Citrus Olive Oil Cake
A traditional Italian treat with a twist.
This barely sweet dessert is a sophisticated combination of heady olive oil, aromatic fruits, and roasted almonds. Using whole citrus (not just the zest) along with a good quality olive oil in this recipe, sets this cake apart and gives it the intoxicating and complex flavor that makes it a citrus season must-bake. [Editor’s note: recipe from Sam Mogannam’s Eat Good Food Cookbook cookbook.]
3 1/2 cups sugar, more as needed
2 cups water
2 medium oranges
1 medium lemon
1 2/3 cup (6 ounces) sliced almonds, toasted (see note), plus more for décor if desired
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine 2 cups of the sugar and the water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium -high heat. When the sugar has dissolved, add the oranges and lemon. Make sure there’s enough liquid to cover at least two-thirds of the fruit – if needed, add a little more water and an equal amount of sugar directly to the pan (you don’t need to dissolve it separately). Cover the pan and lower the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cook, turning the fruit occasionally until it is very soft and easily pierced with a skewer (about 40 minutes). Carefully transfer to fruit to a plate and let cool enough to handle (save the syrup for another use, see tip).
While the fruit is cooking, put the almonds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk in the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
Oil a 9-inch springform cake pan (or a regular 9-inch -round by 3-inch-tall cake pan) and line the bottom with parchment. Position a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 350 F.
Cut the fruit into quarters and remove and discard any seeds or large pieces of membrane. Put the fruit in the food processor (you don’t need to wash the bowl first). Pulse, scraping down the sides as needed, until the fruit is pureed and fairly smooth – a few small lumps are OK.
Put the eggs and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium high speed until lightened in color and foamy, about 2 minutes. With the motor running, gradually add the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and continue to beat until very thick and creamy white 3 to 4 minutes longer. Reduce the speed to medium, and with the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil.
Add the pureed fruit and continue to mix until blended, about 30 seconds. Remove the bowl from the stand and gently fold in about a third of the flour mixture. When incorporated, add the rest of the flour mixture and fold until smooth.
Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until the cake is dark golden brown and springs back after a light touch, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Resist the urge to use a toothpick to determine doneness; it will cause the bake to sink in the center!
Let cool in the pan for 25 minutes and then run a knife around the perimeter. Turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Top with sliced almonds or a simple icing (optional, it’s delicious on its own).
Note: To toast the almonds, spread them on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 350 F oven until light to medium-golden brown (10 – 15 minutes).
Tip: It’s a shame to waste the poaching syrup with its lovely flavor of orange and lemon. It will last nearly indefinitely in the refrigerator. Mix a couple of spoonfuls with seltzer water to make an Italian soda, or use in your favorite cocktail recipe (it goes especially well with bourbon and gin).