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De Maria Buddha’s Hand Almond Olive Oil Cake
De Maria Buddha’s Hand Almond Olive Oil CakePhoto: Courtesy of De Maria

In the deep mid-winter on the East Coast as the days grow darker, quieter, and colder, nostalgia for the bright, noisy contrast of summer becomes so acute you can almost taste it. Leave it to Camille Becerra—chef of Nolita’s stylish all-day cafe De Maria—to create the perfect culinary antidote in the form of a sunny, California dream-infused olive oil cake. “If it grows together, it goes together,” Becerra quips. “And so the three components of this cake are seasonal citrus, almonds, and just-harvested olives. The cake works because the ingredients are all in season around the same time and from the same region.”

Known for her commitment to healthy, seasonal and local ingredients, color, and visually striking presentation (the much-Instagrammed Dragon Bowls from her last venture Cafe Henrie have also made the move to De Maria), Becerra was inspired to create the cake after a recent trip to California. “I’ve always been very involved in sourcing ingredients,” says Becerra. “The freshness of produce is really important to me and we always change the menu based on availability and sustainability.”

Chef Camille Becerra of De Maria
Chef Camille Becerra of De MariaPhoto: Courtesy of Katie June Burton
True to her word, Becerra has managed to put her unique spin on the traditional holiday cake by freshening it up with zesty olive oil, nutty almonds and a wonderfully weird fingered citron fruit known as Buddha’s Hand, while also keeping it perfectly seasonal—olives are usually harvested in fall and bottled a few weeks later, almonds have just been harvested, and California is at the height of its citrus season. “Visually, Buddha’s Hand is the most amazing-looking fruit and it will live very nicely displayed on your kitchen counter until you decide to cook with it. The aroma is incredible—wildly fragrant,” she says. Seeking out the best fresh ingredients is therefore crucial to this recipe. “Ultimately, a really good olive oil is key to this cake—I like Cobram Estate California Select extra virgin olive oilwhich is pressed within hours of being harvested, and I buy my almonds and citrus from SOS Chefs in the East Village.”

She recommends using any left over preserved Buddha’s Hand on yogurt, porridge or other baked breads. Pre-lining the pan with sliced almonds also provides a satisfyingly crunchy element to the cake; it forms a sort of almond crust as it bakes. “It’s a really rich and satisfying cake that’s a bit on the healthier side but still indulgent,” says Becerra of the recipe, which is also gluten-free. “It’s perfect for the winter months as it makes for a great hostess gift and is perfect for a holiday brunch.”

De Maria Buddha’s Hand – Almond – Olive Oil Cake

½ cup preserved Buddha’s hand

¾ cup raw sliced almonds
3 tbsp butter

1 ½ cup rice flour
½ cup potato starch
¼ cup tapioca starch
1 ¼ tsp xanthan gum
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

3 eggs
1 cup yogurt
¾ cup olive oil
1 cup sugar

Zest and juice of one orange
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup powdered sugar

Cut the Buddha’s Hand into ½ inch cubes. In a small pot add Buddha’s Hand and cover with cold water. Heat until it boils and drain. Repeat process again. Once drained place on a sheet pan lined with paper towels to dry for about 15 minutes. Toss the Buddha’s Hand in sugar to coat. Air dry on a sheet pan with parchment paper for 30 minutes.

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Prep your pan by coating with butter, add almonds and swivel pan around so the almonds stick to the bottom and sides.
-Add all dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisk well.
-In a blender add the eggs, yogurt, olive oil and sugar, blend a couple seconds until smooth.
-Add the egg mixture and Buddha’s Hand preserve to the dry ingredients and mix until it’s completely combined. The batter will be relatively stiff.
-Transfer batter into the pan ensuring it is evenly distributed.
-Bake for 45 minutes or until baked through.
-Let cool and remove from pan. I like to go straight onto a cutting board.
-With a skewer poke holes into the top of cake. Take ½ of the orange juice and zest mixture and mix in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, brush over the top of the cake till the cake absorbs the liquid.
-The glaze is optional. To make add small amounts of the zesty orange juice to the powdered sugar until you have a sauce that is thick but drizzles smooth. Brush onto the the top of the cake.

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