Olive Oil Pound Cake

The first week after a move is the hardest. The stress of packing and unpacking the moving van (twice), the long hours finding space for belongings in unfamiliar cupboards and drawers, the uncertainty of where to buy everyday items, like groceries or end tables. It is both intimidating and exciting. Over the course of the summer, I went from a small town of 3,000 to a big city of over 3 million. The change hasn't sunk in for me yet. Besides a handful of necessary errands, I haven't had the chance to leave the apartment and explore the new neighborhood.

I am no stranger to movingI have lived in eight cities in three different countries throughout my twentiesbut every move brings unexpected changes and emotions. Time must pass before the foreign becomes familiar, and you feel ready to call it home. 

I have gone out to buy pantry essentials twicethe eggs were forgotten, and then the baking powderbut my cupboards still feel bare. After noticing the only item in overabundance was the fruit bowl, I set out to create a simple dessert that would accompany everything from the nectarines to the red and blue berries on the counter. 

Pound cakes are the clean slate of cakes, relying on the topping to create the excitement. 


Though pound cakes are traditionally made with butter, olive oil can create a cake with a comparable texture and flavor (especially if butter is another pantry staple unintentionally overlooked). Using a high quality olive oil will give you the best results. A light extra virgin olive oil gives a taste most similar to butter, but a herb infused oil or other distinctive flavor will create a unique final product. I suggest topping it with coconut whipped cream and fresh, seasonal fruit.

Though pound cakes are perfectly delicious sliced and served, they can also be grilled or coated with butter and fried like a grilled cheese before topping. The choice, as always, is yours.


Olive Oil Pound Cake is a great accompaniment to seasonal, ripe fruit. The cake is infused with lemon and orange zest, which gives the cake a subtle citrus note, but is not a primary flavor. The type of olive oil used will have the greatest influence on the taste of the final product. Choose a strong or neutral tasting oil based on your preference for the cake flavor; if uncertain, use the olive oil you already have in your home (you know you already enjoy it).

One Year Ago: Paris and Provence & the French Riviera
Two Years Ago: Cookie Dough Cake
Three Years Ago:Dark & Stormy, Blueberry Cream Cheese Cupcakes, and S'mores Pancakes
Four Years Ago: Banana Cake, S'mores Pie, and Grilled Apricots
Five Years Ago:Roasted Cherry Coconut Ice Cream

Olive Oil Pound Cake
Adapted from Alice Medrich's Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts

Yields 1 loaf

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1/2 orange
1/2 cup (120 mL) high quality olive oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (170 grams) all-purpose flour
Juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (90 mL) milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, rub the sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest between your fingers until fragrant. Beat in olive oil. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating the mixture on high for 3-4 minutes to add aeration to the mixture. Beat in the vanilla, baking powder, salt, and lemon juice. Add 1/3 of the flour and beat at a low speed until blended. Add 1/2 of the milk and continue beating. Repeat additions by adding 1/3 of the flour, the remaining milk, and the remaining flour.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and, after 10 minutes, transfer cake to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Serve with fresh fruit and coconut whipped cream.

Chocolate Orange Cake

The feeling of spring is in the air, unusual for this time of year. Normally, the Upper Midwest is still buried in a thick layer of white, and spring is just a dream over the horizon. But now the snow has melted, and with unseasonally warm weather and longer daylight hours, I feel the anxiousness of  summer to arrive. To subdue my restlessness (and dread that winter will shortly reappear), I headed to the place where I feel calm.

With a few hours to spare, I decided on baking an everyday cake. With no occasion to celebrate or holiday to observe, a cake makes an ordinary weekend feel a little brighter.

Oftentimes, I feel that some cakesespecially cupcakesact entirely as acceptable vessels to consume frosting. When an average cake, perhaps slightly dry, is covered with a mound of buttercream, there is little complaint. Good buttercream frostings have this redeeming power (and thank goodness as it has rescued many a cake of mine).

With this particular cake, however, I prefered the cake itself to be the true star. To make the crumb tender, sour cream and buttermilk were used to soften the texture. Orange zest was rubbed into the sugar to release a vibrant orange scent and flavor. And, once the cakes were baked, the layers were brushed with fresh orange juice to give it a final touch.

As a lover of chocolate and orange flavors together, this cake managed the fusion with ease.

This Chocolate Orange Layer Cake is fresh and light. The cake is tender which balances the glaze that is thick and rich. I suggest a lighter touch of glaze than seen in the photographsjust enough to seal in the layersso it will meld with the cake instead of acting as a separate layer. For all the chocolate and orange lovers, this cake is for you.

