For many baking enthusiasts olive oil cake is nothing new. It hit the American mainstream several years back when Gourmet Magazine did a piece about a beautiful farm in Italy (Spain?), where attractive farmers set up a rustic lunch table in the middle of a picturesque field and had a midday feast that included fine wines, fresh vegetables, and olive oil cake. This kind of cake, usually made with some variety of citrus and semolina or cornmeal, is an old staple for Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Judeo-Spanish households. It is the perfect example of how I like my daily dose of desert: humble, not too sweet, and filled with wholesome, local ingredients. In fact this cake is so perfect for the setting we are in, on a street lined with orange trees and old stone houses, it makes me a little wistful just writing about it.
Orange Scented Olive Oil Cake
3 large navel oranges
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups good-quality olive oil
1 cup milk or soy milk
1/2 cup yogurt (I used the goat yogurt we’ve been getting here)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 greased and floured 9-inch/22.5 centimeter baking pans (I did mine in one 9 x 13 inch pan)
Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375°F/180°C.
Grate the orange zest and place in a large mixing bowl; set oranges aside. Add the eggs to the orange zest and whisk well. Whisk in 3/4 cup sugar and continue whisking until mixture lightens ~ 1 minute. Whisk in the oil, followed by the milk and yogurt.
In another bowl, stir together the remaining 3/4 cup sugar with the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk the dry mixture into the wet in 3 separate additions.
Pour batter into pan(s). Bake until cake(s) are well risen, deep golden and firm in center when pressed with a fingertip, ~50 minutes. Cool on a rack for a few minutes then unmold, or serve from the pan.
While cakes are cooling you can peel and cut up the oranges, which go very nicely with the cake. These cakes do not keep well at room temperature for more than 24 hours (wrap tightly), but you can freeze them for up to a month.