Friday, December 9, 2011
Olive Oil Cake with Candied Orange
There is a long tradition of semolina cakes in the Middle East and the Mediterranean that benefit from a dousing of syrup usually made from honey. There are varying ingredients and shapes and flavors that have endured through history but all are celebrations of culture and sharing. And though there are many wonderful variations, this particular Olive Oil Cake with Candied Orange is so deliciously constructed it rises to the top of most other cakes I’ve had in this genre.
The cake is enriched with olive oil and yogurt and lightly scented with cardamom and orange zest. There’s just a bit of interesting texture provided by semolina. But it’s the crowning touch of oranges that get candied in a sensational aromatic cardamom orange syrup that really sets it apart. It’s festive and beautiful and full of wonderful flavor that only the happy combination of all these great ingredients can provide.
Next time you're in search of a delicious dessert to share with friends and family, try this splendid cake. It's certainly befitting as the grand finale to any delicious feast where adventure is the centerpiece.
- For the candied orange and syrup, I used 1 orange but only made half the syrup, which I thought was plenty. But you may want to make the whole recipe if you want to really soak the cake. Leftover syrup can also be used as a topping for ice cream or a sweetener for tea or a cocktail. Store the syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator. [half syrup recipe: 1/2 C sugar, 1 1/2 C water, 1/4 C + 2 T honey, 1 1/2 T cardamom pods.]
- I didn't have any trouble inverting the cake but you may want to either leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan or be extra careful if you soak the cake with the full recipe of syrup.
- Semolina is available at better supermarkets, Italian markets or in bulk food groceries.
- Use a very sharp knife to cut the oranges into thin slices.
- The syrup and candied orange slices can be made a day ahead. Pour the syrup into an airtight container and place in the refrigerator. Store orange slices separately. Warm the syrup just a bit before using.
- Choose a good olive oil for the cake. I used a delicious Arbequina extra virgin olive oil from California Olive Ranch.
- The cake has only 1/2 cup of sugar in it because the syrup sweetens and moistens it.
- For better ease of serving after presentation, set some of the candied oranges on the cake aside so you can slice it. Garnish each plate with some of the orange slices.
- If you like the combination of orange and cardamom, also try the Orange Cardamom Cake.
Olive Oil Cake with Candied Orange
adapted from Bon Appétit magazine
Makes 12 servings
Candied orange and syrup
1 C sugar
3 C water
3/4 C orange blossom honey
3 T green cardamom pods, crushed
1 small orange, thinly sliced
1 C flour
1/2 C semolina
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt
1 t ground cardamom
3 eggs, separated
1/2 C olive oil
1/2 C sugar, divided
2/3 C plain yogurt
1 1/2 t grated orange zest
1 t vanilla
Chopped unsalted pistachios, for garnish
For the candied orange and syrup, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Cut the orange into thin slices. Bring sugar, water, honey and cardamom pods to a boil until sugar dissolves. Add orange slices. Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer, turning orange slices occasionally, until they are tender and the syrup is reduced to 3 1/4 cups. This will take about 30 - 40 minutes. Arrange orange slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Strain syrup. Set aside.
For the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9" springform pan lightly with oil. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
Whisk together flour, semolina, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ground cardamom. Separate the eggs.
Beat the 1/2 cup oil and 1/4 cup sugar for 1 minute. Add the yolks and combine thoroughly. Add flour mixture and beat until blended. Beat in yogurt, zest and vanilla. Set aside.
Using a clean dry whisk attachment, beat egg whites in another bowl until opaque and soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until firm peak stage. Gently fold egg whites into cake batter in 2 additions. Transfer to prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
Place the cake pan on a wire rack. Pierce hot cake with a toothpick. Slowly drizzle 3/4 cup warm syrup over the top of the cake. When syrup is absorbed, slowly pour 3/4 cup more syrup over. [I skipped the second application of syrup.] Reserve remaining syrup for serving.
Cool completely. Run a thin knife around edge of pan to release cake. Remove pan sides. Carefully invert cake onto a plate and remove parchment paper. Invert again onto a serving platter so it’s right side up. Arrange candied orange slices over the top. Garnish with pistachios. Serve drizzled with more syrup, if desired.