Remember when M.F.K. Fisher warmed tangerines on the radiator? Well, less elegantly and inadvertently, I just invented a new snack for myself: hot orange. I decided this morning to make that orange-scented olive oil cake again, and, attempting to multitask, I popped an orange in the microwave to take the chill off and proceeded to quarter three oranges, forgetting that 10 seconds goes by in a flash. Oops! 30 seconds later, I heard the beep and took out a hot, sweating, fragrant orange. The peel came right off, the sections were steaming, and the flavor was intense! I’m going to do this more often….
The cake, then. It is a perfect cake: crumbly, moist, full of flavor, and, in fact, healthy! The only fat in it is olive oil (and egg), the sugar is not too high. And it’s an any-occasion cake: dinner-party dessert, breakfast, tea-time, or mid-morning little smackerel of something.
I also love the process of it. First, three successive boilings of the orange quarters to temper the acidity, then a slow simmer of orange in simple syrup. The drained oranges are then pureed and mixed into the dry ingredients with eggs and olive oil. The cake is finished with an orangey glaze that soaks into the crumb structure through the top and the bottom edges where the glaze puddles. The process also fills the house with the most wonderful aroma of tropical warmth.