|Blood Orange Cake with Candied Orange|
In warm-weather Mediterranean countries where olives grow, and where butter spoils quickly, sweets are more likely to be made with age-old olive oil. In Italy, bakers add olive oil to everything from biscotti to apple cakes. In Spain and Morocco, the zesty character of orange semolina cake is enhanced with fruity-flavoured olive oil. The tender, crumbly Greek cookies kourambiedes, too, are made with olive oil. Oil will tenderize your cake batter and help keep it moist. So it is often used in fruity, dense quick breads and muffins that are leavened with baking powder and baking soda. The trick is keeping mixing to a minimum to prevent developing tough strands of gluten.
Blood oranges are juicy, sweet with a dark red interior and are slightly less acidic than regular table oranges. Originally from Sicily (Italy) and Spain the blood orange has gained in popularity and can be found fresh or in juice form in many local grocery stores. Blood oranges contain a pigment called anthocyanin which is not typically found in citrus but rather more common in other red fruits and flowers. Not only is the inside of the orange darkly pigmented but depending on the variety the outside may also have dark washes of red. What we find here in our stores probably are grown in either California of Texas. U.S. grown blood oranges are in season from late fall to early spring.
As Elise of Simply Recipes says, "Those of you who love blood oranges don't need to be told how exquisitely wonderful they are. In the kingdom of citrus, blood oranges are royalty. You know that every bite is an explosion of sweet, deep orange flavor, with hints of raspberry." If you've never had a blood orange, or have shied away from them because of the name, think "Sangria" which in Spanish means "blood" and get yourself to a store that carries them. You will be delighted by them."
I brought my first blood oranges of the season home from the store with the thoughts of making an olive oil cake. Today was the day. Since blood oranges are grown in Italy and Spain I thought an olive oil cake would be the perfect marriage of flavours. Olive oil makes your cakes dense and rich and faintly fruity. I mixed gently, watched my masterpiece in the oven closely, waited impatiently for it to cool, sprinkled it liberally with warm syrup from candying the oranges and then sliced into it. And amazing it was!!!! There is just something about olive oil cake that just "turns my crank":D With this experiment I was happy to find the results were a perfectly cooked and delicately crumbed cake. I know this is something I will be making again and again in it's simplicity.
**Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Candied Orange**
adapted from Bon Appétit magazine
1 cup sugar
3 cup water
3/4 cup orange blossom honey
3 tablespoons green cardamom pods, crushed
1 small blood orange, thinly sliced
1 cup flour
1/2 cup semolina
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup olive oil (I used blood orange flavoured olive oil)
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
Chopped unsalted pistachios, for garnish
For the candied orange and syrup, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silkpat. 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 centre 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.
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