Last week, I was invited to the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition. This year we judged the Northern and Southern Hemispheres together. I don’t think it works well for the Southern Hemisphere since they are about to harvest their olives at the end of this month, April and May. So, their oils were in fact last year’s and they were competing with the Northern Hemisphere’s fresh oils. I’m hoping that will change. I know our chairman of the competition, Darrell Corti, will try his best to remediate the situation.
Judging in the L.A. International is such an honor. I sat at table number six with two highly experienced and well-renowned judges, Toshi Suzuki, from Japan and Maria Lourdes Toujas, from Argentina.
We tasted about 50 oils a day from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. We would eat lunch together and then had the afternoon free. I would go to my room, read, do a Sudoku and sometimes nap. At 6:00 we would gather again for dinner. The dinners were exquisite. Every night there was great food and wine. I was offered a taste of a 1957 Port, a dry Vermouth that was outrageously good, a Muscat from Australia that is extremely rare, and two New Zealand wines that only grown in that country. What an experience!
As with all wonderful meals, besides the great food and libations, it was the company of the fellow judges that made these experiences so wonderful. I was surrounded by judges from all over the world, many who I had met last year and a few new ones this year. We had five judges from Sacramento, whom I have been on sensory panels before. The others were from Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Conversations covered everything from olives to family and life at home.
Margaret Edwards, from New Zealand, is a producer and has been an international judge for a good number of years. She is such a lovely person. We got to talking about recipes and she told me about her Mandarin Chocolate Cake made with olive oil, of course. She sent me the recipe and I wanted to try it out for this posting. She writes on the top of the recipe that it is a very easy cake to make. The ingredients and instructions support that claim. Unfortunately, I didn’t have some of the ingredients, namely, mandarin infused olive oil and ground almonds. A substitute for mandarin olive oil is the grated peel of a mandarin and plain olive oil. So, I thought to do that. I went to the grocery store with a list of things, I bought two mandarins but forgot the almond meal. Margaret’s cake is gluten-free. Do you do that, bring a list to the grocery store and still forget some items? When I got home and I found that I didn’t have a main ingredient, I looked in the pantry and saw that I had a bit of Blood Orange-Infused Olive Oil. I had four blood oranges left on the tree. I decided to find a nice blood orange chocolate cake. this recipe is a little more complicated than Margaret’s. The candied oranges were delicious but the syrup was very sweet. I poured the syrup over the the frosting but I think next time I would just drizzle a bit on each piece. I got the recipe for the cake from Temecula Olive Oil. The recipe is not well-written but not difficult to figure out. The Blood Orange Buttercream, I figured out on my own.
2 cups Sugar
3/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Expresso Powder
1 cup Milk
1/2 cup Blood Orange Olive Oil
1 Blood Orange Zest
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 cup Boiling Water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
Add Flour, Sugar, Cocoa, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Salt and Espresso Powder in a large mixer bowl and stir with paddle attachment until well combined.
Add Milk, Olive Oil, Eggs, Zest, and Vanilla to flour mixture and mix on medium speed until well combined.
Reduce speed and add Boiling Water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to batter.
Pour batter evenly into the two cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and completely cool. Frost.
1 lb. Confectioner’s Sugar
Juice 1 Blood Orange (1/4 cup)
2 Tbsp. Cream
1 tsp. Salt
Zest of 1 Blood Orange (2 Tbsp.)
For Candied Oranges (optional):
2 Peeled and thinly sliced Blood Oranges
1 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Water
While cake cools, place Sugar and Water in a small pot and boil. Add Oranges and boil on medium to low for 20 minutes. Take Oranges out and place on a silk-at or parchment paper to cool.
For Frosting, place Butter, Confectioner’s Sugar, Orange Juice, Cream, Salt and Zest in large mixer bowl.
With whisk attachment, whisk until incorporated. Frost cake and decorate with Candied Oranges.