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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Plain Jane

I tend to like things simple.  This is not to be confused with liking simple things.  In fact, sometimes the simplest things can actually be the most complicated

Take the perfect little black dress.  So simple. yet so elusive.  I know this for a fact because I have my fair share of LBDs in my closet and not one of them is perfect.  I keep buying them, convinced that "this will be the one that I wear for the next 20 years", but so far  it's been a no-go.  I've come close a couple of times, but so far I haven't hit on perfection.  (FYI: The closest I've come is with one I bought about 15 years ago at Barneys.  It fits at the moment, and whenever else it's fit over the years, I still wear it.)

For me, the perfect LBD is perfectly cut, without any embellishment.  No bows, no sashes, no collars.  No nothing.  Just a dress.  But a dress that fits like gangbusters and makes me feel like a million bucks. (It does not, by the way, have to cost a million bucks.)  It has to be timeless.  Nothing trendy for me.

The same goes for cake.  Yes, cake.  I love simple cakes.  I don't like a lot of bells and whistles when it comes to my cake.  Plain, not too sweet, simple, and yes, perfect.  I love the cakes that know no time of day -- they work equally well as a dessert or as a little something extra at breakfast.  Moist and with a perfect crumb, maybe accented with just a little extract or zest, but nothing too overwhelming.

This olive oil cake fits the bill.  It is deceptively simple and doesn't call for a lot of ingredients.  In fact, you probably have everything you need to whip up hiding in your pantry.  If you don't have an orange, use a lemon.  I think it would be equally as good.  Because what makes this cake perfect is the same thing that makes a dress perfect.  It doesn't try too hard.  It relies on good lines and simplicity.

Recipe:  Maialino's Olive Oil Cake
(Food 52 / Genius recipes)


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Heat the oven to 350° F. Oil, butter, or spray a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. (If your cake pan is less than 2 inches deep, divide between 2 pans and start checking for doneness at 30 minutes.)

In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest and juice and Grand Marnier. Add the dry ingredients; whisk until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely, 2 hours.

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