I recently received two lovely food samples – olive oil from Cobram Estate and blood oranges from Limoneira. While I don’t always end up using samples for recipes, the combination of the two was inspiring. Particularly after coming home from Portugal, where olive oil and oranges are often used together in sweets, I knew I wanted to bake something. I decided they were destined for a pound cake.
I’ll be the first to admit that this is not my most original idea. A quick Google or Pinterest search for blood orange and olive oil cake will reveal dozens of beautiful photos. Some cakes are simple, others are glazed with a lovely pink frosting, and others have paper-thin slices of oranges baked on top. They were all so pretty that I couldn’t resist adding my own version to the mix.
Zesting oranges and rubbing orange zest into sugar should be a winter therapy treatment. The smell is an instant mood lifter, and takes me back to sunnier, warmer days. Like the morning we spent eating tangerines straight from the trees in a sunny courtyard in Portugal. Or the afternoon we spent at a plum blossom festival in Odawara, buying sacks of fresh clementines from every other house we passed. One day we’ll live somewhere where it’s warm enough to grow oranges, where it doesn’t snow in March. Until then, we’ll have to rely on the scent of fresh oranges to trigger our happiest memories.
This cake was a lovely surprise, gently sweet and tender. Both the orange and olive oil are subtle but the flavors are distinctly present. The pieces of blood orange interspersed throughout the cake add a pop of juicy sweetness and keep the cake moist. It’s always a sign of a good recipe when I immediately begin running through variations for next time – meyer lemon, olive oil, and rosemary? Grapefruit and star anise? This one will be a staple.
Disclosure: I used olive oil and blood orange samples provided free of charge by Cobram Estate and Limoneira to create this recipe, but I was not otherwise compensated. As usual, all opinions are my own!
Blood Orange and Olive Oil Pound Cake
- 4 blood oranges (3 for cake and one for glaze/garnish)
- 3/4 cup of sugar, plus more for candying oranges
- 1/3 cup of buttermilk
- 3 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp orange oil (optional)
- 2/3 cup high quality extra-virgin olive oil
- 2/3 cup of powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9×5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- Grate the zest from two of the blood oranges into a large bowl. Add the sugar to the bowl and use your fingers to mix the zest into the sugar. Cut one of the zested oranges in half and squeeze the juice into a liquid measuring cup – you should have about 1/3 cup of juice. Add the buttermilk to the measuring cup so that you have 2/3 cup of liquid in total. Whisk juice and buttermilk together, then pour the mixture into the sugar. Whisk until evenly combined. Add the eggs to the bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until no lumps remain. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir together until just combined. Stir in the orange oil, if using. Now add the olive oil to the batter a little bit at a time, using a spatula to fold the oil into the batter. Repeat until all of the olive oil is evenly incorporated. Set batter aside.
- Using two of your remaining oranges (the one you zested and one of the others), cut orange segments into supremes. Do this by cutting the peel and white pith off of the outside of the oranges, then use a paring knife to carefully separate the orange flesh from the translucent membrane of each segment. If necessary, break the orange supremes into pieces that are about 1/4 inch big. Once you have supremed both the oranges, add the orange supreme pieces to the batter. Fold a few times just to incorporate the oranges into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, using a spatula to distribute the batter around the pan if necessary. Bake the cake for 55 minutes, until golden on top and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then lift out by the parchment paper and cool completely on a cooling rack.
- To make the glaze, cut the last blood orange in half. Squeeze the juice from one half of the orange into a small bowl. Place the confectioner’s sugar into a small bowl and whisk until it is free of lumps. Whisk in the blood orange juice a little at a time until the glaze drips thickly from the whisk when lifted out of the bowl. Cut the other half of the orange into paper thin slices. Pour the glaze evenly over the top of the cooled cake, letting it drip down the sides onto the parchment paper. If desired, candy the orange slices according to this method – this will make the orange slices tender enough to eat in addition to a pretty garnish. Arrange the orange slices on the top of the glaze and serve.