Orange Almond Cornmeal Cake

29 Aug

The base recipe for this cake comes from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast, the sequel to one of my favorite cookbooks. The first cookbook, Great Food Fast, was referred to as the ‘magic cookbook’ by my friends in undergrad,  which should give you some idea of its powers. My boyfriend bought me the ‘sister’ cookbook for my birthday last year, and because there is some balance to the universe requested a cake from it for our belated celebration of his birthday this year.

While I love the original version of this cake, it lacked a little bit of oomph, so I tweaked it by adding a hint of almond to the batter and swapping out some of the coarse sugar topping for toasted almond slivers. Whether you make the original version or my very slightly adapted one, it’s sure to be a hit: the orange zest, olive oil and white wine are a combination of ingredients that initially make you tilt your head to the side with suspicion, but they work in concert to create a lightly sweetened, intensely flavourful and moist cake. I like to serve this with Garret McCord’s cinnamon ice cream from Simply Recipes – which will likely be featured in an upcoming post (after I make it again – the latest batch is rapidly disappearing, for some reason). While the combination of orange, almond and cinnamon may seem somewhat “Christmas-ey”, the cake is light enough that it makes for a terrific end of summer dessert as well.


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 & 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Zest from one orange*

batter in prepared cake pan

  • 3 tbsp – 1/3 cup coarse sanding sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 cup toasted almond slivers

denuded orange...

*Use a microplane for this. If you don’t have one, buy one. Just do it. It will change your life. For years I slaved away over my cheese grater, scraping my knuckles every time, and as a result almost always omitted zest from recipes. This was a dark period in my life.


1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Using a pastry or basting brush, brush the insides of a 9″ round cake pan with olive oil. Trace out a circle of parchment paper using the bottom of the pan, cut to fit, and insert into the inside of the cake pan. This should also be brushed with olive oil – this is a cake that desperately wants to stick to the pan;

2. Toast the almond slivers by spreading them evenly on a metal platter in the toaster oven or on a baking sheet at around 300F. Once their delicious scent begins to waft through the air it may be too late (the thin slicing means that almond slivers have a tendency to quickly transition from toasted to burnt), so watch them like a hawk once they start to brown;

3. Using a whisk, mix together the wet ingredients (eggs, sugar, olive oil, wine & almond extract) in a medium-large bowl;

4. Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and orange zest), taking care to make sure that the orange zest does not clump together too much. Whisk dry ingredients gently into wet ingredients;

5. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and top with almond slivers and sugar (the amounts of the topping ingredients are variable because they can be easily adjusted to taste – I found that 3 tbsp of coarse sugar and 1/4 cup of toasted almond slivers provided a good balance of sweet and savory crunch, but you can easily go big or go home and max out both – let me know how it works out if you do!).

6. Bake for 35-40 minutes on central rack of oven, until “cake begins to pull away from side of pan” or a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the cake pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, then gently run a (plastic, if you treat your bakeware kindly) knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it. Invert the cake onto a serving platter, and then ‘re-invert’ onto wire rack until it cools completely.



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