Olive Oil & Orange Cake with Pistachios

When your kitchen is replete with one kind of fresh fruit that you know is humanly impossible to deplete even if you have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner and even ask your neighbors to join in, the only thing to do is to get those pots and jars ready for a marathon of fruit preserving.  I do that when our apricot and quince trees are fully laden with fruits.  Since we never spray anything on them and just rely on the good, old natural help of ladybirds,  they don't last long when harvested.  And that means only one thing.  My fruit preserving marathon days are on. 

We don't have an orange tree that survived.   When we moved to our house, we planted all the fruit trees that we would like to have.  Since we were up against winds most of the time, which a lot of plants are not agreeable with,  we were left with half of what we planted.  But with failures, we learn and become better.  The next time we plant a tree in that garden, we already know better.

I had a growing mountain of oranges in the kitchen that needed my immediate attention.  I would have taken up the task of marmalade making but orange is not my choice of citrus in marmalades.  I have a stronger preference for the lemon kind.

Then a growing craving for an orange cake was overpowering me, so I embarked on a baking mission.  Two recipes caught my attention and I couldn't decide which among the two to bake.  I went for both.  I made this and Donna Hay's orange & poppy seed cake which I will be posting after this.

This recipe did not come with any syrup nor slices of caramelized oranges, just pine nuts on top.  Since the other cake had orange syrup to pour on top, I thought I might as well pour it here too.  I am not into anything very sweet and when I saw the amount of sugar that the syrup was asking for, I balked.  I decided to do it by cooking just half of the syrup and lessening the sugar.  Then I augmented the sugar eventually and arrived to the precise amount written in the recipe.  The syrup gave the cake a new light and made such a big difference.  The cake alone was already moist and delicious but the syrup just made it more irresistible. 

Recipe adapted from Tessa Kiros' Ricordi in Cucina.


Olive Oil & Orange Cake with Pistachios

Makes two 22 cm. round cake (I made just one and cooked it longer.)

  • 400 g. flour (tipo "00") + extra to spread on the baking pans
  • 250 g. sugar
  • 200 ml. olive oil + extra for brushing on the baking pans
  • 4 eggs, yolks & whites separated
  • 1 untreated orange, grated zest
  • 250 ml. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 40 g. ground pistachios (Original recipe called for pine nuts.)
  • 1 teaspoon lievito in polvere (baking powder) 
  • 1 vanilla pod 
  • 250 g. sugar
  • 250 ml. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 orange, zest
  • 1 orange, sliced thinly

Preparing the Cake:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Grease & flour two baking pans.
  3. Whip the egg whites until stiff.  Refrigerate to make it stay stiff.
  4. Cut the vanilla pod in the middle, vertically.  Using the tip of the knife, scrape out the seeds.
  5. Whisk the egg yolks with vanilla seeds until fluffy. 
  6. Add the sugar and continue whisking.
  7. Add the olive oil little by little, whisking continuously.  
  8. Add the sifted flour, sifted baking powder & orange zest.  Mix well.
  9. Add the orange juice little by little, mixing well.
  10. Fold the egg whites with the mixture.  
  11. Pour the mixture in the baking pans. 
  12. Sprinkle the top with crushed pistachios. 
  13. Bake for 30 minutes (I added 10 more minutes.) with oven vent on.  Check the center with a toothpick.  If it comes out clean, it's cooked.
  14. Let it cool.
Preparing the Syrup:
  1. While the cake is baking, put the sugar, orange juice and zest in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. 
  2. Add the orange slices.  Move them carefully in the saucepan.
  3. Increase the heat and boil for 5 - 6 minutes or until syrupy.
Finalizing the Cake:
  1. Cover the top of the cake with the orange slices and sprinkle with crushed pistachios.
  2. Pour half of the hot syrup over the hot cake.
  3. Let the cake cool.
  4. To serve, cut the cake and pour over remaining syrup.

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