26 Feb 2014

citrus hazelnut olive oil cake

Or, the Mystery of the Very Burnt Cake: 

‘I can’t post this now!’ I wailed to mum, who was visiting for the day while dad was at the cricket. We’d made this promising cake together, but only 20 minutes into baking, something started to smell wrong. Very wrong.

Then again, as mum sliced and scraped the burnt top layer off — practical women that we are, mum and I weren’t going to let a little charcoal get in the way of our morning tea — I realised that I’ve shared many disasters with you. Remember the exploding honey cakes? The raw rhubarb cobbler? There was a glimmer of possibility amongst the (literally) charred ruins that the cake and my blog post could be saved.

One bite of the salvaged cake (then another, and another) with its layered flavours and textures made me think that — black stuff notwithstanding — this was an excellent cake. The rich hazelnut meal evoked Frangelico liqueur; there were elusive citrus notes from the orange and lemon zest; and a slight grassiness from the olive oil. The texture was damp and chewy — again, from the hazelnut and almond meal — and pleasingly gritty from the small amount of polenta.

In our flap to rescue the cake — quick, cover with foil! reduce the oven temperature! — I quite forgot I was supposed to make an orange syrup to drizzle over it. Oh well. We decided the cake didn’t need it. Our nerves didn’t need it.

So you may think I’m mad sharing this with you — especially when I honestly do not know whether it was the recipe, ingredients, oven or baker that caused the cake to burn. Mum and I tried to deduce why it happened — the oven temperate and setting were correct, and surely the ingredients weren’t that combustible — but everything seemed as it should be. And in the end, it turned out, and more than 'just okay'.

So please consider it. It is honestly one of the most intriguing and delicious cakes I’ve made in a while.

Citrus hazelnut olive oil cake
Adapted from Family Circle magazine, Winter 2013 edition. I give you the baking temp and times specified in the recipe, not what we resorted to to avert complete disaster.
  • Prep a 22cm springform tin; preheat your oven to 180.
  • Cream 3 eggs with 1 cup sugar until pale and thick (if you have a freestanding mixer, get this going first, so it can work away while you get on with the other ingredients).
  • In a small saucepan, combine 120 mls light-flavoured olive oil, 100 gms butter, zest of 1 orange and zest of 1 or 2 lemons (you should have an equal amount of each zest, and you should have a good tablespoon of zest combined). Heat over a low temperature until the butter is melted and mixture is warm.
  • Once the eggs and sugar are thick, take the warm oil and zest mixture and slowly pour into your egg mix, while still whisking (this is where a freestanding mixer is your friend).
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a seperate bowl: 150 gms hazelnut meal, 50 gms almond meal, 1/3 cup polenta, 1/3 cup plain flour and 1 tsp baking powder. Then gently fold this into your eggy-oily mix. You should have a thick but pourable batter.
  • Pour the batter into the tin, bake for 50-60 minutes or until done (it will still be moist inside). Let cool for few minutes before releasing from the springform tin.


  1. Elizabeth this cake still looks delicious! I've never used olive oil in a cake before, would be interested to make this one xx

    1. thank you carla! it's the first time i've used olive oil in a cake too, and i was pleased with the taste and moistness it gave the cake. really delicious!

  2. It still looks pretty good (with the judicial carbon removal) and sounds pretty gosh-darn amazing.

    1. Thanks Bec, it was a pretty amazing cake.
      And the carbon left no aftertaste either - phew!

  3. Ha...Good save E! Still looks delicious and I agree, there's no reason to let a little carbon get in the way of morning tea with mum. I love the texture!

    1. Thanks SB! The texture is amazing - all nubbly and chewy; it really is a cake to savour. Great with a cup of early grey tea. I kept wishing I had a tub of King Island cream in the fridge - that would have been a perfect dollop on the side.

  4. This post reminds me of that most famous metaphorical phrase “never judge a book by its cover”


    1. very true words in this case. then, slice the cover off and enjoy :-)


Word-verification is on, as the robot-spammers are loving my tuna past bake too much at the moment! I hope you understand - and I hope you'll still leave a comment at Dig In. I love hearing your thoughts, knowing someone is reading, and will always reply. Unless you're a robot-spammer.