, but he loved the cake). He wanted an orange cake – no surprise there. We made it together, early on the morning of his birthday. We shared it with grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles, and lots of birthday love.
“Happ-a-too-too LuDu” – we love you so much. xo
Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake
I used Deb’s recipe for blood orange olive oil cake, with just the slightest changes. Deb got the recipe from Melissa Clark and her book In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite.
This is a beautiful, sunny, not-too-sweet cake. Make no mistake – olive oil or no, this one is a pound-cake lover’s treat. It has a soft tender crumb, a crisp-crunchy edge, and is spectacularly moist. I suspect it would keep very well (Deb claims hers kept for days,improving each day) – ours was gone as soon as we set it out. (Jacob and Sonia were a wee bit unimpressed by a birthday cake without frosting, but the rest of our party inhaled it). We used the best local olive oil we know, and it was worth the splurge – you definitely taste the character of the oil (and if you hate the taste of olive oil, this might not be the cake for you – it has an ever-so-slight fruity green sort of flavor that a butter-based cake would not). I think the oranges and the olive oil are delicious together, complementing and playing off of each other in a way that is slightly unexpected in a cake but not at all shocking or strange. They don’t overpower the cake in any way, but they elevate it and definitely make themselves known with a subtle grace. It’s a charming sort of cake, with delicate but distinct flavors. It’s not obvious as a party cake, but with the right crowd it’s a standout.
This is a cake to linger over, and I would have loved to savor a plain slice with a cup of tea. Dolloped with a bit of crème fraîche and blood orange compote though, it makes a fine birthday cake – especially for a newly minted two-year-old boy who loves oranges.
Butter for greasing the pan
3 blood oranges
1 cup sugar
Scant 1/2 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
3 large eggs
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
For serving: blood orange compote (I would recommend making double what Deb makes, since we loved it – so, supreme 6 blood oranges, mix with two teaspoons honey, let sit five minutes before serving) and sweetened crème fraîche (I sweetened one cup with about a teaspoon of sugar).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan (NOTE: this is Deb’s recommended pan size. I used an 8-by-4 and had a slightly longer cooking time).
Zest 2 of the oranges into a bowl and add the sugar. Mix the zest and sugar together with your hands until they are well blended and it is an even mixture.
Supreme two oranges (here are good instructions on how to supreme), letting the juice fall into a measuring cup. Put the segments in a fine mesh strainer over the measuring cup and break them up with your fingers into small pieces. Let the juice drain off into the cup. If you have juicy oranges, you may be able to get the 1/4 cup of juice you need from the two you have already cut. If you need more, cut the third orange in half and squeeze juice into the measuring cup until you have about 1/4 cup.
Add the buttermilk or yogurt to juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid total. Pour this mixture into the sugar-zest mixture, and whisk well. Whisk in eggs and olive oil until everything is well combined.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Once combined, gently stir the dry ingredients into wet ones until just mixed.
Gently fold the orange segments into the batter. Pour the batter into your prepared pan.
Bake cake for 50 to 55 minutes (mine took closer to 65 in the deeper pan) or until it is golden and a knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in the pan, on a rack, for 5 minutes. Then remove from the pan and cool on the rack to room temperature.
Serve with sweetened crème fraîche and blood orange compote.