There’s nothing like a little bit of snow to reinforce that preconception that us Brits are obsessed with the weather.

Almost every conversation I’ve had this week, whether with friends, family, colleagues or total strangers, has be preceded with a discussion about the snow, the subsequent and inevitable transport chaos and our general inability to cope with any kind of weather at all really.


The only brightness in the last few weeks has been the arrival of the season’s citrus fruits bringing with them the scent of Mediterranean sunshine.

For some reason, the woman in the fruit and vegetable shop looked at me like I was slightly unhinged when I bought a brown paper bag full of Seville oranges. She asked me several times if I knew how bitter they were (yes, that’s why I want them) and that you couldn’t eat them (why would I want to when I could make them into a cake?).

I like things that are slightly (or quite a lot) bitter or sour or just have another dimension other than ‘sweet’. And Seville oranges, most often used to make marmalade, definitely are bitter enough to add that extra dimension. The crunchy, sugary glaze stops the cake from being too sour but there is still that wonderful catch when you take a bite; it almost makes you wince with enjoyment. A taste of warmer climes to brighten up even the most gloomy of days.

Bitter orange and olive oil cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s orange-scented olive oil cake

Yield: A 2lb loaf cake (serves 8 – 10)

The original recipe calls for blood oranges, a chocolate glaze and an orange compote. All of these things sound wonderful but this version is a little more simple. I can imagine this cake would work well with a lot of different types of citrus fruit – the bitterness of Seville oranges is particularly welcome but lemon or grapefruit would also be good. You might want to check the tartness of your glaze if you’re using a different type of fruit and adjust the ration of sugar to juice accordingly. This cake works best when pleasingly sour.


For the cake:

  • Zest of two Seville oranges
  • 225g (1 cup) unrefined caster/granulated sugar
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) juice from 1 1/2 – 2 Seville oranges
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) plain yoghurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 160ml (2/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 200g (1 3/4 cup) white spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teasppon baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the glaze:
  • Juice of 1Seville orange
  • 55g (1/4 cup)unrefined caster/granulated sugar

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F (fan). Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with non-stick paper.
  2. With your fingers, rub together the zest and sugar in a large bowl until it becomes fragrant.
  3. Add the yoghurt and orange juice and whisk to combine.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a a time, and the oil and whisk again until everything is combined.
  5. Fold in the dry ingredients until the mixture is smooth.
  6. Pour into the load tin and bake for 40 – 50 minutes until the top is firm and golden.
  7. While the cake is baking, mix together the juice and the sugar for the glaze. Set aside until needed.
  8. When the cake is ready, take it out the oven but leave it in the tin. While it is still hot, make a few holes in the cake with a fork and pour over the glaze.
  9. Leave to cool in the tin for about half an hour until the juice is all absorbed before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
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39 Responses to "bitter orange & olive oil cake"
  1. Jenny @ BAKE says:

    Beautiful photographs Kathryn! I love the sound of this cake, I’ve started to see Seville oranges around and have been looking for a not-marmalade recipe for them! I bloody love a good moan about the weather! My latest gripe being that all this cloud means my flat is dark in the morning!

  2. I love those American health warnings… and I love this cake… anything with that bitter/sweet thing going on is simply heaven to me!

  3. Love the look of that zesty goodness… I, too, really like something that has a dimension other than just sweet. Bliss.

  4. Emma Gardner says:

    I’ve been wondering what else you could use Sevilles in beside marmalade – and here you are, answering my question! Looks lovely. I haven’t got my hands on any yet – need to make my marmalade.

    This grey is getting rather dull, isn’t it. I got a tiny bit of sunshine the other morning and the whole day felt brighter. Humph. [/british]

  5. Rebecca says:

    Really beautiful photos here! SUCH A CRAZYCOOL FORK.

  6. Ugh, I’m so glad it’s not snowing any more – the commotion in the office was insane. People were literally stalking the weather forecast by the second.

    This cake looks gorgeous and exactly the kind of thing I’d love to curl up with on a cold afternoon :-)

  7. : ) I have always thought citrus was one of the best parts of winter.

  8. Ugh, that picture of the oranges. SWOON.

  9. Valeria says:

    This is yet exactly another cake I was looking for. I tried to make marmalade with some Seville oranges I bought and I don’t know what I did wrong but it turned into an epic fail –meaning, more than jam I have syrup. I was therefore looking to use some of it in a cake or ON a cake and here it is, my (your) cake! Thanks so much. Love the bitterness of the Seville oranges and can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  10. Cathryn says:

    This looks amazing I need to try it! Your photos are beautiful :)

  11. Amy says:

    I love the idea of Seville oranges in cake. I made a Seville orange marmalade and Whisky ice cream (divine!) and it would go brilliantly with this cake. Ice cream all gone so I’ll be making a new batch and this cake very soon! Thank you. Love the fusilli fork too!

  12. We had been having such a lovely mild weather until a week ago. Now everyone is definitely talking about it and I’m freezing my buns off. This cake looks like just the thing to warm me up. Gorgeous.

