Chocolate Orange and Olive Oil Cake

I made a resolution this year to get out of my culinary comfort zone, with plans to start making more of my own cheese and fresh pasta (my new pasta machine arrived just yesterday!) not to mention take a stab at things like strudel with intimidatingly thin pastry, fussy babka, unfamiliar and un-Italian soup dumplings, and a whole roast turkey, too, because meat has always been my Achilles heel (can the meat thermometer be trusted?! what is actually the thickest part of the bird?! are the juices running clear?! will the turkey be too raw or too dry or just right?!) My doubts are many (at least for now).

Having said this: while I am eager to carry out the above-mentioned plans --  and I think I'd be letting us all down if I didn't work my way through the list 'RAVIOLI FILLING IDEAS' I composed during the work day, shh -- the fact remains that sometimes, grand aspirations aside, it is often nice to turn to what is familiar, what is easy, and therefore what is most comforting. My years in Italy -- where desserts tend to be on the simpler side -- have taught me the beauty of a simple cake, or ciambellone, cioe' cakes with no airs about them or loftiness in sight, which are unadorned and understated, good as dessert or with tea or at breakfast or as a snack or just because. This is my favorite thing to bake -- just check the blog index -- and that I couldn't staaway from even if I tried, recipe resolutions or not. cake like this Chocolate Orange and Olive Oil cake -- my own spin on Rachel Roddy's splendid Lemon Ricotta and Olive Oil Cake -- fits the bill nicely. 

So! This is cake is simple in appearance, yes -- no frosting or frills or filling (yay alliteration) -- but the flavor is anything but. It's soft and fluffy thanks to the teamwork of ricotta and olive oil, and it's very chocolate-y but in just the right measure, so as not to overwhelm the citrus, which -- in all its fragrant orange splendor! -- compliments said chocolate in the most lovely of ways. It's a real treat, and best of all, comes together in no time at all (after all, my favorite cakes do not require beaters, or softening of butter, or mutiple layers) which is just what we want when cake is involved, right? Stay tuned for a post on fresh pasta and roasts, yes, but in the meantime, I think you too will appreciate the respite and reassurance of a piece of chocolate cake, especially one like this. 

A couple of notes: This one is pretty simple; feel free to stir in some mini chocolate chips if you want to really up this chocolate factor here. I have been meaning to try this substituting plain whole-milk yogurt for the ricotta (purely out of curiosity) so will try that next -- stay tuned!

For more ciambelloni: this Lemon Ricotta Cake, this White Chocolate Blueberry Cake, and this Brownie Ciambellone, and this Apple CakeLooking for other simple cake recipes? I've got this Chocolate Loaf Cake, this Ricotta Pound cake, this Mimosa (orange and Prosecco) cake, this Triple Orange Pound cake, and this Lemon poppyseed loaf.

Recipe adapted from Rachel Roddy.

2 cups flour (260 grams) 
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar (200 grams)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup ricotta (205 grams)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (224 grams)
4 large eggs
Zest of 3 oranges

Powdered sugar, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°F (170 degrees Celsius). Butter a 9-inch diameter bundt pan, tube pan, or loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the ricotta and olive oil until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until they are fully incorporated and the batter is smooth. Add the vanilla and melted chocolate. Pour the ricotta mixture into the flour mixture and whisk until the ingredients are combined and the batter is thick and smooth. Fold in the orange zest using a wooden spoon. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely, then dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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