Tuesday, 24 April 2012

If it quacks like an orange...

Baking this cake turned out fill a whole evening. Not because it would be hard to make, in fact it is a super quick cake, all you need is a spoon and a bowl. Then how did I manage to spend most of my evening baking it? Let me start from the beginning...

I have never liked citrus fruit. I guess it's because when I was small, I got a rash from them, and my mum decided I shouldn't have any. That way I never got used to the taste, and have always found them repulsive, a bit slimy, sticky and smelly. Recently that has begun to change. It started with orange chocolate. Ok, admittedly still a long step to actual oranges, but I think it's a match made in heaven. And of course you can argue that orange chocolate has nothing to do with actual citrus fruit, it's just an artificial flavouring. True, all true. However, it started to change my attitude towards citrus fruit in general, and I no longer found the smell repulsive. Then, little by little, watching my friend eat loads of satsumas and oranges I started to entertain the thought of maybe trying a pice one day. Not today, but some day soon. And that day came a few weeks ago when I was having coffee with said friend who was eating a satsuma. I bravely asked for a taster, was given one, and after some contemplation decided it wasn't actually too bad. So I even got a bag of satsumas last week and have been learning to enjoy them. Then I stumbled upon this recipe for orange and olive oil cake. With my newfound curiosity about citrus fruit I thought a cake would be the perfect opportunity to explore a new member of the citrus family. And the idea of using olive oil in a cake sounded very exciting and exotic to me. All of this as a background to explain that when it comes to orange coloured round fruit, I'm still a noob.

So, today I went to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for my cake. With a big bag full of orange goodness I set everything up in the kitchen, got out my grating iron for the zest and a bowl for the juice. Then I cut open the fruit. And there was something wrong with it, it didn't look at all like an orange, it was almost red inside. I took another look at the label on the bag. Grapefruit. Major blond moment, I had managed to buy grapefruit in stead of oranges. I'm still laughing out loud at how stupid I can be from time to time. So, there was nothing to do except set off to the nearest grocery store to hunt for oranges. Which they didn't have. So I continued on to the next one. Incidentally, the second closest grocery store happens to be right next to a big entertainment centre with restaurants, bars, cinema, bowling and all that. So there I am, surrounded by people who are all dressed up to the nines, and I'm wearing my most horrible faded baggy sweats and have a manic look in my eyes with just one thing on my mind. Oranges. To make a long story short, I finally got my oranges, got home, and whipped up this little beauty in no time, as the actual baking process only requires a bowl, a spoon and a few short minutes. No mixing or whipping or blending. Just a quick stir and it's ready to go into the oven. I did get a bit carried away making sugarpaste flowers, so that kept me up half the night.

When it comes to baking, I have never seen the beauty of simplicity. For me, the more stuff you can cram into your cake, the better. I'm not saying I wouldn't enjoy a simple cake if someone served me a piece and asked me to eat (I can't imagine *not* enjoying cake, no matter what type). But when I bake myself, I want to make it as rich as possible. I guess the same goes for ice cream, many people love the simple beauty of vanilla ice cream. I love Ben&Jerry's, my favourite is Phish Food which is a chocolate ice cream with caramel, marshmallows and big chocolate chunks (well, technically they are chocolate fish, not chunks). And I'm not making a value judgement here, I have nothing against vanilla ice cream. Just that if I get to choose, I choose something which has as much added extras in it as possible. So, in the original recipe, this cake is served as just a simple sponge cake. To put my own stamp on it, I had to de-simplify it by adding whipped cream and orange curd.

I made a mini-cake, which is one third of the original recipe, and I put the amounts of ingredients for the small cake in parenthesis. To bake it, I use a 12 cm springform cake tin. The cake is a perfect size for two people, or one if you are a professional cake-eater like me.

Orange and olive oil cake:
2 (1) orange(s)
210g (70g) caster sugar
150g (50g) organic greek style yoghurt
3 (1) egg(s)
150ml (50 ml) extra virgin olive oil
270g (90g) white flour
2tsp (2/3tsp) baking powder
pinch of salt

Orange curd (I made my own and will post the recipe later)
Whipped double cream
Sugarpaste for flowers

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Grate the zest of the orange, and squeeze the juice. Mix sugar and orange zest, add 100ml (30ml) orange juice and the yoghurt. Mix quickly. Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Add eggs and olive oil to the sugar-yoghurt-orange juice mix, and add dry ingredients. Mix as little as possible, only enough to get a smooth batter. Pour in a buttered/oiled springform tin (22-24 cm in diameter for the full recipe, 12 cm for the mini one). Bake the full cake for about 50 minutes, the small one for 20-25 min. You can use a toothpick in the middle of the cake to test if it is done. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. Be careful not to overbake, as this will result in a dry cake.

If you want to pimp your cake, let it cool, then cut in half. Spread orange curd and whipped cream onto the cake. Decorate with sugarpaste flowers.

The verdict:
The cake has a lovely mild flavour of orange, and you can't taste the olive oil but I'm sure it adds some flavours which are just hard to identify as the orange is the strongest flavour. The cake ended up being light and fluffy but moist at the same time. I have to admit I mixed the batter too much and the cake ended up puffing up way too much. It's supposed to be level at the top, not dome shaped like mine turned out. But that's just aesthetics, the taste was still divine. Usually I don't particularly care for sponge cake, and was a bit surprised that I immediately fell for this recipe when I saw it. I'm very pleased to say the cake exceeded all my expectations. And, as an added bonus, it only got better after spending the night in the fridge, so a perfect thing to prepare beforehand if you are having visitors.

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