For March's BrightRx, we are manifesting spring by highlighting bright fare that channels sunnier days ahead. Recipe developer Teresa Finney created a marvelous mandarin olive oil cake with an unexpected twist - our ARDOR chili olive oil, adding a spicy kick and sunshiney color.
"This cake is quite spicy thanks to ARDOR; a dollop of whipped cream for serving would balance out some of the heat. I had big mandarins, also known as the Japanese dekopon, on hand for this recipe but any citrus will work in its place. As you whisk it into the rest of the ingredients, ARDOR will color the cake batter a lovely soft orange-red; someone on Twitter said this cake looks sunny and that is an apt, cute descriptor."
For the Mandarin Simple Syrup
2 ounces water (¼ cup)
52 grams granulated sugar (¼ cup)
peel from 1 mandarin
In a small saucepan set over medium heat, add the water, sugar, and mandarin peel.
Whisk until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and let simple syrup steep and cool while you make the cake.
Preheat oven to 325F. Spray a 9-inch x 2-inch round cake pan with cooking spray, or 1 tablespoon butter or oil, then line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, weigh out the flour and measure the baking powder. Whisk to combine and set aside
In a separate medium bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs well until the mixture becomes lighter in color and slightly foamy (or “fluffy”), about 60 seconds. It’s best to use your eye though and when the mixture is looking lighter and foamy, it’s good.
Add the buttermilk, mandarin juice and zest, vanilla extract, and salt to the bowl. Whisk until all ingredients are combined.
Set a fine mesh strainer over the mixing bowl, add the reserved flour and baking powder, and sift into the batter. Whisk dry ingredients just until fully incorporated into the wet ingredients.
Pour the olive oil into the bowl; whisk just until the batter is smooth and all ingredients are well incorporated.
Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake until a toothpick, cake tester, or fork inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 37-42 minutes (*see note about bake time range in the headnote).
Let the cake cool in the cake pan for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack that’s been set on a baking sheet. (I removed the dome on my cake with a serrated knife before inverting onto a cooling rack, but this step is not necessary).
Using a pastry brush or a spoon, brush/spoon citrus simple syrup over the cake. If you want, dust cake with confectioner’s sugar for a little additional sweetness and decoration.
Notes: The eggs and buttermilk should be at room temperature to ensure proper emulsion into the batter (proper emulsion = a fluffy cake texture).
Baking notes: The baking time range is largely dependent on whether your oven temperature is accurate. Be mindful if you open the oven door at all during the bake to check on the status of the cake. Opening the oven door lets heat escape, which may affect overall bake time. This cake took exactly 40 minutes to bake in my oven; your oven may bake quicker or it may need more time. Use your senses to detect when the cake is done, e.g., you can see that the cake is golden in color; the sides of the cake have pulled away from the cake pan; the center of the cake feels pillowy/springy to the touch.