Confession time. Baking scares me. If the ingredients aren’t measured perfectly, or if the cake doesn’t go in the oven at just the right temperature for the exact period of time and not a second longer, there is a fair chance baking will end in disaster. It just feels so much more scientific than cooking pasta or a piece of meat. Putting on that apron and bakers hat is like donning a lab coat and safety goggles, and I’ve got some serious scars from experiments gone wrong. To be good at baking, you need pipette and thermometers, measuring beakers and scales accurate to the nearest milligram, not to mention a Bunsen burner or two. At least this was what I thought before I made this cake and so it was with some trepidation that I decided to bake my housemate a birthday cake.
Because I don’t bake often, when I do commit to a bit of kitchen chemistry I don’t normally want to make a standard run-of-the-mill cake. I want to make something that sounds fancy so that when it all goes wrong I’ve got a convenient excuse. I want to push the incredibly low limits of my GCSE science, and this was when I read about a cake with olive oil. What was this madness!? This was bound to go wrong so with my safety goggles (glasses but whatever) perched at the end of my nose I set to work and incredibly my experiment was a success. Countless gases were released, colour changes took place, and it even changed from a liquid to a solid. Bona fide science.
The cake was wonderfully moist with a satisfying almondy flavour and an intriguing olive oil/citrus tang lingering in the background. The brown butter icing was rich, creamy and delicious – the perfect accompaniment to the toasted almonds which sat proudly on top. It’s seriously delicious, and the best thing is that it’s incredibly easy so you won’t need to wait for a special occasion to make it. Time to crack out your lab coat and get baking.
Citrusy Olive Oil Almond Cake
(adapted from olive oil almond cake by Sassy Radish)
- 150g plain flour
- 60g ground almonds
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- 170g granulated sugar
- 130ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small tsp of vanilla extract
- 1 /2 tsp almond essence
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Zest of 1 orange
- 150ml orange juice + a small squeeze of lemon juice
For the glaze:
- Handful of almond flakes (toasted)
- 60g unsalted butter
- 160g icing sugar
- 4 dessert spoons of milk (ideally whole)
- small squeeze lemon juice
1.Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease up an ~8 inch cake tin.
2. Mix the flour, ground almonds, salt and baking powder in a big bowl.
3. In another bowl whisk up the eggs briefly before adding the sugar and whisking thoroughly until well mixed. Then add the olive oil and whisk for about a minute until the mix changes colour slightly and thickens up. Finally add both extracts, zest, small squeeze of lemon juice and the orange juice and mix thoroughly.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the big bowl and whisk all of the ingredients until you have a nice smooth batter. Once you have this, pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake it in the over for between 30 to 40 minute depending on your oven and tin size, spinning it around half way through to ensure it cooks evenly. The cake is done when you poke in a knife and it comes out clean with nothing stuck to it. You’ll also know it’s done as it will look and smell delicious.Once the cake is out, let it cool for 10 minutes in the tin and then take it out and leave it to cool on an airing rack.
5. If you haven’t toasted the almonds, whack them in the still hot oven and toast them until golden brown.
6. While the cake is cooling make the glaze by melting the butter in a pan on the hob, and then keep gently heating it and spinning the pan to move the butter around. Keep going until the butter darkens slightly and smells slightly nutty and then take it off the heat. It will continue getting darker in colour as it cools off.
7. Combine the icing sugar and milk in a bowl and whisk together until smooth. I was amazed how little liquid was required so don’t go too mad with the milk. Once you’ve got a nice smooth mix, add the melted butter and whisk it all together until thick and delicious and give it a tiny squeeze of lemon juice to balance out the sweetness. Spread generously across the cake before throwing on the toasted almonds.