Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Blood Orange Olive Oil Honey Cake

At $20 USD, how could I resist?

At $20 USD, how could I resist?

All right. I admit it. I’m a sucker for odd Bundt pans and other cake pans with funny shapes. And when I saw this one on Amazon for twenty bucks, I just had to have it. Had to. It’s like certain women (like the one to whom I’m married) and shoes. The sooner you learn to stop resisting — I’m speaking from personal experience here — the happier your life will be. That said, I’m not interested in becoming the Imelda Marcos of goofy baking tins, so my rule is that if I buy it, I have to use it. After I make 20 cakes in this pan, the price of the bakeware will have added a mere eight bits to the cake’s cost.

As luck would have it, the Internets this evening (24 September in lovely California) yielded a plethora of honey cake recipes, given that sundown marked the beginning of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, and some version of honey cake is a staple of the holiday in many households. While I myself cannot number myself a member of the tribe, many of my dearest friends are, and their cuisine has been a mitzvah in my life.

The main recipe I improvised from can be found at, though I made a couple of modifications that I believe enhanced it significantly. First, instead of using any old vegetable oil, I used Stonehouse extra-virgin blood orange olive oil. Oranges and honey take to one another like Marilyn Monroe’s arm and an elbow-length satin glove. I wasn’t keen on adding a coffee flavour to the mix, but I needed the additional moisture, so I substituted some French vanilla coconut milk “creamer” instead (think orange + vanilla = creamsicle). And I used some stupidly expensive (and largely unavailable) ingredients, such as Manuka honey that a friend hand-carried over from New Zealand (and which sells in America for about $20 USD for a 12 oz. / 350 ml jar), and Green Spot single pot still Irish whiskey, of which only about 500 cases are made per year, making it the Pappy van Winkle of Irish whiskey. I’m sure some of my friends would happly clout me upside the head with a 4×4 for using such an extraordinary spirit in baking, and they might be right. But the batter was excellent, and it was only two tablespoons / 30 ml of the whiskey.

19 little mini-cakes of goodness.

19 little mini-cakes of goodness.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Blood Orange Olive Oil Honey Cake

• 1 3/4 cups / 225 g. Cup4Cup gluten-free flour (or all-purpose flour, if you’re OK with gluten)
• 1 teaspoon / 2.6 g. ground cinnamon
• 3/4 teaspoon / 4 mg. baking soda
• 3/4 teaspoon / 6 g. salt
• 1/2 teaspoon / 2 g. baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon / 1 g. ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon / .75 g. ground cloves
• 1 cup / 237 ml honey (I used Manuka honey that a friend had brought from New Zealand)
• 2/3 cup / 158 ml blood orange olive oil (available from Stonehouse Olive Oil Company)
• 1/2 cup / 125 ml So Delicious French Vanilla coconut milk “creamer” (or freshly brewed strong coffee, cooled)
• 2 large eggs (I used duck eggs, because I had some)
• 1/4 cup / 60 g. packed brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons / 30 ml whiskey or bourbon (I used Green Spot Irish Whiskey)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350˚F / 175˚C. Spray pan with Baker’s Joy, PAM cooking spray with flour, or oil pan well and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl. Whisk together honey, oil, and coconut milk in another bowl until well combined.
Beat together eggs and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add honey mixture and whiskey and mix until blended, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Finish mixing batter with a rubber spatula, scraping bottom of bowl.
Pour batter into Nordic Ware honeycomb pan or loaf pan (batter will be thin) and bake 30 minutes. Cover top loosely with foil or parchment and continue to bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes more. Cool on a rack 1 hour.
Invert rack over pan and invert cake onto rack. Turn cake right side up and cool completely.
Baker’s note: • Cake keeps, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or in an airtight container, at room temperature 1 week. As if you’ll be able to keep from devouring it for that long. Seriously.

NOTE: When I first posted this, I had some truly wacky cup-to-gram (or -ml) conversions, which I have since revised. [Some of them were computational errors, some mere typos.] I presume my astute audience would have correctly divined that 225 mg. of flour wouldn’t have made a very large cake in the best of scenarios, and given the amounts of the other ingredients, it would have been overwhelmed by, um, just about everything else. Because I am in America, I foolishly tend to continue to use cup/tablespoon/etc. measurements, and while the metric equivalent is printed on my measuring spoons, it’s not printed on my measuring cups. I should probably just measure the stuff on my fabulous kitchen scale, which is bilingual both in metric and the ridiculous and outdated Olde English measurements. Sorry about that.

Back to School — And You Can Too! It’s free. Book before October 1.

Chemistry and me.

Chemistry and me.

Back before the days of the Internets (and before the love of radio and journalism overtook my love of the lab), I was a chemistry major. [In fact, I studied under the late Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland, who shared the Nobel Prize for co-discovering chlorofluorocarbons as the primary cause of the hole in the polar ozone layer. But I digress.]

The intersection of chemistry and cooking/baking/making food has always fascinated me (as proof, also see He Blinded Me — And Darn Near Crushed Me, Too — With Science). And years ago, my high school chem teacher, the aptly-named Dr. Wiseman, made the direct connection between lab and kitchen for me when he said, “If you’re good in the lab, you’ll do well in the kitchen, because they both involve similar skills: being able to follow a set of instructions in order to bring about reproducible results.” In fact, the process for making a chemical compound is often informally known as a recipe, so I probably should have figured it out sooner, but I was at a lab table toward the back of the class, cracking wise with my lab partner Rick Jacobs, who is now the President of the Union for Reform Judaism. [I have an almost uncanny knack for brushing up against the talented and celebrated while remaining relatively obscure and undistinguished in my own right. Just call me Zelig.]

Over the years, I’ve collected not only Nathan Myhrvold and co.’s Modernist Cuisine, but also works on food and science by Hervé This, Francois Chartier, Robert L. Wolke, and the dean of American food science writers, Harold McGee.

So I was more than delighted to be notified, via UCLA’s Science and Food blog, that a course was being offered — for free, should you just audit it — From Canada’s McGill University via edX. For those of you unfamiliar with edX, it’s a loosely-knit consortium of institutions of higher education that provides courses to the public for free (or a minimal charge, should you wish a certificate of completion from those courses that offer one). And we’re not talking just any old random universities and colleges, either. Among their number are MIT, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, UC Berkeley, Berklee College of Music, The University of Queensland, Harvard, Peking University, Dartmouth, Technische Universität München, The University of Chicago, The University of Hong Kong, Notre Dame, Karolinska Institutet, and Wellesley, just to name a few.

(image courtesy edX)

(image courtesy edX)

For 11 weeks starting October 1, McGill is offering Chem 181x, a “course that offers a scientific framework for understanding food and its impact on health and society from past to present,” through edX. Count me in. The course description claims to require approximately 5 hours per week of effort, and offers students both non-certificated (free) and certificated (pay, but as little as $100 US) versions (which not all edX courses do).

For more info on the course, check out their informative YouTube video, the course overview, and edx. Registering for an edX account is simple and free. They deliver lifelong learning opportunities on subjects ranging from Explaining European Paintings, 1400 to 1800 to Principles of Economics with Calculus to Autonomous Mobile Robots and beyond, so it’s worth investigating even if this particular course is not to your, ahem, taste. [They also maintain an extensive video library of past courses, so if you miss this one, chances are you will be able to view its content, even if you can’t be certificated or participate in any online discussions or experiments.]

There’s never a bad time to make yourself a little smarter. In a future post, I’ll report back on how it was (or is, if I discover something that deserves a more-or-less immediate share).