Spanish Orange and Olive Oil Cake

Spanish Orange and Olive Oil Cake
Yield: One 8-inch cake, 10 to 12 servings

Spain is a major world grower of the two main ingredients in this cake: oranges and olives. In Spain, oranges flavor all sorts of desserts, including flan (baked caramel-topped custard), cakes with almonds, and tarts. In Moorish-influenced Andalusia, mermelada de naranja ácida-marmalade, made from the region's bitter or Seville oranges, is used for its body and intense bittersweet flavor in desserts and savory dishes. This moist, syrupy cake of Sephardic Jewish origin became a big hit when baked in the shape of a Star of David at Max and David's (www.maxanddavids.com), the kosher restaurant where Aliza designed the menu.

7 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs, separated
11/4 cups sugar
1 cup milk, substitute almond milk
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Grated zest of 1 orange (4 teaspoons)

2 oranges
11/2 cups orange juice
11/2 cups sugar

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch cake pan with nonstick baker's coating, or rub with softened butter and dust with flour, shaking off the excess.

Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, 5 to 6 minutes.

In a bowl or quart-size measuring cup, whisk together the milk, olive oil, and orange zest. Add to the egg yolk mixture and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture, beating just long enough to combine.

In the clean and greaseless bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until fluffy. Add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and continue beating until the whites are firm and glossy, 4 to 5 minutes. Fold the meringue into the batter one-third at a time, so as not to deflate the meringue. Pour the batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake begins to come away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick or skewer stuck in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, let it cool on a wire rack until it is warm to the touch, then invert and cool completely.

Make the syrup: Peel the orange rind using a swivel-blade peeler into long, thin strips without much white pith. Cut the strips crosswise into thin slices Section both oranges and reserve. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, add the orange zest strips and bring the liquid back to a boil over high heat. Boil 1 minute, then drain.

In a large saucepan, combine the orange juice, sugar, and the blanched orange zest strips. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the syrup is slightly thickened, skimming as necessary. Strain the syrup and reserve the orange strips along with 1/2 cup of the syrup. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the top of the cake, and then pour the remaining syrup all over the cake.

Place the 1/2 cup syrup and the strips of zest in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and cook down until the syrup thickens and just begins to darken, about 5 minutes. Use a spatula to spread the thick glaze over the top of the cake. Place the cake on a serving platter, and arrange the reserved orange sections on top of the cake, cut into serving portions, and serve.

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