Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake

Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake

Photo credit: Chef Adriel Zahniser

All good things must be shared — especially when it comes to recipes.  Lucky for me, I have a great group of friends who are talented chefs, and we regularly exchange our best recipes.  Such was the case last week, when my good friend Chef Malin Parker told me about Chef Laurie Crueley’s delicious olive oil cake.

I was so excited to make it (and of course, put my own spin on it) that I haphazardly forgot a crucial ingredient: milk.  As the cakes were baking in the oven and I started to clean-up the kitchen, I realized I forgot to add the milk.  Slightly panicked, I began to think of possible outcomes — I knew that without milk, the cakes would be heavy and dense.  My mind raced to think of ways to alleviate the heaviness and slowly but surely, an improvised topping was created.

With Chefs Adriel Zahniser and Malin Parker

My first inclination was to create a warm almond milk mixture and pour it over the hot cakes (similar to what you see in tres leche cake recipes) but in keeping with the Mediterranean inspired olive oil cake, I decided to do a mixture of fresh orange juice, honey and nuts.  The result was simply fantastic.

I am posting an updated version of Chef Laurie’s recipe below.  It combines her cake recipe (yes, with the milk) and my nutty honey based topping.  I also like an addition of coarsely ground almonds to the cake.  The nuts add a rich, buttery taste to the batter and compliments the flavor of olive oil nicely.  For the cake, I recommend using the best olive oil you can find, as this will greatly enhance the outcome.

With Chefs Mary Beth Rodriguez and Laurie Crueley

Since this is the time of year many people enjoy warm drinks such as tea, hot cider, or coffee, this cake will compliment your mugs very nicely.  And while you’re enjoying your tea and cake, feel free to watch this video of Laurie and I in the kitchen.  Enjoy!

Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake
Inspired by Laurie Crueley, Updated by Chris Kohatsu

Yield: 1 cake (9 inch round)

For the cake:

2 large eggs (room temperature)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange (finely grated)
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 cup good olive oil (extra virgin is fine)
1/3 cup marsala wine
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup almonds (coarsely ground)

For the topping:

1 cup each walnuts, almonds, pine nuts (chopped)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 9 inch cake pan or 8 x 8 square and set aside.
  2. Mix the eggs and sugar until incorporated and foamy, then add the zest, milk, marsala, olive oil and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, while the mixer is running, until all the flour is added and a nice cake batter is formed.  Stir the chopped almonds into the batter.
  4. Transfer batter to prepared cake pan.  Tap pan to release any air bubbles.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes.  Cake is ready when a toothpick or knife comes out clean.  Set the cake aside to cool slightly, and prepare the topping.
  6. Combine the raisins and orange blossom water in a small bowl.  Add a few tablespoons of hot water (just enough to cover) to allow the raisins to plump.
  7. Heat a large saute pan.  Once hot, add all of the nuts and toast, about 1-2 minutes.
  8. Add the honey, orange juice, cinnamon and raisins to the nuts.  Lower the heat and stir until well combined, about 1 minute.
  9. Turn out the cake onto a large serving dish or baking sheet.  Pour the hot nut mixture over the cake and spread into an even layer.
  10. Slice and serve warm cake immediately.  Drizzle with more honey and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.
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Chai Something Different

Last night, Alton Brown talked about how the entire world seems to revere the eggplant — except for Americans.  It’s true.  Asians, Europeans, Middle Easterners, just name a part of the world and they have multiple favorite recipes for eggplant.  In the U.S., you might hear someone mention eggplant parmesan, you might not.  It’s hit or miss.

I think the same could be applied to tea.  Sure, Americans love iced tea, but I would venture to guess that only a fraction of the population consumes tea the way the rest of the world does.  The fraction that does drink tea, probably uses tea bags, instead of properly brewing a cup.

It seems that both the eggplant and tea may have something in common when it comes to the American palate: if it takes time to prepare, it’s not going to be very popular.

Eggplant requires time for degorging or “sweating.”  This is a process that requires the plant be peeled, sliced and salted.  The salt draws the water out of the slices and removes the bitterness.  It can take up to three hours for one medium eggplant to be properly sweated.  Skip this step, and your eggplant dish could be very un-savory.

For tea, you not only need time on your side, but you also need proper equipment.  Sad to say, but tea requires it’s own special pots, kettles, and even cups.  If you want an entire detailed step-by-step process on how to properly prepare a cup of tea, I suggest you visit this site.

Instant teas, tea concentrates and bottled tea are slowly but surely making their way into American homes.  Their quality maybe questionable, but they are fast and easy, and therefore, growing in popularity within the U.S.  Perhaps grocers will soon stock over-processed, vacuum-packed, pre-sweated eggplant?