Friday, April 12, 2013

Home Sweet Home (with Giada's Almond Citrus Olive Oil Cake)

If I've done my math correctly, I sold my home in New Orleans about 2,892 days ago. Since then, and for the better part of a decade, we hopped from place to place. At last count, Omar (our trusty Rottweiler) had lived in 8 places and Otis has had 4 addresses since his birth...and he's only 3 1/2. Nomads, vagabonds, drifters. No, we were renters. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But I longed for a place to call my own, a place where I could plant perennials and actually see them bloom the following year. A place where I could put up shelves, frames and anchor a mirror. I wanted a home.
When my 6-year stint in New Orleans came to an end, I moved back to my parent's home in the Riverdale section of New York City. After two months of sleeping in my childhood bed, my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and I moved to Carroll Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The apartment was fine, despite being a bit run down. It was well-lit and spacious by New York standards (just under 600 square feet). But then construction started on the lot next door and it was time to move. No one likes waking up to what feels like a seismic occurrence and our walls began to crack. Omar was also a nervous wreck...or was that me?

Next we rented an apartment in a turn-of-the-century Brownstone. That's where Otis spent his first year of life. We lived in Prospect Heights on a beautiful tree-lined street that was quintessential Brooklyn. But we were outgrowing the space, Omar could no longer take the stairs, and then I found out I was pregnant with Theodore. On the move again.
Our fourth space was a remodeled apartment that was about 625 square feet. Cramped yes, but it felt clean and relatively safe. Then the beeping started. Unfortunately we signed a lease for an apartment directly across from a bread factory that operated around the clock, yes 24-hours. There were beeps and honks from machinery of all sorts, fork-lifts, 18-wheelers, garbage trucks at 2 a.m.-- nothing but noise and pollution. It was a total disaster. And that's what tipped the scales for us: we'd had enough and we moved Colorado.
With Otis, Theo (who was 6 weeks old at the time), and Omar, we rented a lovely, albeit quirky, home in the Highlands section of Denver. Unfortunately for us, after a year of renting, it went on the market and sold within a few days. The home was slated for demolition, so we got a 6 month rental on the edge of Denver's city line. It was a generic townhouse that could have been in anywhere-U.S.A and there was no walkability to speak of, but it served its purpose.
Then it was time to take the plunge; it was time to do some serious house hunting. 
Have you ever read 'The Hunt' in the Real Estate section of The New York Times? It was kind of like that. 
No. 1: A beautiful, old Victorian in Congress Park, a neighborhood we were pretty much set on living in. But after an investigation turned up liens and judgements against the property, we walked. 
No. 2: A bid was submitted on a 1920s stunner in Park Hill, but systemic foundation issues surfaced after our structural engineer did the inspection. We wanted it fixed one way, but the sellers weren't interested. Our inspection objections were rejected, so that house was done. Back to Congress Park. 
No. 3: Our home! We fell in love with an old, historic home built in 1895, the year Grover Cleveland was President. We closed in March...

Writing this post means that we're settled, that we're anchored, that we've bought a home. I have a long-standing tradition of bringing olive oil cakes to house warming parties, and here I am making an olive oil cake for our our very own house. It's been a long, long (long) road.
Happy baking! 

Giada's Almond Citrus Olive Oil Cake (Adapted slightly from this recipe)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (to compensate for altitude I added 1 3/4 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup whole milk, plus 1 tablespoon for altitude
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted, finely chopped (original recipe suggests coarsley crumbled)
Powdered sugar, for sifting

Citrus Compote:
2 tablespoons grated orange peel
3/4-1 teaspoon orange blossom water, optional though I'd use it.
3 oranges, segmented
2 pink grapefruits, segmented

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8-inch-diameter cake pan. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs, and zests in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the milk. Gradually beat in the oil. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in the almonds. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Place cake pan on baking pan to collect any possible spills. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool for 15 minutes. Remove cake and place on serving platter, top side up. Sift powdered sugar over the cake.

To make the citrus compote: Stir the orange peel, blossom water, and 2 tablespoons of accumulated juices from the segmented fruit in a small bowl to blend. Arrange the orange and grapefruit segments decoratively in a wide shallow bowl. Pour the blossom water mixture over. Cover and let stand 15 minutes for the flavors to blend.

You can cut the cake into wedges and spoon the citrus compote alongside or place the compote on top and slice.

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  1. We're so glad you call Denver home. :)

    Now I need to try some of that cake!

    p.s. where do I get blossom water?

    1. You're the best, Jo! I should have made this as your birthday cake...but there were those pesky time constraints today (aka Otis and Theo)....hope you liked the tart :) Diyar Middle Eastern market is the best place to get the rosewater (for those pistachio meringues) and orange blossom. Under 3 bucks per bottle. Diyar is at 2159 S. Parker at S. Emporia. xo

  2. This is one of my favorite olive oil cakes!!! I've made it so many times and it's always gone in a flash :) I found that you have to really watch the baking time though-- too long in the oven and it gets a little dry. GORGEOUS photos!

    1. Hi Elise, Thanks for your comment. It's a nice cake and apparently quite popular ;) You're right about the time-- I made another olive oil cake that was a total disaster due to overcooking. Happy weekend!

  3. Hooray and congratulations! Now eat some cake :) -Therese

  4. That is a LOT of moving, but it sounds like you have had quite a few adventures along the way. I am exhausted just thinking about moving when my lease is up in July. I'm glad you found a home. It sounds lovely. Your family is so cute, by the way, and this cake looks marvelous.

    1. Hi Kate, Good to hear from you. Oh yes, it's been a LOT of moving. I feel like I've gained so many packing skills that I could start my own company..seriously, on this move I didn't even lose a single glass! Hope that your move goes smoothly. It's a pain, but nothing you can't overcome. Organization is key and if you need boxes and bubble wrap, check your local Craigslist-- people often are giving it away. The home is a dream come true, but I will never forget the road to get here. That said, I'm glad it's over and the boys are really enjoying it. I can tell :) Be well!

  5. Mazel tov on the new home, Batya! That's great news :) What an adventure, but I'm sure you're so glad to be settled. May you have nothing but wonderful memories in your new abode. -Natalia

    1. Thank you so much Natalia. Those are kind words. I hope so too :)

  6. congrats on the new home. That is SO exciting! And this cake looks so delicious. I used to have a weird obsession with Giada, which means I am going to have to make this cake very soon... :)
    -Sarah @ two-tarts

    1. Thanks, Sarah! It is REALLY exciting. We are settling in-- and I can't believe we even have a dining room table! It feels so civilized :) You know, I really like Giada's recipes too....every one I've made has come out well, which is not something I can say for the majority of things I've tried recently :( Hope you like the cake as much as we did! And I'd love to do a Colorado Crafted post in May. I want to spread the word of all things Colorado-- and businesses that were started and run by women (and mothers!). I'll send you an email and we can chat about it! xo

    2. I love that, after bringing olive oil cakes to others all these years, you finally have an occasion to make one for your own family!

    3. Thanks, Jeanne! If you ever find yourself on this side of the world :) you're more than welcome. Drop a regular email and let me know how you're doing! And J, who must be close to 3?! Is that possible?! xo

  7. the Guggenheim cabinet, which boasts a high-gloss geometric mosaic veneer on its door plus interior drawers and shelves Demir Leather