Pastry Chef Bill Yosses’ Orange-Scented Olive Oil Cake

Bill Yosses is busy preparing for the holidays. The highly esteemed pastry chef recently completed a 350-pound replica of the White House made of ginger bread and covered in white chocolate. He’s also been readying desserts for about 20 parties between now and Christmas. They include fruit poached in hibiscus as well as bûches de Noël. Why so busy? Yosses is in charge of desserts at the White House.

Despite his booked schedule, the White House pastry chef also has produced an acclaimed cookbook devoted to desserts with food writer Melissa Clark: The Perfect Finish: Special Desserts for Every Occasion (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010).

Publishers Weekly asked Yosses to name his favorite recipes in the book.

“The orange-scented olive oil cake with fleur de sel is original and delicious. I also love the upside-down cranberry-caramel cake, and the strawberry shortcake on the cover of the book,” he replied. “While these desserts may all seem familiar, each recipe has a new twist to it, such as using olive oil instead of butter, which is healthier.”

We’d been reading about the book on the Internet and admiring beautiful photos of the olive oil cake. So we were particularly pleased when the publisher, W.W. North & Co., agreed to share the recipe. (Click here to go to the recipe.)

The cake has Italian roots, which isn’t surprising given how Italians and other Mediterranean residents have been baking with olive oil instead of butter for generations. (Click here to see a conversion table for substituting olive oil for butter in baking.)

“This is a variation on a Sicilian classic in which oranges are preserved by simmering with a small amount of sugar, then blended right into the cake batter,” Yosses and Clark write. “The candied oranges and olive oil make the cake particularly moist, and the flaky crystals of fleur de sel accentuate the intense citrus flavor”

The orange glaze, by the way, “helps keep the cake moist for several days.”

To make the cake, two oranges are repeatedly blanched — in boiling water, and then in cold water — to remove the rind’s bitterness. The oranges are then boiled in a quart of fresh water with a cup of sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, the mixture is simmered for about 30 minutes until the rind is softened and can be easily pierced with a fork.

The prepared oranges are cut into chunks and placed, rind and all, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. The machine is pulsed until the oranges form a slightly chunky purée.

The purée is combined in a mixing bowl with eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla extract. The extra virgin olive oil is added at the end.

The batter is baked in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 40 to 50 minutes. The orange glaze is poured over the cake once it’s cooled. And the fleur de sel is sprinkled on top at the last minute.

Bon appétit,

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch