Today is the beginning of a small, daily life sort of project. It begins with a cake recipe.
To be honest, this project is a bit of a stretch. I'm not a sweets baker. If I'm asked to bring a treat to a classroom or gathering, I will do it but under duress. Cakes and muffins were at the top of my list for baking aversions. Muffins shall remain, and my guess is for all of my living days, at the top of the list. But lately, I've been reconsidering my stance on cakes.
This reconsideration is not universal. Not all cakes are welcome to come down from the list. The fondant covered creations can stay there. Instead, I'm speaking about cakes with more humble origins, that have a crumb and may or may not have frosting. The sort of cake that is confident enough to be placed on the table unadorned and still be a welcome treat.
This brings me to one of my dear friends. A mid-morning visit at her home has always meant a band of children running inside and outside, door slamming to go careen through apple trees, dig carrots in the garden and snuggle with the new bunnies outside. And it has always meant cake. Cakes with custards, drizzled with liqueurs, sacher layers, perfectly risen cakes redolent with hazelnuts, chocolate, and/or fresh fruits. It has a ritual quality to it. These cakes have become a beautiful expression of her warm hospitality.
Now, I'm not sure how you react when people stop by your door for a stop-in. I know my excitement is always edged with a little bit of dread merely because I often find myself ill-prepared to serve something alongside the tea or coffee or drinks. I love to have people stop by but also want to host them in a way that brings about the same types of feelings our visits at our friend's place brings about.
And so, I've decided on a small project to help with that. A collection of cakes. Unintimidating recipes that last for a few days, or store well in the pantry or freezer for guest and for sending over for school treats. And the goal is to be able to sit comfortably, at ease, in each other's presence and absorb the stories shared around the table rather than be cursing inside because all you have is two day old bread and jam. The toast may do in a pinch but I can't very well go around serving it to everyone that comes sit at my table. I might get a reputation for toast and jam which I don't want because I'm not a huge toast and jam fan on any day.
I'm not entirely sure why I've avoided olive oil cakes for so long. It was a completely unnecessary act on my part and I'm thinking of all the times an olive oil cake would have been a lifesaver. It's an easy cake. No layers, no fillings, no butter to cream. A one bowl special.
This cake is flavoured with Cointreau, lemon juice and zest. While it was cooking in the oven, I simmered honey with water, orange slices and a titch of rosemary until it became syrupy. I largely guessed at this. I think it was twice as much water as honey, the oranges and rosemary in a pot and let the heat do its work to bring it to a sloopy viscosity.
It's so good. Olive oil cake keeps for several days which works well for school lunches and in pacing myself as I eat it for afternoon coffee. There was none of my having to justify, "I should eat another slice, wouldn't want it to go bad!"
I used the Food 52 recipe but adapted it somewhat. The notes at the top of the original recipe talk about a crackling sort of top if it's baked right. At this point, for me, a crackling crust sounds lovely but I'm not going to sweat it. I'm picking the road of least resistance. Besides, and this may be completely irreverent to the original recipe's intent, but I was craving a slightly sticky glaze on top rather than crackles. It's a way of adding a layer of another flavour, the notes of honey with spice and orange. I've been so fortunate to be using Wendell Estate Honey, a raw, unpasteurized, local honey owned by friends. It's texture is creamy smooth and begs to be eaten by the spoonful.
Also, I may have added an extra egg. I can then say it's an acceptable breakfast that way because the protein content is decent. You know, forget the power smoothie because I'm cracking healthy by the very fact I had cake for breakfast. Also, I reduced the sugar as I find many online recipes too sweet for my taste. Up the sugar if you like, if it's more to your taste. Make it work for you!
OLIVE OIL CAKE with HONEY ORANGE GLAZE
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups whole milk
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Cointreau
3 tbsp honey
6 tbsp water
4 strips of orange zest, about 1/4" wide and 2 " long
2 whole cloves
1 cardamom pod
Heat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep. If your cake pan is less than 2 inches deep, divide between 2 pans and start checking for doneness at 30 minutes.
- In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, lemon zest and juice and Cointreau. Add the dry ingredients; whisk until just combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.
- Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely, 2 hours.
- Combine water, honey, orange zest, and spices in a small pot. Heat on medium until the mixture becomes slightly syrupy, dripping noticeably slower from the spoon than when you first started. Brush onto the top of the cake.