Renewal + Orange olive oil cake

IMG_1253This past weekend, our family celebrated the sacrament of Baptism with Cadel.  He was doused with the holy water out of the beautiful stone font and held up by his proud pop to be admired and welcomed by the gathered community in his newly blessed nakedness–a scene that, for me, recalled the presentation of Simba by Rafiki (the sage baboon) at the climax of “The Circle of Life” in The Lion King (Disney animation’s finest cinematic moment, in my opinion). As at other baptisms I have witnessed at the chapel where we attend Sunday liturgy, I found this tribal element refreshing amidst the oftentimes rather formal rituals of the mass, and I certainly felt my inner lion heart swell.  As I looked around, it appeared the rest of the congregation seemed to enjoy the baptism as much as I did; but of course: an unblemished, rosy-cheeked babe is a vivid image of promise and an earnest reminder to our older, jaded selves of the opportunity for personal renewal that is offered us with the rising of the sun each and every day.  Babies have much to teach us, I am learning.

The whole weekend was a sort of christening for our family, marking the first time our two sets of parents and siblings have all gathered together at our Seattle home. We shared a celebratory lunch of lasagna, salad, bread and cheese (accompanied by Aunt Mary Ann’s pepper jelly–thanks for that!), Mom’s ronda rolls, and this orange olive oil cake. As with most special gatherings, it was sweet and much too short.

IMG_1274This cake recipe comes from David Leite of Leites Culinaria and can also be found in his book The New Portuguese Table (Clarkson Potter/Publishers 2009)
On his blog, David advises not eating this until at least one or two days after making.  I was skeptical–after all, how many baked goods really get better with age?–but having munched my way through several slices over the course of about a week, I can say that the flavor and texture seemed to be best on the third day after it was baked. It actually became more moist as it sat, patiently waiting beneath its domed plate; what a marvel, this cake!

Orange Olive Oil Cake
adapted from David Leite


4 to 5 large navel oranges
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
5 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil + extra for greasing pan


1. Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly oil a light-colored 12-cup bundt pan, tube pan, or tall-sided (3″) cake pan. (if you use the cake pan, as I did, fill it about 2/3 of the way and use the excess batter to make a few cupcakes!)
2. Grate the zest from 3 of the oranges, then juice 4 of them. If you don’t have 1 1/2 cups of juice, squeeze the fifth orange. Set aside.
3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
4. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs until well blended, then gradually add the sugar and mix until thick and pale yellow, 3 minutes or so.
5. On low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the oil, beginning and ending with the flour.
6. Stir in the zest and juice.
7. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for about 75 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. If the cake is getting too dark before it is done, place a piece of foil over the top.
8. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before turning out of the pan and cooling completely
9. When ready to serve, dust it with powdered sugar or make a simple icing (recipe follows).

Simple orange icing

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
enough sifted powdered sugar to make a moderately thick but pourable icing

Whisk the ingredients together and pour over the top of the cake, using an offset spatula to gently spread it so that it runs down the sides of the cake in a haphazard manner, or as you wish!

6 responses to “Renewal + Orange olive oil cake

  1. We have decided this is the BEST baptism picture ever. LOVE it and this post. (So funny– we nicknamed it the “Lion King moment” at Ryan’s baptism, too…but he was fully clothed. Love that naked baby!)

  2. Your description of the baptism was beautiful. Such poetic and profound thoughts from this generation X (or is it XY)? Babes really do teach us so much and give life such meaning!
    And the cake recipe is just what I need for this coming weekend, when I’ll be baking for a friend who is on a restricted diet – no butter! This generation also shares such culinary treats, although I might just pass on the recipe from Zan!

  3. Becky and Travis… Love the photo !! A special day… And can hardly wait to try the orange cake! xxoo beautiful family!!

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