It’s a new year, it’s a new dawn and I’m keeping my resolutions (so far). I’ve exercised (well, taken pastoral walks in the nature preserve), kept up with my photo-a-day challenge* (3 consecutive days!) and I baked. In fact, I made my own birthday cake!
When I was little (well, young, never little) and living in Brooklyn, my mother would send me to the Italian grocer on the corner for Sicilian bread (the kind baked with sesame seeds). It was a must-have in Italian-American homes at that time. I’m told the grocer had a good laugh when I’d ask for bread “with all the Sicilians on it.” Wasn’t I precious?
I loved this cake the moment I first saw it. It just sang to me of the Mediterranean with its use of olive oil and oranges. In my mind’s eye I saw Italy and, when I got around to making it, I pinpointed my interpretation to Sicily.
The concept of olive oil cakes was introduced to me by Val of More Than Burnt Toast in Vancouver. She recommended using Canadian Food Network star Anna Olson’s recipe. I also saw Michael Chiarello had a recipe which I liked for his flavor profile ideas, specifically orange liqueur (which I didn’t use) and rosemary. But I liked and followed Anna Olson‘s recipe for its lighter touch and single pan technique. Of course, I made a couple of exceptions and added a few FOODalogue touches. I can’t help myself…it’s what draws me into the kitchen and makes cooking fascinating to me.
Where I took some liberty from Olson’s recipe was besides the zest of 1 orange, I added the zest and juice of a blood orange (because I was so happy to find it in the market)…and the glaze.
My Sicilian Orange + Olive Oil Birthday Cake with Sambuca Glaze
Sambuca Glaze. I looked at this online recipe for a simple glaze and reasoned to myself that if one could substitute citrus juice for milk, as suggested, and add 1/4 teaspoon of flavoring…well, then, one (I) should also be able to substitute Sambuca for the liquid. I used 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice and about 2 tablespoons Sambuca.
Finishing Touch: Since I wanted to use rosemary in the batter (and forgot), I sprinkled some on the glaze along with ‘toasted Sicilians’ (sesame seeds) and blood orange zest. I think those touches kicked this baby all the way to Sicily.
Perspective from an Almost Virgin Baker: The What I Liked…Didn’t Know…Surprised Me
• I liked that it was really easy to do.
• I liked that it didn’t require using a mixer and/or other scary/messy kitchen tools.
• I liked that it used olive oil instead of butter which made me think it’s healthier (?).
• I liked the aroma.
• I was surprised that it didn’t rise but remained low, more like a tart.
• I didn’t know that the icing recipe I followed could glaze a bakery full of cakes! There was more wasted than used.
• I liked that it was very moist (everyone commented on that), but it was a little too sweet (for me).
The ‘proof is in the pudding’ as they say. It was served alongside this extravagant Red Velvet cake and…
Interestingly, while only half the Red Velvet cake was eaten…nothing was left of my Sicilian Birthday Cake!
*You may have noticed a new photo in my sidebar. If you click on it, it will take you to my new website joannova.com where I’ll be posting photos for 2 photo challenges in 2011.