I'd been wanting to branch out a bit and do some more baking over the past few months, and this was a cake I cooked up using Cat Cora's recipe. She calls it "Ladi Tourta," which sounds so much fancier than my title, but in the end, it really is a very simple little cake. It's so fruity and moist, and it would be absolutely lovely in the summer with some fresh fruit.
The most important thing to remember with a recipe like this one is that its minimalism means that using good ingredients is crucial. It's like wearing the simplest white cotton dress: you need to make sure that the "undergirding" doesn't show through, at least not in a bad way. :) So, use the best, fruitiest olive oil you can find (if you're like me, you could drink a good olive oil by itself and any bread you dip in it is just a vehicle for conveying the oil to your mouth). Feel free to substitute your favorite adult libation for the Tuaca. I was going to buy Grand Marnier or Cointreau, both of which I love, but they're so darned expensive. I decided to try this less-pricy Tuscan liqueur, and I ended up liking it very well in the cake (though not so much to drink - I'm still researching drink recipes where it might taste good).
I've only made a couple of amendments to Cat's recipe here, including decreasing the amount of olive oil. I based my changes on the comments that other cooks have made, which are listed under the recipe. (I always try to read recipe comments, if there are any - they can provide a wealth of advice about techniques and ingredients in a recipe that might need a bit of adjustment.)
Overall, this recipe reminded me that cooking is a learning process and that you can learn how to make anything if you do enough research. Any recipe I've ever "created from scratch," honestly, has been the result of not just considering which flavors and ingredients I think would go well together, but also first reading about how more experienced cooks have excelled at a particular kind of cooking, like roasting meat or baking cake.
Anyway, thanks, Cat! (You are my favorite Iron Chef, by the way, and I want to marry your bourbon ice cream.)
cat cora's olive oil cake (amended)
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups raw turbinado sugar
8 oz. extra-virgin olive oil
10 oz. milk
2 oz. Tuaca liqueur
2 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tsp. orange and lemon zest
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 oz. slivered almonds, chopped
powdered sugar, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan. Cut a circle of parchment paper the diameter of the pan and line the bottom with it.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, olive oil, milk, liqueur, orange juice, and orange/lemon zest. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Whisk until well blended.
Fold in the almonds.
Pour the mixture into the buttered cake pan. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour.
Allow the cake to to cool for at least a half hour. Run a knife around the sides of the pan to release the cake, and turn it out onto a plate. If you like things neater, flip it again so that it's right-side up and use a long serrated knife to carefully slice off the domed top of the cake. Then flip it back over and dust it with powdered sugar. (A little freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice mixed with some powdered sugar would also make a delicious glaze to drizzle over the cake instead, if you like that kind of thing better.)