I seem to be working toward eating my body weight in citrus. This December habit of mine reminded me of a gem of a cake; if you were coming over, I’d bake it for us to share. I hope you won’t mind making it yourself - all you'll need is a hand whisk, a bowl, and a few ingredients.
rustic olive oil cake with (or without) honey syrup
slightly adapted from Dahlia Bakery Cookbook by Tom Douglas
This is one of the best cakes out there. Its crunchy top crust and rich, citrusy flavor are sublime. I don’t usually bother with the syrup; it really doesn't need embellishment.
vegetable oil spray, as needed for the pan
2 cups (243 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¼ cups (285 grams) whole milk, at room temperature
¼ cup (2 ounces/57 grams) Grand Marnier
¼ cup (2 ounces/57 grams) freshly squeezed orange juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups (381 grams) sugar
1 cup (213 grams) extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup (196 grams) honey
½ cup (127 grams) sugar
½ cup (113 grams) water
1 strip of orange or lemon zest, about ½ x 4 inches, cut with a vegetable peeler
sweetened whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with vegetable oil spray. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit in the pan, spray the paper, and then place the paper in the bottom of the pan. Flour the pan, shaking out the excess. Set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir in the salt. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the milk, Grand Marnier, orange juice, and lemon zest. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar with a balloon whisk, by hand, until well-combined and smooth. Gradually add the olive oil in a steady stream while whisking the egg mixture, as if you were making a mayonnaise.
After you have emulsified the oil into the egg mixture, start adding the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the wet ingredients in two additions, beginning and ending with dry. As you make each addition of dry and wet ingredients, whisk by hand just until the batter is smooth, without overbeating, before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Give the pan a couple of taps on the counter to settle any air bubbles in the batter.
Bake the cake until it is a deep golden brown, slightly domed, and probably cracked on top, about 70 minutes. A cake tester should come out clean of batter but with a few moist crumbs. Err on the side of baking too long than too little; if in doubt, leave it in a few more minutes.
While the cake is baking, make the syrup, if you plan to use it. (The syrup can also be made in advance, stored in the refrigerator, and then reheated to room temperature for serving.) To make the syrup, combine the honey, sugar, water, clove and citrus zest in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar and adjusting the heat as necessary to keep the liquid at a simmer. Simmer until reduced by almost half and as thick as a light syrup, 10 to 12 minutes. You should have about ¾ cup of syrup. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the syrup into a container to cool to room temperature. Remove the clove and zest and discard.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. To unmold, run a small knife around the edges of the cake. Place a plate over the cake pan and invert the pan. The cake should slide right out. Peel off the parchment circle and invert again. Allow the cake to cool on the wire rack until it is only slightly warm or at room temperature before slicing.
To serve, drizzle each slice with honey syrup and a dollop of whipped cream.
The cake will stay moist for few days. Cover only the cut end to avoid losing the crunch of the top layer.
Yield: one 9-inch cake