blood orange & olive oil loaf (cake)

I went back and forth on whether to call this a loaf or a cake. Quite frankly, it’s both. The two recipes I found that inspired me to bake it called it a “cake” and a “loaf cake” so I’ve decided to be unique and call it a loaf. But if it’s cake you’re after, you have also come to the right place. Enough about cake. The real star of this show is the regal blood orange. Blushing, daring, bold citrus that it is. If you like the look of stained red fingers — the kind you get from picking berries right off the bush — then you will enjoy a delicious satisfaction in preparing this recipe. There is something very alluring about the blood orange and its propensity to stain. It’s like a game trying to cut one open and not let it squirt everywhere. Personally, I think I’m drawn to this messy characteristic of the blood orange because it reminds me of those glorious berry-filled days of summer. Or it might have more to do with my appreciation of morbidity (Halloween being my favorite holiday). I think we can all agree that, any way you look at it, the blood orange is a bit of a marvel.

Who knew that pairing such a delightful fruit with olive oil would produce such a delicious pound cake-like result! While it was baking it had a wonderfully rich citrus aroma, like a lemon poppy seed cake. The loafy cake is both dense and moist, and the chunks of orange and bits of zest throughout create a unique texture and a decidedly fruity flavor, leaving just a small hint of the olive oil. It’s an incredibly simple recipe, and you’ll even learn the fancy technique of “supreming” an orange. If you live in a place that has blood oranges in season, then I urge you to give this recipe a try – and decide for yourself: loaf or cake?

Blood Orange & Olive Oil Loaf
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Butter for greasing pan
3 medium blood oranges (or four small)
1 cup sugar (I used both brown and white, to mix things up)
Scant 1/2 cup (slightly less than 1/2 c) buttermilk or plain yogurt
3 large eggs
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Grate zest from 2 oranges and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers, rub ingredients together until orange zest is evenly distributed in sugar.

Supreme an orange: Cut off bottom and top so fruit is exposed and orange can stand upright on a cutting board. Cut away peel and pith, following curve of fruit with your knife. Cut orange segments out of their connective membranes and let them fall into a bowl. Repeat with another orange. Break up segments with your fingers to about 1/4-inch pieces.

Halve remaining orange and squeeze juice into a measuring cup; you’ll will have about 1/4 cup. Add buttermilk or yogurt to juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid altogether. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well. Whisk in eggs and olive oil.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ones. Fold in pieces of orange segments. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and a knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up.

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