I didn’t make it through the entire magazine before deciding which recipe I was going to adapt from this month’s Bon Appetit. I made it to page 54, a page that it is now easy to find and difficult to open because it’s been splattered repeatedly with honey syrup. The recipe on that page is for an olive-oil cake with candied orange, and I knew as soon as I saw it that I had to make it for a multitude of reasons.
First, I love olive oil cake. I mean, olive oil. That’s enough right there. But there’s also the fact that olive oil cakes remind me of my friend Carolyn, my maid of honor and partner in silliness and unrelenting laughter. She once sent me an olive oil cake recipe and asked if I could adapt it to gluten-free (she doesn’t have to eat that way, but she’s played around with it from time to time). After an initial failure, it took me more than a year to get around to finishing the recipe for her, which I wound up doing as a gift for her standing up with me at our wedding. I actually wrote recipes for all my bridesmaids—I’ll share them with you sometime. And lucky for me and for New York, after a stint down south and some time on the west coast, Carolyn is once more just a borough away from me. Which reminds me: I need to get off my agoraphobic butt and bring her some cake already.
Secondly, I was taken in by the fact that this cake calls for orange blossom honey. I adore orange blossom honey. It has a smoother, less buzzy flavor than the more typically used clover. If I were making myself something where the honey would be the dominating flavor, like simple buttered toast with a sticky golden drizzle, I would choose orange blossom.
And then there was the cardamom. As you know, I’ve used it once or twice in the past, but the truth is that every time I open a jar I wish my whole life smelled like cardamom. Floral, soapy, citrusy, in a way that makes me think of pearls and gardens and expensive imported rugs. This cake makes my life smell that way for a couple days at least—or for as long as we can make it last.
You might have noticed that my “candied oranges” aren’t so orange, though. That would be because I swapped them out for lemons. Oranges can be so sticky-sweet as it is, and the first time I made this cake was during one of those ungodly hot days in early June. Lemons seemed like a lighter, fresher alternative. I’ve since made it with oranges, however, at the encouragement of my girls Jennie and Athena. It was good, but, as I suspected, very sweet. The verdict: make it with lemons as a straight-up special occasion dessert and save the oranges for when you really want a treat.
The next time I make this cake, though, I honestly think I’ll skip the syrup and candied citrus altogether. The cake itself is very subtly sweet, more to my taste, with a hefty, sponge-like crumb—one of those cakes that tastes right any time of day. Chris even noted that it would go nicely alongside dinner, in lieu of biscuits. I’m imagining it with crème fraiche and jam.
Of course, that’s not to say I’ll never candy up some citrus again. This fancy-pants-looking cake packs such a massive visual punch for the effort that it’s totally worth whipping up and bringing to dinner. And it feels about five times easier when the syrup and candied citrus are made the day before. Regardless of how I decide to make this from now on, though—naked, syrupy, with lemon or orange (or grapefruit?)—I can say that it was totally worth dirtying up the pages of my shiny magazine.
Olive Oil Cake with Candied Citrus
Adapted from Bon Appetit
The original recipe calls for full-fat yogurt, and I’d recommend either keeping it full fat or choosing a very thick, non-fat variety. I substituted non-fat Greek yogurt with success.
Both lemons and oranges work with the flavors here; grapefruit may be interesting as well. To simplify the making of this cake, make the syrup and candied citrus the day before—the whole process the next day will feel like a breeze.
Syrup & Candied Citrus
3 tablespoons green cardamom pods
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup orange blossom honey
3 cups water
1 citrus fruit, thinly sliced & picked for seeds, if necessary
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the cardamom pods in a food storage bag and crush them using a heavy cast iron skillet. Alternatively press on the pods with the flat of your knife to crush them. The skillet makes quicker work of things.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, water and cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the syrup comes to a boil, add the citrus slices and turn the heat down to medium low. Simmer, turning the citrus occasionally for about 40 minutes, until the white pith of the fruit becomes translucent and the syrup has reduced to a little more than 3 cups.
Using a pair of tongs, gently transfer the citrus slices to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Strain the syrup through a sieve. If making a day ahead, cover the candied citrus with plastic wrap, cover the syrup, and refrigerate both. Allow the citrus to come to room temperature and rewarm the syrup before using.
Olive Oil Cake
2/3 cup / 2.8 oz millet flour
1/3 cup / 1.85 oz brown rice flour
¼ cup / 1.05 oz tapioca flour
¼ cup / 1.6 oz potato starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
½ cup sugar, divided
3 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup plain full-fat yogurt (see headnote)
1 ½ teaspoons citrus zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Chopped toasted nuts or herbs for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the bottom only of a 9″ springform pan with olive oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the millet, brown rice, and tapioca flours, the potato starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, cardamom, salt, and baking soda.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), beat the olive oil and 1/4 cup of the sugar together. Add in the egg yolks and the flour mixture and beat until combined. Beat in the yogurt, citrus zest, and vanilla extract.
In a separate large bowl using clean beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Gradually add in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, continuing to beat until stiff, glossy peaks are formed. Fold the egg whites into the batter in two additions, until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spread evenly and smooth the top using a spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
After removing the cake from the oven, pierce it all over while still hot using a toothpick or thin skewer. Slowly drizzle 2/3 cup of the syrup over the cake. Once the cake had absorbed the syrup, drizzle another 2/3 cup of syrup.
Once the cake has cooled, carefully pour off any excess syrup that hasn’t absorbed into the cake, if there is any. Run a knife around the sides of the cake to release it from the pan. Remove the springform sides and arrange the candied citrus slices on top of the cake. Garnish with herbs, like thyme or lemon basil, or chopped, toasted nuts. Serve individual slices drizzled with a bit of the remaining syrup.
Disclaimer: This is part of a series of posts I’m doing to remind me to read my mounting food magazines. Bon Appetit has no idea who I am or that I am adapting their recipes; the adaptations are solely for my own gastronomical benefit and yours.