The question often comes up: “Do you like baking more than savory cooking? Or the other way around?”
I always give a thoughtful, complicated answer but there’s a much easier way to address the question: look to your right, scroll down. See where it says Recipes By Category? Look at the numbers. 36 salads. 22 soups. And (drumroll) 153 desserts. Um, so yes, I really like baking and, more importantly, I really like dessert, both making it and eating it.
The thing about dessert is: if you follow the recipe, and you know the basic rules, it almost always comes out. That’s not true for salads, where vegetables vary from location to location, or stews where you have to season as you go and adjust for acidity and heat. The dessert you make in your kitchen should closely resemble the dessert the recipe author made in their kitchen; it’s a precise form of cooking. That precision is comforting.
On Sunday, I knew I was making dinner for a group of friends–a heavy dinner of braised lamb and polenta–so I wanted a lighter dessert. I flipped open Melissa Clark’s terrific In The Kitchen with A Good Appetite and found this recipe for Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake. I liked the idea of it because blood oranges are unique enough to feel special, but the cake would be light enough not to overwhelm. I moseyed over to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market for blood oranges and then got busy making cake.
What’s ingenious about the recipe is how many different ways Clark has you work blood orange into the cake. You pinch blood orange zest into the sugar; you mix blood orange juice with yogurt; then you segment a bunch of blood oranges and fold them into the batter.
The resulting cake looks a lot like a pound cake because it’s in a loaf form (at least this one doesn’t throw up) and despite all the blood orange you worked in there, it’s not like the cake has a neon sign on top that says THIS HAS BLOOD ORANGES IN IT.
Which is why, when you serve it up, it pays to make a blood orange garnish with more blood orange segments and a little honey. Also, this is my own tweak (and I’m mighty proud of it): when you make whipped cream for it, add a splash of Grand Marnier. Can I be a recipe writer for The New York Times now too?
So there you are, my 154th dessert recipe on this blog. Truthfully, I enjoy savory cooking more–adding a pinch of this, a squeeze of that–I find that process more creatively fulfilling. But who am I kidding? Cake takes the cake.
Recipe: Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake
Summary: From Melissa Clark’s In The Kitchen with A Good Appetite.
- 6 blood oranges
- 1 cup sugar
- Buttermilk or plain yogurt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Whipped cream, for serving
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan. Grate the zest from 2 oranges and place in a bowl with the sugar. Using your fingers, rub the ingredients together until the orange zest is evenly distributed in the sugar.
- Supreme an orange (this is best done with a VERY sharp knife): cut off the bottom and top so the fruit is exposed and the orange can stand upright on a cutting board. Cut away the peel and pith, following the curve of the fruit with your knife. Cut the orange segments out of their connective membranes and let them fall into a bowl. Repeat with another orange. Break up the segments with your fingers.
- Halve the remaining orange and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup. You’ll have about 1/4 cup or so. Add buttermilk or yogurt to the juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid altogether. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the sugar and whisk well. Whisk in the eggs.
- In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Switch to a spatula and fold in the oil a little at a time. Fold in the orange segments. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.
- Bake the cake for about 55 minutes, or until it is golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right side up.
- To serve: supreme the remaining 3 blood oranges and mix them together with the honey to taste (you could even add a pinch of salt if you want to be bold). Spoon the whipped cream on to a slice of cake and top with the blood orange mixture. Call it a compote, people will be impressed.
In case you’re like, “What if I can’t get blood oranges?” I bet you can make this easily with normal oranges. Truthfully, taste-wise, I don’t think it’ll be that different. It’ll just look less dramatic.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 55 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8