by Donald Wilson on May 20, 2011


Candied Orange Olive Oil Cake just waiting to happen

I have no idea why there are three oranges still hanging on my little potted Valencia Orange tree this late in May.  Perhaps we feel guilty picking the few delicious oranges it bares each year or perhaps we just like seeing them hang there.  Whatever the reason, there they hung this evening when we came home from work and school and tonight they would have a chance at fulfilling the measure of their creation.

Truth be told, they were my second choice for the evenings activity.  First choice was a big glass of wine.  You see, it’s been a very stressful time at work lately.  You would think that being the principal of an elementary schools should be a bit like working at Disneyland and most of the time I would agree.   However, schools are not factories with precision assembly lines that routinely put out perfect mini humanoids.   While we have control over many of the factors that can affect a child’s education, children arrive each day often carrying the weight of their world on their shoulders.  There are too many days that I come home and think, “If only I could do more.  If only I could adopt him or her.”  I have to be careful with those thoughts though, as we all know where they can lead!

Andrew picked up on my stress on our way home; it must have been something about the way I kept snapping at him about the small stuff.  Calm as always, he put his arm around me as we walked up to our house and said, “Dad, I think you should go in and pour yourself a glass of wine.”  My heard skipped a beat and he caught the sideways curious glance and quickly replied “Well, you told me that wine has a relaxing effect.”  It’s true, we had a talk about the effects of alcohol recently (we have had more than one) and we talked about the stages of consumption all the way up to where a friend of ours raised his blood alcohol level to 3.8 and was killed in a tragic car accident.  I feel like I have been more than clear about the difference between one drink and five.  Still, I didn’t want Andrew to see me run to the bottle to distress from the day.

That’s where those oranges came into play.  Next best thing to a good drink?  A good kitchen project.  I often find myself scribbling down recipes in doctors’ offices.  This Orange Olive Oil Cake is one such recipe that has become a yearly favorite.  It’s rich, dense, and makes a great morning coffee cake.   I looked in the fridge and confirmed I had everything I needed.  Farm fresh eggs, good Spanish olive oil, and those lovely oranges.

This is not a difficult recipe, but it has the kind of acrobatic kitchen maneuvers that keep things interesting for me.  It starts with having to candy the oranges.  This can be done a day before, but I had the need to see it through to the end tonight.  Kids are a never-finished project, but with food I get immediate satisfaction of seeing something start to finish.

To candy citrus you have to boil the fruit three times.  This not only softens the fruit enough for its final candy bath, it also cleans out any impurities.  This works with any citrus fruit.  You cut about a 1/4 inch off the top and bottom of two or three fruits and then quarter them lengthwise.  Bring a pot of water to a boil, drop the slices in and when it returns to a boil, you immediately drain the fruit and start over. (Don’t worry, I’ll give the recipe in a bit.)  Finally, you make simple syrup with four cups of water and a cup of sugar, add the fruit and boil over medium high heat for about 45 minutes.

Believe it or not, while that was going on, I threw together a surf and turf chipotle risotto.  I literally opened up the fridge and freezer and just started grabbing.  I know, I’m a bit crazy, but it turned out so good that I had to stop Andrew from going back for a fourth portion.  More importantly, I was feeling good about life and I hadn’t even looked at a bottle of wine.

After dinner, while Andrew did dishes, I was able to make the rest of the batter in just minutes.   I even had time to read the paper while the cake finished baking.  Right now, I’m calm and relaxed sitting on my bed writing away.  The dishes are done and the house is filled with a warm orange and olive oil aromatherapy.

The truth is that feeding Andrew is an act of love that comes back to me a hundred fold every night and in a hundred different ways.  Sometimes it’s the “I love you too” before bed, other times it’s just sharing a light banter that lets me catch a glimpse of the man he’s becoming.  So often, it’s something that he teaches me by letting me see myself through his eyes.  Tonight, I was reminded that kids do listen but more importantly, they watch.  Example matters.  I’m glad he didn’t see me pour a glass of wine after a taxing day.

However, I am thinking a sweet orange scented Moscato is going to pair nicely with my bedtime snack.

Candied Orange Olive Oil Cake with Sea Salt


Candied Orange Olive Oil Cake With Sea Salt

For the candied oranges:

3 sweet oranges*

1 cup sugar


Take 2 oranges and cut 1/4-inch off each end.  Slice them lengthwise into quarters.  Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and put the orange slices in the water and return it to a boil.  Toss out water and repeat process two more times.

Next put 4 cups of water, 1 cup of sugar and the orange slices in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Keep on a medium boil for about 45 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let steep awhile longer.  Take the oranges out and place them in a food processor and pulse about 10 to 12 times.  Do not completely mush.  You can candy the oranges the day before to have them ready when you make the cake.  The rest is fast and easy.

You will have orange sugar water left over.  Save it for use in margaritas or vodka drinks.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


2-1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon salt

1-1/3 cups sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

4 eggs

Orange puree from above

8 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and soda.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, vanilla, eggs and orange puree until well blended.  Add the dry ingredients and blend thoroughly.   Add the olive oil and blend for a minute or two.  The batter is thick and delicious.

Fold in the chocolate chips if using

Candied Orange and Chocolate is a Match Made in Heaven

Butter a 10-inch cake pan and then place parchment paper on the bottom.  Rebutter the pan and dust with flour.  I use the Crisco spray with flour in it with good results.

Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.  Check at 35 minutes with a toothpick placed in the center to see if it comes out clean.  If not, go for another 5 minutes.

When you take the cake out of the oven, let it cool a bit and then put the glaze on.


Juice the remaining orange.  Drink all but 1/4 cup of the juice.  To the remaining 1/4 cup juice, add 1/4 cup of confectioners or castor sugar.  Place in a microwave for about 30 seconds and stir to finish the glaze.

Remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.

Variations:  This cake can be made with lemons or limes as well.  I love it with Meyer Lemons.














Jill Packham May 20, 2011 at 4:54 am

Love the tone of this…I can feel you relaxing more with each word of the story and with each phase of the cooking project – deliciously lovely!

Donald Wilson May 20, 2011 at 6:43 am

I love your comments and believe it or not, I wrote this one thinking of you.

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