Orange Cornmeal Cake with Currants

orange cornmeal cakeThis is not an original recipe – not for the most part anyway. I think most people make Martha Stewart’s version, which is very easy to find online. It is unusual, not just because it a sweet that uses cornmeal, but also because rather than butter, it uses olive oil. This isn’t so common here in the States, but there are quite a few cakes made in Italy that use olive oil, so you might find mention of them in Italian cookbooks. I confess that I often us olive oil even where it warns that you should not. The flavor supposedly will overwhelm other ingredients, particularly in sweets, but I haven’t found that to be the case. Vegetable or canola oil is one of those things that I seem to run out of, and then forget to buy, so it’s not usual for me to get half way through a recipe for something like pumpkin bread and realize I only have olive oil. In it goes, with no one the wiser.

This cake is meant to have olive oil though. It also has dry white wine, though orange juice can be used instead. I strongly urge you to use the wine though, because it imparts this indefinable flavor and mellow undertone that you just won’t get with the OJ. I have most of a 1 pound package of currants that I need to use up before they start to dry out, so I decided to use some in here. I thought they might sink some, and they did, though not all the way to the bottom. I would not use raisins, which I had also considered, because they would certainly end up in a clump, but I loved the flavor the currants brought to this, giving the cake a bit deeper flavor.

I also added toasted pecans to the top, because when Lauren and Steve came up last month they brought us two grocery bags full of them from their backyard and any other backyard in their neighborhood where no one wanted them. I’ve been putting them in everything, and they are a very good addition here.

You don’t need to break out the mixer for this simple cake – a whisk will do very nicely. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare the pan. I like to use a springform pan for this, because I think it keeps the sugar on top looking nicer. Oil the pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and then oil the paper lightly as well.
Whisk together
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs
Then whisk in
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dry white wine [or orange juice]
Zest from 1 orangeNext, whisk in, until uniformly combined
1 & 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably a finely ground type
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Finally, mix in
1/3 cup currantsSpread the batter evenly in the prepared panSprinkle evenly with 1/2 cup toasted pecans [optional]Sprinkle 1/3 cup granulated sugar evenly over the nuts. [also optional, I suppose, but the sugar topping makes this cake extra special]Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.

In the meantime, remember that orange we zested? We are going to cut the segments from that to use as garnish for the cake. These little segments are called “supremes” and they are very easy. First you cut the ends off the orange – enough so that you can see the fruit. Use a sharp chef’s knife, running it just between the pith and fruit, taking care to remove all of the pith. Then, I like to use a paring knife. You find the edges of the segments and slice between the membrane and segments, sort of curving toward the center on the second cut, to free them. Finally, squeeze the remaining membrane to get all of the juice. segmenting an orangeWhen the cake is done, cool it for about 10 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan and finish cooling on a rack. Peel the parchment paper away carefully, and place the cake on a nice plate.Serve with a few of the orange segments on each slice. You might want to plop a bit of lightly sweetened, whipped heavy cream close by, if you are feeling particularly wicked and cornmeal cakeAnd there you have it – lovely moist cake, with a touch of sweetness, lovely orange flavor and a crunchy sugar topping. Can you expect more from life on a Monday?

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10 Responses to Orange Cornmeal Cake with Currants

  1. Gail says:

    I have all the ingredients for this in my kitchen right now and I think that on this rainy, gloomy day this will be the perfect thing to make…I love all these ingredients together!

  2. Louise says:

    That looks wonderful and where did you get those cute little plates Hon?

  3. Miss Rachel says:

    Very interesting combination of ingredients. I’ve never heard of this kind of cake before. Thanks for sharing your recipe. :)

  4. Amanda says:

    Another really interesting and unique recipe. It looks so nice.

  5. Donalyn says:

    Gail – hope you gave it a try!

    Louise – I’m addicted to crate and Barrel. I hope there’s a 12 step program….

    Rachel – it rapidly became a favorite here – super easy and a very unique flavor.

    Thanks Amanda – and thanks for the Tweet!

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  7. Maggie Little says:

    I wonder how this would be with cranberries instead of currents. I haven’t made this yet but when I get my oven….

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  9. Donalyn says:

    Maggie – cranberries would be really good, but I would cut them up a bit – if you leave them whole, they will all sink to the bottom for sure.

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