February 29, 2024 | Rome, Italy

In the cloud

By |2018-03-21T19:47:00+01:00November 26th, 2015|"In Provincia"|
Orange and Olive Oil cake is a great antidote to bad weather and melancholy.

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.

  • 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.

About the Author:

Letizia Mattiacci wrote the "In Provincia" column from 2011 through 2019.