I first learned about cakes that use olive oil instead of butter when I saw an orange cake recipe sample in a catalog promoting this book, and I gave it a try and found it quite tasty. So I was delighted to see an olive oil orange cake as one of the demo items at the recent Zingerman's Tunisian Cooking Demo class. I was intrigued to note that the recipe I tried long ago was attributed to a "Madame Mahjoub", and Onsa Mahjoub was sharing her recipes for the demo class. Are they same Mahjoub? Or perhaps related? The recipes, while very similar, have just enough differences (such as almond extract in the other one) to cause me to wonder if they are by the same person (though, of course, people vary their recipes over time). Or did Nancy Jenkins, author of Essential Mediterranean, adapt the recipe when she wrote it up? All very intriguing. Perhaps one of my readers will know.
Anyway, this is the recipe as we tried it in class, and it was quite delicious, with hints of bitter orange cutting the sweetness. By itself, some tasters felt that it needed a glaze, but I personally think that if you serve this with sweetened mint tea (North African style!) it doesn't need a thing.
Tunisian Gâteau à l'orange
Onsa Mahjoub of Moulins Mahjoub
Zingerman's testing notes: this may need a pinch of salt and perhaps less baking powder, but you can't really tell until you've tried it with salt.
Kitchen Chick's notes: after measuring out the baking powder, I removed about a half teaspoon and put in a half teaspoon of salt. I didn't research proportions of salt or baking powder for cakes. It worked fine for me. Amounts are in metric, so you will need a scale that has a metric setting.
1 lb small organic juice oranges (get organic because you're going to use the peel)
400 grams sugar (500 if you like it sweeter — I used 450)
500 grams pastry flour (or all purpose flour)
200 ml extra virgin olive oil (or you can use 250, which is just over 1 cup)
20 grams baking powder
Heat oven to 140 or 160 degrees Celsius (160 C = 320 F). Oil a 11x15 inch (or 12 x 15 inch) baking pan. (Or equivalent in multiple smaller cake pans.)
Wash oranges. Cut stem and blossom ends off of oranges and discard. Cut in half and remove seeds. Chop into large pieces then puree in food processor to a pulp or in food mill.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar until frothy. Sift the flour into the mixture. Add baking powder and olive oil. Stir to combine. Add oranges and stir to combine. Pour into baking pan(s). Sprinkle top with sesame seeds. Bake until top is nicely browned and cake springs back when poked gently with finger tip (about 1 hour — less if you're using smaller pans, so be sure to check them).