One Year Ago:  Almond Cake
Two Years Ago:Chocolate Pudding, Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream,  Blueberry Lemon Pancakes, and Lavender Lemon Shortbread
Three Years Ago:Cappuccino Pancakes with Mocha Syrup, Hot Cocoa Cookies, Rosemary Focaccia, and Swedish Visiting Cake
Four Years Ago:Chocolate Blueberry Ice Cream, Heart Shaped Cinnamon Rolls, Mexican Hot Cocoa Mix, and Brown Butter Crispy Rice Treats

Chocolate Orange Cake with Glaze

Yields 2 layer 8-inch cake or 3 layer 6-inch cake

Chocolate Orange Cake
1 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 2 oranges
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (115 grams) sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (220 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (65 grams) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (237 ml) buttermilk
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease baking pans.

In a large bowl, combine granulated sugar with orange zest, rubbing it between your fingers to release the oils. Beat in the eggs, vegetable oil, sour cream, and vanilla extract until well combined. 

Gradually mix in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, alternating with splashes of buttermilk. Stir until batter is uniform.

Divide batter evenly between baking pans and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean with a few crumbs. While cakes are cooling, use a fork to poke a few holes in the top of the cake and evenly brush on the orange juice so it soaks in. Cool cakes to room temperature (or chill) before frosting.

Chocolate Orange Glaze
12 ounces (340 grams) semi-sweet chocolate
8 tablespoons (113 grams) butter
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup (115 grams) sour cream
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (optional)
Orange zest, for garnish (optional)

In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter on low until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in orange zest, sour cream, and orange liqueur. Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes to thicken.

To assemble, carefully place one layer of cake onto a serving platter, brushed side up. Spoon glaze onto surface until desired thickness. Arrange the second cake layer on top of the first and frost the cake with remaining glaze. I have found that a cold cake is easier to frost because the chocolate glaze will harden when it comes into contact with the cake. However, waiting until the frosting is thick and can hold its shape will also work and be easier to spread along the side. I also suggest a thinner layer of glaze than shown in the photographs to have a more even cake-to-frosting ratio.

Before serving, dust the top of the cake with orange zest.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

I have a tendency to forget about myself, to push my own needs aside in favor of others. As a novice teacher, I arrive early to school and stay late, long after the last bell rings in the afternoon. I write up dozens of notes for my students on their work, knowing that most will go unread, but still marking the page in case a stray eye happens to catch the blue ink. I fall asleep in front of the computer in the evenings, typing up powerpoint presentations for the new courses I am teaching. I love my job and enjoy my students, but some days I wonder when I can set down the textbooks and pick up something I'd actually like to read.

I wonder when my time will start to become my own. 

I often forget how important it is to set aside time for myself. With a to-do list that never ends, I cross off one item right before starting the next. Owing to the advent of a new year, I am trying to work closer towards a balance. After my first week back in school from the holidays, I woke up late on the weekend. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I set out to make muffins. And again and again, just to make sure I got them right. There is a peacefulness in the kitchen, of mixing ingredients and knowing how they will come together. 

The first time I mixed up a batch of these muffins I used clementines, which was a mistake. Clementines are too tart to act as a foil against the cranberries. The second batch was good, but it wasn't sweet enough to make the pockets of cranberry taste pleasant. The last batch, however, was just right. The muffins are bright in flavor, sweet in nature, and the tart cranberries can truly shine. 

If these muffins can master this balance between extremes, perhaps there is hope for me too.


Cranberry orange muffins are a play on sweet and tart, and they perform this harmony so well. The batter is infused with orange zest and freshly squeezed orange juice to give it a vibrant citrus flavor. The cranberries add a tartness, but it is a relief against the rest of the muffin. I enjoyed these muffins with a mug of black tea and an old episode of Friends. I encourage you to find a way to sit down, relax, and savor them as well.

One Year Ago: Double Chocolate Brownies
Two Years Ago: Lemon Poppy Seed Rolls, Rosemary Sandwich Bread, and Cranberry Flaxseed Muffins
Three Years Ago: How to Make Cake Flour, Cinnamon Sugar Cake, and Vanilla Bean Pudding
Four Years Ago:Fleur de Sel Caramels, Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies, and Chocolate Marbled Banana Bread

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Yields 1 dozen muffins

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Zest from 1 orange
1 large egg
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (95 grams) all purpose flour
3/4 cup (90 grams) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (180 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1 cup (110 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a muffin pan or line with baking cups.

In a large mixing bowl, rub the zest and sugar between your fingers for several minutes to release the oils. The sugar should become fragrant. Beat in the egg, melted butter, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually fold in the flours, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the orange juice until uniform.  Mix in the cranberries.

Divide batter evenly between baking cups and sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.