When I think of Monisha and Max, I think of colorful, vibrant, adventurous people full of laughter and sweetness, so I knew that the last cake for their wedding picnic I wanted to make a crazy show-stopper with a jumble of wild, but ultimately harmonious, flavors. Part 3: olive oil cake with candied oranges and cardamom. (Read part 1 here and part 2 here.)
This Mediterranean-inspired cake is bold, bright, and comforting and transports you to a warm, sunny place just by looking at it. It is kind of labor intensive because you have to make the candied oranges, but boy are they worth it. You’ll be rewarded with the tart-sweet-bitter chewiness of delicious candied orange slices in a cardamom syrup that will eventually be poured over the cake.
One trick I learned: blanch the sliced orange three times in fresh boiling water (rinse slices gently and replace the water each time) as this helps to remove the bitterness from the white pith in the orange skin. If you enjoy that bitter contrast, don’t worry about this step.
You can make the candied oranges ahead of time and save them in the refrigerator between waxed paper in an airtight container. You also won’t use up all of the syrup (I found that half is enough to soak the cake without making it soggy – you want it to flavor every bite) so save the leftover orange/cardamom simple syrup for fruit compotes and clever cocktails.
The cake is crumbly from the semolina, fruity from the olive oil, earthy and moist when drenched with cardamom orange syrup, sweetly fresh from the chewy candied orange, and warmly crunchy from the pistachios – just a bounty of textures and a melody of flavors. Once composed on the plate, the vivid palette lures you to join the party, and all you can do is lift up your fork in celebration.