November 28, 2015 | Rome, Italy | Clear 13°C

In the cloud

Orange and Olive Oil cake is a great antidote to bad weather and melancholy.
By Letizia Mattiacci
Published: 2015-11-26

ll around us sit buckets and mops. It's raining so hard the roof is leaking again. Google the Dog sulks near the wood stove, soaking wet. She's having a bad hair day.

Our house seems to exist in its own (rain) cloud. My daughter is watching an animated movie while my husband is glued to a soccer match. I contemplate whether to make a cake. Why a cake? Because I'm fed up with dealing with laundry on such a soaking wet day.

It's a very ordinary Saturday afternoon in a very ordinary November in an old farmhouse atop a mountain in Umbria. It's peaceful and boring at the same time. And it's full of love and comfort. For me, all that matters is around me.

That's when I decide to go online. There I read about people who want to put up crosses or burn crosses. I see guns in the hands of children. I see guns pointed at children. I see people living in fear. Most unbearable is the lack of compassion for those who don't even have a roof on their heads, let alone a family, a slice of cake or just a little comfort.

That makes me deeply sad. So I turn off the computer and head for the kitchen. Call it tuning out, but the end result is tasty.

Orange and Olive Oil cake


  • 140 grams (1 cup) wholegrain white flour.

    An assist from "Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil," by Nancy Harmon Jenkins.

  • 100 gr (1/2 cup) semolina flour.

  • 2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.

  • 120 gr (2/3 cup) light brown organic sugar.

  • 2 eggs.

  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil.

  • 1/2 cup sweet dessert wine (Vinsanto will do the trick).

  • 1/3 cup milk.

  • Zest of 1 orange.

  • 1 teaspoon of aniseed, fennel seeds and ground cinnamon.


First, mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Place them in a generously buttered 1.2 liter (5-cup) terrine or loaf mold. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C (350F) until golden and dry inside, about 35-45 minutes.

This cake was inspired by a recipe my friend Nancy Harmon Jenkins published in her recent cookbook "Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

While eating the cake, ignore the rain and treasure your loved ones.

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Letizia Mattiacci

Letizia runs Alla Madonna del Piatto, an Umbrian cooking school and B&B, and has a blog.

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