Sustenance – Orange olive oil cake with whole wheat flour

IMG_5303

This cake has become a lifeline for me in the long stretches of time between breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner in Spain. With 50% whole-wheat flour and no refined sugar, it is a slightly healthier take on the classic Spanish bizcocho, or teacake, made with olive oil, yogurt, orange juice and orange zest. The cake is luxuriously moist and packed with bright citrus flavor. With a cup of coffee and a square or two of dark chocolate, it has gotten me through many mornings and afternoons.

On the surface, I have adapted to the late lunch and dinner times in Spain. Unless we want to eat alone, we must adapt to the local rhythm, wherever we are. But I realize that I still see the Spanish mealtime hours with foreign eyes, particularly now that I have a child. Trying to feed my fussy two year old his “early” dinner at 8 pm, for instance, I daydreamed about my friends in the States who had their children in bed by this time, cutting the witching hour short.

Now that my son is four—and more Spaniard than American—the hours have gotten easier. He no longer melts down during our (early) 8:30 pm weeknight dinners. In his perspective, this is dinnertime on school nights—any earlier would mean less playground time. And 2 pm, when he gets out of school, is, for him, a normal time for lunch. In his second year of the infantil cycle—for children aged three to six—his school day starts at 9 am and ends at 2 pm, without a lunch break! (My need to add an exclamation point here betrays my lingering outsider perspective…)

With such late meal times, snacks are vital, especially for children. The mid-morning almuerzo and the mid-afternoon merienda have to be substantial enough to sustain energy and keep melt downs (my son’s and my own) at bay.

Rather than a lunch, I pack a snack for my son in his school bag, following guidelines from his teacher (see the chart below) that encourage variety and discourage too many convenience foods. (As in many industrialized countries, childhood obesity is on the rise in Spain, which is a whole other topic.) So it’s a sandwich on Monday, cookies or homemade bizcocho (quick bread or teacake) on Tuesdays, fruit on Wednesdays, cereals and grains on Thursdays and dairy on Fridays.

This orange olive oil cake, which I pack along with nuts and dried fruit, has become one of my staples for my son’s Tuesday snack. It has also become one of my own snack-time staples.

With an olive oil cake on the counter, the Spanish mealtime hours do not feel so foreign. I am at home.

IMG_5302

Orange olive oil cake with whole wheat flour

I make this cake in my Thermomix, the do-it-all kitchen appliance from German engineers, although you could, of course, also use a stand mixer, another type of food processor or mix the batter by hand. The recipe is adapted from a Spanish Thermomix recipe and calls for grinding the sugar into superfine crystals, which in theory makes the cake more tender. I haven’t yet tried making the cake without the grinding step, so can’t vouch for the results.

I love the crisp edges the day the cake is made, but think the flavor is even better after a day, covered, on the counter.

  • 1 ¼ loosely packed cups (180 g) unrefined brown sugar
  • The zest of 1 orange
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup (120 g) plain or Greek-style yogurt
  • 100 g mild-flavored extra virgin olive oil (*see notes)
  • ¼ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (from about ½ orange)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (*see notes)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup (100 g) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup (100 g) whole wheat flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and butter and flour a 9-inch round cake or springform pan.

Grind the brown sugar into very fine crystals in a food processor. Add the orange zest and pulse several times to grind the zest and evenly distribute it throughout the sugar.

Add the eggs to the sugar and mix on low speed until pale and frothy.

Add the olive oil, yogurt and orange juice and mix until blended.

Sift in the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed until just blended.

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove it to a cooling rack. Serve once the cake is completely cool. If you like, you can dust it with confectioners’ sugar for decoration.

This cake keeps beautifully on the counter, covered, for several days.

* Olive oil: Be sure to choose an olive oil whose flavor you enjoy, because you will taste it in the cake. If you cannot find a mild extra virgin olive oil, try “light” olive oil US, which has been refined and is not as pungent.

* Baking powder: If you have access to Royal baking powder, you can use one 16-gram packet in place of the baking powder and baking soda.

IMG_5293

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *