This recipe comes by way of my friend Alexa. The other night over drinks, I mentioned that I was in a bit of a cooking funk and she immediately texted her mother for a recipe to pull me out of it. Some friends, I tell ya, they just get it. This cake is one of her mother’s go-to recipes and after making it, I completely understand why. Perfumed with citrus and Grand Marnier, it is just the right amount of sweet. The olive oil starts to take it to a savory place, but you’re brought back into sweet territory just in time. It’s the perfect cake for people who “don’t like dessert”—not that you should be friends with those people anyway…
After reading through the recipe, I noticed that it called for Grand Marnier. For those who don’t know, Grand Marnier is an orange-flavored cognac liquor that while tasty, is also very expensive. Usually, I’d just skip the Grand Marnier and call it a day. But, I figured that I ought to embrace my duty as a food blogger and actually determine 1) if 1/4 cup of Grand Marnier makes a difference in taste and 2) if that extra cost actually makes the cake better. Testing ensued!
The Method: Firstly, you can purchase tiny, tiny bottles of Grand Marnier at BevMo for $5 (still spendy, but not terrible for the wealth of information it would provide). In the interest of scientific integrity, I made the batter as if I was making just one cake up until the very end and then separated it out into two bowls. To one bowl I added 1/8 cup Grand Marnier and to the other I added 1/8 cup citrus juice, taking care to stir them equally. I then poured them into the prepared baking dishes and baked them side by side for the same amount of time.
The Findings: In a blind taste test, Jordan was able to correctly identify the cakes, but he also found both equally delicious. The Grand Marnier does indeed add a deeper, spicier, slightly boozy flavor, but the cake with just citrus juice was still really damn good. Strangely, the cake with the Grand Marnier also rose a bit more—the jury is still out on why. I slightly preferred the cake with Grand Marnier because it was a bit more complex with a more subtle citrus flavor, but honestly, don’t drop the cash on Grand Marnier if you don’t already have it lying around. If you do, by all means, throw it in. And bring me a cup in a mason jar.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cup milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoon grated orange zest (I used a combination of meyer lemon and orange)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup Grand MarnierPreheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan or two loaf pans.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, slat, baking soda and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest, orange juice and Grand Marnier (if using). Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined.
Pour into the prepared pans and bake for one hour, until the top is golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes and then run a knife around the edge and invert the cake onto a plate. Let cool for a few more hours if you can stand it. Enjoy for dessert (or for breakfast, I won’t hide from the truth).