Orange and Almond Olive Oil Cake
When I think of Italian sweets (dolce), the first thing that comes to mind is the iconic combination of fragrant orange and almond. A few of my favourite sweet Italian treats that show off this memorable combination are crunchy Biscotti, lacey Florentine cookies, and spiced Panforte, to name a few. This olive oil cake calls for the zest and juice of 1 orange, and a scattering of sliced almonds that form a crunchy crust on the top of an otherwise tender, olive oil infused cake. The cornmeal in this recipe adds another layer of texture and gentle savoury flavour that makes this not-too-sweet cake into an ideal breakfast or afternoon tea (espresso?) treat, too. Whenever you grab your next slice, a dollop of lightly whipped cream and some fresh fruit or preserves make for a suitable garnish. Me being the true cheese lover that I am - I would also consider a big spoonful of Gorgonzola Dolce an appropriate accompaniment, too....mmm!! *drool*
When I was testing this recipe, the only cornmeal I had on hand was a coarse grind. It turns out, coarse cornmeal adds a great texture to this cake and shouldn't be overlooked! I think it adds a really nice rustic quality to this cake that suits me very well. If you happen to prefer lemon over orange, then you should definitely add lemon instead - in fact, the original recipe calls for it! This is sort of a choose-your-own-adventure type of cake. Bits of dark chocolate or maybe a small amount of fresh rosemary would also be interesting additions to consider.
This recipe has been adapted from an original recipe by Domenica Marchetti, owner of www.domenicacooks.com . Domenica is an Italian American raised by native Italian parents, who regularly celebrate the cuisine of Italy around their kitchen table, and during countless trips back to Italy over the years. When you visit Domenica's website you will find an incredible array of recipes from her many cookbooks and countless magazine articles. Her career in food is truly inspiring...thank you Domenica for letting me play with this recipe!
Orange and Almond Olive Oil Cake
Makes one 8-inch cake, to serve 8
1/2 cup (125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (130g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60g) finely ground cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 small orange
1 cup (200g) sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving
Whipped cream and fresh fruit or preserves, for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly oil an 8-inch (20-cm) round springform pan, fit the bottom with a round of parchment and oil that as well.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, thoroughly blend together the oil, egg, milk, orange zest and juice, 1 cup sugar, and the vanilla extract. Pour this into the flour mixture and whisk gently until combined (do not overmix).
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes. While the cake is baking, mix together the almonds, 2 tablespoons butter, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Remove the pan from the oven and quickly but gently scatter the almond mixture over the top of the cake, and return the cake to the oven.
4. Bake the cake for another 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown on top and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Remove the ring form the pan and let the cake another 20 to 30 minutes. Invert the cake, remove the bottom of the pan and the parchment. Re-invert and let it cool completely. To serve, transfer the cake to a plate and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh fruit or preserves on top, if you like.