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Cake, Community and Cookbooks

Orange and Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

I’m on my way to Cherry Bombe Jubilee, a one day women in food conference in Brooklyn that I consider mandatory continuing education. Last year my recap included a heated #METOO panel discussion with Toronto restauranteur Jen Agg, one that artist Jessie Kanelos Weiner captured perfectly in watercolour.

I feed off the event for months afterward.

This year I’ll be also popping in for a podcast chat with Hetty McKinnon of Arthur’s Street Kitchen and author of three incredible cookbooks – Community, Neighbourhood, and as of next week, Family. And speaking of community, Hetty’s books were photographed by Luisa Brimble (episode 27 of The Food Podcast). Hetty and Luisa met when Hetty was living in Sydney, delivering salads on her bicycle from her (original) Arthur Street kitchen.

Food connects us and creates community in the most magical way. Ingredients written on scraps of paper become books, books that come to life when a photographer captures the essence of the food, its place and the cook. Those books travel far and wide, and sometimes even end up in a friend’s kitchen in Halifax.

I’m talking about Kris’ kitchen of Shipshape EatWorthy, a blog where Kris reviews cookbooks. I visited her kitchen the other day and almost melted as I slid onto a kitchen stool. Kris had Hetty’s Orange and Rosemary Olive Oil cake cooling on the counter. The recipe is from Hetty’s latest book Family, a book that Australians have been loving for a long time and has finally reached North America.

Kris sprinkled icing sugar over top and served us a slice, her daughter kindly acting as hand model for a quick picture. The rosemary and olive oil created a slightly savoury flavour against the sweetness of the icing sugar and the bright pop of citrus. And like all great recipes, the story of the cake transported us into our own ingredient and recipe memories…

Oil makes cakes moist. It makes them last. And it’s cheaper than butter. And unlike a block of butter called for in many cakes, oil doesn’t require an hour in the sunshine to bring it to room temperature (I’ve done that so. many. times). 

My mom makes a yogurt and oil cake – sugar, eggs, thick yogurt (or buttermilk), oil, flour, baking powder and chopped rhubarb. It’s a sweet, super-moist cake speckled with tart rhubarb. I’ve swapped in every berry possible over the years. I’ve turned it into muffins. I’ve added chopped dark chocolate and orange rind and transported it into a birthday cake.  And it’s made the rounds. It’s in my boys’ pre-school cookbook. My aunt’s bound recipe collection. It’s on a neighbour’s bulletin board.

Kris sent me home with the leftovers, and as it turns out, the cake is not only perfect with morning coffee, it’s delicious after lunch and dinner too.

ps – below is a teeny tiny selection of the books one gets to flip through when they have cake and coffee with a cookbook reviewer.

pps – the recipe for Hetty’s Orange and Rosemary Olive Oil Cake to follow when I get my hands on Family