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Citrus Olive Oil Cake

This is the type of cake people will talk about long after the last crumb has been eaten. After the cake plate is clean, the dishes picked up, and the friends have gone home, you'll all be sitting in your respective spaces daydreaming about Bi-Rite Market's Citrus Olive Oil Cake.

Sifting through the pages of their eponymous cookbook, Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food, the title alone caught our attention. It was the preparation steps, however, that truly intrigued. While most citrus desserts call on fresh juice and zest, this recipe calls for poaching the fruit whole (skin-on) in simple syrup, until tender. The soft fruit is then pureed, again whole, and mixed together with good olive oil, almond meal and the remaining ingredients. The result is a cake that is so incredibly moist, tender and bright in flavor that's is fantastically unforgettable.

Citrus Olive Oil Cake
Serves 12

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 (or substitute 6 ounces almond meal)
1 2/3 cup (4 1/2 ounces) 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 table 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 and lower the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cook, turning the fruit occasionally, until the fruit is very soft and easily pierced with a skewer, about 40 minutes. Carefully transfer the fruit to a plate and let cool enough to handle (save the syrup for another use -- like cocktail or drizzled into soda water).

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 (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 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 (no 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 okay. 

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, 3-4 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 cake 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.

This cake is even better the next day, and keeps for up to 5 days at room temperature. Serve on its own or with a dollop of lightly sweetened creme fraiche.

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