Olive Oil Cake with Orange and Pine Nuts

olive-oil-cakeYou know how you learn a new word and all of a sudden you hear it everywhere? Well sometimes that happens with recipes. Lately I have seen LOTS of recipes for olive oil cakes and I thought that was a sign that I should try making one. I read a recipe by Mario Batali and one by Michael Chiarello which seemed interesting, but the one that really got to me was on one of my favorite food sites – Food52. I tried it yesterday and for a first try it produced an incredibly moist cake that was not overly sweet, but had complex flavors of bitter and sweet orange, toasted pine nuts and wine-soaked raisins. I happen to love candied orange peel, especially if it is coated in very dark chocolate. While this recipe calls for fresh oranges – both the fruit and the peel – it may be a bit much for someone who does not enjoy the sweet/bitter notes of that part of the fruit. DO NOT wash your oranges – it will make them more bitter. If you must, wipe the skin with a slightly damp cloth. This goes for any citrus fruit you cook with. The recipe also called for fresh rosemary, which while very pretty did not seem to add any real flavor in my opinion. In the coming weeks I will try this recipe again with some changes that I want to try. In the meantime, I think this version is still worth making.

It calls for Paneangeli, which is an Italian leavening that has vanilla built in. Since I have another recipe that calls for it as well, I was willing to order it through Amazon if you are not fortunate enough to have an Italian grocery store nearby. It can be used any time you have a recipe that calls for a mix of both baking soda and baking powder. Italians swear by it. The original measurements must have been in metric which would account for the strange amounts. This cake will last for days without drying out and even by day 2 the flavors have melded and intensified. It is definitely worth indulging in this with your favorite dessert wine, which in our case is a Ferrari Carano Eldorado Gold. Vin Santo, the Italian dessert wine, is of course, the classic wine to serve. If you are not a fan of dessert wine (Then you haven’t tasted the right one yet!) coffee or tea will do.

NOTE: I have been passing by the cake and taking bits as I go by. This cake is seriously delicious!

Olive Oil Cake with Orange and Pine Nuts by Food 52 and slightly tweaked by me


Yield: One 10-inch cake that serves 10 to 12

Ingredients img_2362

1/2 cup very moist raisins

1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons vin santo or other sweet dessert wine

1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan saute pan until fragrant

1.5 medium navel oranges, unpeeled and cut into small dice

2 large eggs

1 packet of Paneangeli OR 1 teaspoon baking soda plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup of granulated sugar plus 2 Tablespoons

Generous pinch of salt

1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon EVOO (a good fruity olive oil but not a super-fancy drizzling oil)

1.75 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Rosemary tufts from 2 long fresh rosemary sprigs

 1/4 cup granulated sugar


  1. Bring the raisins and dessert wine to a simmer in a small saucepan over high heat. Turn it off, cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes but up to overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Just before pouring the batter in, generously coat a 10-inch angel food (or straight-sided bundt pan) generously with a non-stick cooking spray that contains flour.
  3. Put the eggs, Paneangeli and 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of the sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, at which point the mixture will be light and thickened.
  4. Gradually add the EVOO in a slow steady stream that you pour down the side of the bowl. Mix until the EVOO is incorporated.
  5. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and add the flour and salt, alternating with the raisins and dessert wine in 3 batches, scraping down the bowl each time. Only mix enough to incorporate the flour and distribute the raisins.
  6. Turn off the mixer and using a rubber spatula, mix through the oranges. img_2365Set the batter aside for 10 minutes. This allows the leavening to start taking effect and will make it easier to get the batter out of the bowl.
  7. Scrape the batter into the generously sprayed pan. Scatter the pine nuts evenly over the top. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar over the top and distribute the rosemary, gently pushing the tufts lightly into the batter.
  8. Bake the cake for 10 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 325 degrees F. and bake the cake for another 35 to 38 minutes, turning twice for even browning.  It’s ready when the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into it comes out clean. Allow it to totally cool in the pan on a rack.
  9. Once cool, turn the cake out onto a plate or board and immediately flip the cake over onto a cake plate. You will lose some of the sugar, pine nuts and rosemary. It’s OKAY! The original recipe said to dust with confectioner’s sugar, but I think it is totally unnecessary. Cut with a very sharp knife. Because of the bumpiness of the orange pieces, the cut may not be perfect, but when you and your guests taste it, no one will care. img_2371



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