Olive oil, almond and blood orange cake with brown butter glaze

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So, I never used to think I liked olives. I guess the only exposure I’d ever had was the overly salty, pre-packaged kind that comes on top of pizza in America. When I came to France and went to the South for the first time to pay a visit to my friend, I was shocked at how different real, fresh, well-seasoned olives could be. We’d go to the marché and buy grams and grams of them, trying several different flavors and licking our fingers after each squishy, fragrant bite. Turns out, I have a penchant for green olives, usually marinated in a mixture of garlic, oil and basil.

And speaking of oil… who knew good olive oil could make such a huge difference in my cooking? I don’t think I even bought my first bottle of olive oil until I moved here. Granted, I didn’t do much cooking before coming to France, but when I did, it almost always consisted of vegetable oil if I needed any at all. I can’t imagine making a vinaigrette with generic oil, or marinating my steaks with anything other than delicious, rich olive oil. It just gives a unique earthy taste to whatever it touches.

Needless to say, I’m a convert, and when I started coming across recipes for olive oil-based desserts, I knew that I had to try them. My first foray into olive-y sweet goodness was these unbelievably moist and tasty lemon, thyme, olive oil and black pepper sugar cookies. I knew I needed to do more experimenting, and the following recipe was just too tempting. I love citrus, so the combination of brightly flavored orange juice and zest with toasted almonds and brown butter and olive oil was simply too much to resist.

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I ended up adapting the recipe slightly because I didn’t end up with enough batter to properly fill my little French square baking dish. I also wanted the intense flavor of blood oranges to be the discreet star of this dessert, and in spite of the almond meal and brown butter, I could definitely taste it in the finished product. I added a bit of clementine/tangerine juice as well, just for fun. This cake was decadent. It had almost a marsipan-ish quality to it that reminded me of the traditional French almond King’s cake served in January. It had just the right amount of citrus and wasn’t overly sweet. The olive oil lended it’s own richness to the ensemble and made it one of the moistest cakes I’ve ever made. It was fabulous all the way down to the last bite, over a week later.

Olive oil, almond and blood orange cake with brown butter glaze
Adapted slightly from Lottie + Doof

Ingredients:
1 1/2 C flour
3/4 C almond meal
2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
4 eggs
1 C sugar
3/4 C olive oil
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
2 T blood orange zest
3/4 C blood orange and clementine juice

Glaze:
3 T butter
3/4 C powdered sugar
2 T milk
A few drops of lemon juice, to cut the sugary taste
1/2 C sliced, toasted almonds

Preheat your oven to 350°. Butter and lightly flour a small, 8*8 square baking dish.

Add the eggs to a large bowl and whisk slightly. Next, incorporate the sugar and whisk until slightly frothy. Next comes the olive oil. You should whisk this mixture for about a minute, until it becomes light and pale in color. Add the extracts (almond and vanilla), zest, and juice, stir to combine.

Sift the flour, almond meal, salt and baking powder into the wet ingredients and stir until well combined. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for about 35-40 minutes until a knife or toothpick comes out clean. The cake will appear very moist, but don’t worry!

Finally, make the glaze while the cake is cooling. Start by making your brown butter. Melt the butter slowly over medium-low heat, keeping a close eye on it and swirling it every once in awhile. Once the butter begins to brown and you smell an intoxicating odor of nuttiness, swirl a couple more times and take off the heat to avoid burning. Let the butter cool while you do the rest: in a medium-sized bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and milk together until combined. Add a bit of lemon juice if it’s too sweet. Finally, stir in the brown butter and toasted almonds. Once the cake is cooled, drizzle over the top and enjoy!

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