“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
This recipe for Early Spring Citrus & Olive Oil Cake celebrates the turning of the season. While it still feels a lot like winter most days, the buds on the trees have opened, a few sprigs of flowers have emerged next to mounds of melting snow, and the birds that left in late autumn have returned with their old familiar songs.
Let’s bake a cake that is much like the end of March, a little bit sweet and a little bit savory.
This recipe utilizes what is left of winter’s citrus (including the rinds), incorporates the fruity and savory undertones of quality extra-virgin olive oil, and is adorned with real flowers, lightly sugared, as a fragrant symbol of things to come.
I used red-fleshed Cara Cara citrus for less tang and more sweet. When the cake had cooled slightly, but was still quite warm, I drizzled and brushed the top with local wildflower honey allowing it to seep into the cake while it continued to cool completely. This creates a subtly sticky, but wonderfully sweet crust.
If you’ve never had an olive oil cake, it is not at all heavy or oil-flavored as you might expect. Rather, the outside tastes like warm honey, and the light, silky crumb is hinted with citrus and notes of cardamom. If you choose to garnish with flowers that are not edible, please remember to remove them before serving.
Farewell winter, until next year…
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Early Spring Citrus & Olive Oil Cake
Zest from 1 1/2 oranges (I used Cara Cara citrus)
3 or 4 oranges (or enough to squeeze 3/4 cup juice)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups quality extra-virgin olive oil (the kind used for marinating or dressing)
Honey (for brushing over cake when warm)
Flowers for decorative garnish (optional. If non-edible, remove before eating)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Use a 9 inch springform pan, spray with cooking spray so it doesn’t stick. Smoothly wrap the bottom of the pan in foil to catch any leaking;
- Zest 1 and 1/2 oranges, set zest aside. Squeeze enough oranges to yield 3/4 cups juice. Set aside;
- Stir together flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom;
- Add eggs to stand mixer and beat on medium high until combined, about 1 minute;
- Slowly add the sugar and beat until pale yellow, approximately 3 minutes.
- Set the speed to low and alternately add flour mixture and oil to the egg/sugar mixture (begin and end with the flour mixture), mix until mostly combined after each addition;
- Add the orange juice and zest and mix on low to combine (get it going by hand first as the mixture will likely splash otherwise);
- Pour batter into pan;
- Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a scant amount of crumb (if cake is beginning to brown too much, tent a piece of foil over top of pan for the last 15 minutes);
- Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes in pan then remove ring around springform pan and set on a cooling rack;
- While cake is still very warm, brush honey all over the top. Don’t glump it on, the layer should be thin and even. As the cake cools completely, the honey will make for a deliciously sweet and subtly sticky top (this is a good thing!);
- Let cake to cool completely so the flavors can meld together. Even better, cover and serve the next day (if you can wait that long);
- Garnish with spring flowers (optional). I lightly dusted my flowers with powdered sugar for effect. If flowers are not edible, remove before eating.
Use a quality fruity extra-virgin olive oil.
This cake doesn’t need a frosting at all! Honey is a perfect accompaniment. However, if opting to not use honey, then a dusting of powdered sugar on top will do.
Bake. Eat. Repeat!
Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria