Saturday, February 21, 2009

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: A perfect cake

It needs a new name, but Mark Bittman's olive oil cake is one of the best, loveliest, simplest cakes I've ever baked, moist and fresh and brightly flavored and basically incredible. I served it for dessert after last night's fiasco of a dinner, and it really did make us all feel better.

Odd how I seem to be collecting these amazing cake recipes (cardamom cake, nutmeg cake, vanilla chocolate layer cake) because I never thought of myself as a cake person. So much for self-knowledge.

Here's Bittman's recipe, in my words:

ORANGE-OLIVE OIL CAKE 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 inch pan. 

2. In a bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil with 3/4 cup sugar until creamy. It will be a beautiful celadon green color. Add 4 egg yolks and beat until thick and fluffy -- 7 minutes or so. 

4. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter, along with 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice and 2 teaspoons grated orange zest. 

5. In a separate bowl, beat 4 egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar until soft peaks form. Now stir this gently but thoroughly into the batter. It's not really possible to "fold" the egg whites into the batter, which will be very dense and heavy. You'll worry about losing all the air in your egg whites, but just do your best and it should be fine. Pour into pan, and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. 

6. Meanwhile, make a glaze by mixing 1/4 cup fresh orange juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar until smooth. As Bittman puts it, this "should be about the consistency of thick maple syrup." If it's too thin, add a bit more sugar, if it's too thick, a bit more juice.

7. Let the cake cool for a few minutes, then pour the glaze over the top while it's still in the pan. Cut into squares. Serves 12-16. 

I've got it in my head that I want to try a grapefruit version of this cake. And tangerine.

So, this is the first real recipe on Tipsy Baker. I was worried about copyright infringement, but a few weeks ago a newspaper food editor told me it's permissible to replicate a couple of recipes from a book when writing a review. I sure hope she's right. I was tempted to post the recipe for Bittman's excellent vanilla-chocolate layer cake, but had some issues with the frosting and wanted something really perfect on which to spend my recipe allotment. This cake is really perfect.

5 comments:

  1. hey, i like the classy new banner atop tipsy. are you going upscale on us?
    planning an ipo?

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  2. your food styling is getting pretty great! love that photo!

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  3. First, ditto to all the above! Secondly, I tried this recipe (I couldn't resist), but I made it with tangerines. I think perhaps they're a bit too subtle, not as stand-up-for-itself as the hearty orange. Also, my cake looked much more pedestrian than yours (limpid icing). Maybe you could come over here and be my food stylist. I loved the earthy smell of this cake and was surprised by its angel food lightness. Well received, but didn't make my household's Hall of Cake Fame... And about that Icing vs. Frosting thing: I always thought they were two different entities -- icing is for petit fours and bundts and cookies, but cakes get great gooey globs of frosting. Merriam-Webster says they're essentially the same thing; I'm crushed. But I'll get over it...

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  4. Philomere -- Wow! You tried the recipe! I'm so happy, though sorry it didn't make hall-of-fame. Sometimes a cake tastes really good one night because everyone is hungry or in the right mood and then later you make it again and it's just okay. I hate that.
    I have shared your notion of icing vs. frosting but noticed the words were used interchangeably. I decided I like icing better but am in the minority.

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  5. Sounds like another great cake. I'm going to try it. Will report back.

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