Thursday, December 11, 2014

Olive oil cake with orange and chocolate for Chanukah, or anytime

Hanukah foods are those fried in oil or cooked with copious amounts of oil, especially olive oil, in memory of the miracle of the Temple lamp with one day's worth of oil that burned for eight days.  The story is of course a bube meiseh, an attempt by the Amoraim, the Babylonian rabbis, to kasher both a holiday glorifying the Hasmonean dynasty, for which  had little love, and the Zoroastrian practice of lighting lights at the darkest time of the year, which many local Jews were adopting.  (For an intriguing discussion of this, see Judith Hauptman's article from a few years back, Shedding New Light on Chanukah.)  But who is going to complain when you get to eat lots of fried food: ricotta fritters, latkes, bimuelos, sufganiyot, fried pickles, fried mac'n'cheese, fried shoe leather even.  The frying  medium doesn't have to be olive oil, and the fat doesn't need to be used for frying.

It is in this spirit that I offer this olive oil cake recipe.  You can make it for Hanukah in acknowledgement of the story of the miracle of the oil.  You can make it for a pareve dessert after a meat meal.  It is also one of the easiest desserts around, so you can make it any time.  I based the
recipe of one that has made the rounds on the internet, using the version on 101 Cookbooks for a cake  made with spelt flour, chocolate, olive oil and rosemary.  Amy didn't care for the rosemary, so I developed this orange-flavored version instead.  She has given up desserts (to spectacular effect), but I liked this version so much that I keep making it.  In addition to changing the flavoring, I made it pareve through the use of almond milk and orange juice and lightened it up a bit.  I prefer to make it in a springform pan, since If ind that when cooked in a loaf pan, it is hard to cook it evenly since some of the dough trapped between the copious chunks of chocolate files to cook.

Olive oil cake with orange and chocolate

  • 3/4 cup spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt (this will produce a cake with a slight, but noticeably salty edge; cut back to 1/2 teaspoons if you are not salinophiles)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other nut or coconut milk)
  • grated rind of two oranges
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (I used Scharffenberger's 70%, which is pareve)
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.
  3. Beat the eggs in a large bowl.  Beat in the oil, juice, almond milk, grated orange rind and vanilla.  
  4. Pour the wet ingredients on top of the dry and stir with one or two good strokes, just to combine.  
  5. Cut the chocolate into irregular chunks with a knife on a cutting board.  Part of the charm of this cake is the differently sized pieces of chocolate.  
  6. Mix the chocolate into the batter.
  7. Spray a 10 inch spring form pan with Baker's Joy, or other baking spray of emulsified oil and flour.  (If you don't have any, oil and flour the pan.)
  8. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top.
  9. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35-45 minutes.  Begin testing at 35 minutes -- it is done when a toothpick or skewer comes out clear.  
  10. Broil for about 2 minutes to melt the sugar and give it a nice crunch.  Watch carefully, since it can burn very quickly, and shut it early if necessary.
  11. Cool on a rack before serving.  This cake will keep for several days at room temperature, wrapped in foil.


  1. Yummy, I so want to have it right now but it takes time to make a perfect cake. This recipe looks good to me, I am going to try it out for sure. Thank you for sharing the recipe with us

  2. I basically am a dessert lover and this recipe looks scrumptious. Will surely try it out and also try it with your variations. Thanks a ton.