  13. Rachel says:

    As a Brit living in LA this year, I laughed out loud reading this post! After 5 months here, last night I just about managed to not roll my eyes at the weather report saying, shock horror, rain was due the next day. And today? Spitting by English standards at best, but everyone is still walking around my neighbourhood and the supermarket wearing wellington boots! Seriously, I’ve seen a rain storm and a cold snap take president on the news over college shootings and violent rapes. Madness.

  14. Lindsay says:

    Looks absolutely delish and what lovely little plates!!!

  15. Beautiful! And, it is the same with the weather here in Minnesota. It’s always the topic of conversation, and such an easy way to get out of deeper subjects.

  16. What a wonderful cake for a day like today in Spain….windy, rainy, stormy,..hmm, perfect conditions for baking.
    Love from the north of Spain

  17. Sophia says:

    Since I saw this post I have been wrecking my brain trying to imagine what this cake would taste like. Very intrigued by a sour, bitter and citrusy cake – may have to try and track down some Seville oranges here in Rome.

    And I hear you on the weather talk – after 12 years in the UK it’s weird to suddenly be in a place where people barely ever talk about the weather. Instead it’s all about the food, and not in a ‘how was that new restaurant you tried last night?’ But more in a ‘so what did you have as a starter? How big was the starter? And the main? How was it prepared? Did you have any sides? Was it overlooked? And the desserts? …’. Definitely very entertaining.

  18. katherinea says:

    Inspired by you I am making a chocolate and Seville orange layer cake. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a fresh Seville orange as I’ve never made marmalade but I quite liked them; I love sour things. Not sure I’d eat a whole one though!

  19. I couldn’t agree more. I actually HATE when people talk about the weather. Or ask about the weather, if even just for polite conversation. It’s just one of those things you talk about when you don’t care enough to talk about something else or don’t care enough to even talk to the person you’re with. Am I right?

    Unless, of course, the weather is all 2012 up in here and the world is ending. In that case, talk away :)

    Love this cake my love! And can I just say how much I love coming to your blog? You write from the heart and in such a busy, crazy, complicated blog world, it’s so refreshing to read.

    I can’t wait until we can talk over olive oil cakes and beers in London. Hopefully not about the weather, though :)

  20. Kathryn, we’re new to this blog and simply love it! This looks like a wonderful recipe to make no matter what the weather may be! Can’t wait to try it soon.

  21. I’ve made this cake before, but not with Seville oranges. Sounds absolutely wonderful!

  22. I never bake sweets/cakes with olive oil..but now I should change that. I bet the oranges are just the perfect complement to it…and gorgeous images, as always!

  23. Mondomulia says:

    I have a jar of bitter orange marmalade and have been wondering what to do with it! Your cake is a great inspiration to use for pairing bitter oranges with other ingredients!

  24. Amy says:

    LOL…oh I couldn’t agree more. Talking about weather is one of my favorite things to do. :P

    Your Bitter Orange Olive Cake looks and sounds delectable. Yes, I love sour and bitter flavors in my sweet treats as well. Give a great balance on the flavors. :) Can’t wait to try this cake. But I gotta hunt down some bitter oranges first!

  25. Wow, Kathryn, this cake looks amazing — so comforting and flavourful! It’s so cold and dark here in my part of Canada the past few days, and this would be exactly the type of treat I need. Gorgeous!

  26. Sarah says:

    Whipped cream and this cake are meant to be toge3ther. The bitterness of the cake is tempered by the whisper of bland rich cream! Your photos are making me taste this right now. Seriously! Ahhhh, need an afternoon snack!

  27. JulieD says:

    This cake looks wonderful!!

  28. Minnesota is the SAME way! Every time it snows it’s all anyone can talk about – like we’ve never had snow here!! It’s hilarious!!

  29. Ooh, this cake sounds lovely. I adore citrus, so this is right up my alley. Wish I could have a slice with my afternoon tea today!

  30. Oh yes, your nice bitter orange cake is the perfect remedy to all the gray winter days. Delish!

  31. I’m totally weather obsessed, too! This cake looks like absolute perfection, my dear!

  32. Jeff says:

    Nice do you think any orange would be fine with this recipe?

  33. london bakes says:

    @Jeff – I think if I was going to use another fruit, I’d probably go for lemon or grapefruit to keep it tart but orange would be fine too, it just might be slightly sweeter.

  34. I beautiful cake recipe and one that wild suit me down to the ground!

  35. People love to whine about the weather here, too. But really, it deserves whining over. It’s ridiculously terrible.

    I’d feel better if I had this cake! Sounds perfect just about now. Especially since basically the only fruit we have is apples and oranges.

  36. says:

    This is just the recipe I’m looking for. I’ve recently made Seville orange marmalade and I’ve been wanting to make a cake with these lovely citrus fruits before they disappear from the supermarket shelves. I’ll be baking this very shortly.

  37. Aline says:

    I did the same Laura now it s cake baking time. I want to bake two if not three to finish what I have left from making marmalade. I m just wondering if I can freeze the cake. Any idea?? Thx

  38. Aline says:

    I love the recipe, I m making more then one. Does this cake freeze well!!

  39. Kathryn says:

    Hi Aline, I’ve not tried freezing it but I imagine it will be absolutely fine. You might want to try freezing it without the glaze though as I’m not sure that would work as well.

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