It is difficult for me to draw a line between Ashley Rodriguez my friend, and her cookbook Date Night In. If looking for a straight up review of her work, my apologies, but there isn't one here.

That said, while I don't remember how or when we met, the Ashley I am lucky enough to have come to know over boozy drinks, shared sandwiches and seagulls, early morning walks for (not tomato soup-ish) coffee, phone calls, and a road trip covering a section of the west coast of this continent, that Ashley is the same Ashley her readers find on her site, and in her book.

So, if you'd like to know about her, and her grapefruit cake, then please read on.

Ashley is one to bring you a (homemade) doughnut before dinner. And who has a weekly doughnut tradition with her three spitfire kids. She studied art, takes photographs, and appreciates a well-baked egg. She's sassy and used to drive a convertible. She likes fried chicken, ginger beer, and ice cream. Ashley can pull of a wide-brimmed felt hat with aplomb and a tote that holds everything from notebooks to this really amazing chunky bracelet, from a package of her famous cookie mix to a tube of cherry red lipgloss. There's the magic of Mary Poppins in this girl, hidden under that blonde hair and behind her warm smile. 

She is fiercely committed to her family and her husband. She is an attentive mother to Baron, Roman, and Ivy, while still active and present in her partnership with Gabe. She also maintains time alone, or with her friends, and considers how those experiences help her in her life at home. It is not a balance that is easy, so it only made sense that Ashley would write about how exactly she does it all, including those intimate moments difficulties and those of reward. 

I think, as a culture, we are nervous to talk about the work that goes into our relationships — romantic or otherwise — it is seen as a shortcoming. Ashley disagrees. In her book, an extension of a wildly-popular series on her blog, she is as generously candid as she is in conversation. Her earnest, heartfelt intention is evident on every page. Date Night In isn't just about food; it is about the way she and Gabe come to the table to come together.

By the by, on that table, and in this book, you will find Braised Pork Chilaquiles with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and Pickled Red Onion, German Pretzel Sandwiches, Chanterelle Pot Pie, and Nutella Semifreddo, among other things.

Ashley's Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate | Tara O'Brady

One of the other things is a Grapefruit and Olive Oil Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate. It's part of a menu called Somewhere in Italy, and offered alongside Pasta e Fagioli, Crostini with Ricotta, Proscuitto and Peas, and an Aperol Spritz. It is a straighforward quick bread, with a tight crumb and the qualities of both a muffin and a cake. The scent of the batter reminded me of those chocolate oranges from the holidays — the one you smack into segments — yet decidedly more refined, with the grapefruit's sharper note heightening that floral aspect of the olive oil and the darkness of the chocolate. It cuts just so. To continue the silver screen theme, it's Audrey Hepburn's Sabrina after she comes back from Paris wearing that Givenchy dress by the tennis court. In other words, like Ashley and the work she does, a fit that's practically perfect in every way. 

 

GRAPEFRUIT + OLIVE OIL CAKE WITH BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE

When baking with olive oil, I recommend one that is more grassy and floral than peppery.

— From Date Night In: More Than 120 Recipes to Nourish your Relationship by Ashley Rodriguez (Running Press, 2014) 

Makes a 9-inch loaf cake, serving 8 to 10

 

INGREDIENTS

  • Unsalted butter, for the pan
  • 3/4 cup / 180 ml freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated grapefruit zest, divided
  • 1/2 cup / 125 g whole-milk plain yogurt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup / 160 ml best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup / 150 g granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups /235 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 ounces / 110 g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  •  1 1/2 cups / 170 g confectioners sugar, see note below
  • Crème fraîche, for serving (optional)

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Add 1/2 cup / 120 ml grapefruit juice to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the juice by half. Cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest, yogurt, eggs, olive oil, and reduced grapefruit juice and whisk to mix well. 

In a large bowl, add the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix until everything is well blended. Stir in the chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place in the hot oven. Bake until the cake is deeply brown and set and springs back gently when pressed, 50 to 55 minutes.

While the cake bakes, prepare the glaze. In a bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 tablespoon grapefruit zest with the remaining 1/4 cup  / 60 ml grapefruit juice. Gently, in order to prevent a confectioners sugar snowstorm, stir in the confectioners sugar and continue to stir until well mixed. 

Let the cake cook in the pan for 5 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.

When cooled to room temperature, place the cake on a serving platter and drizzle with half the glaze. Reserve the rest of the glare for serving along with the sliced cake. Serve with crème farce, if desired. The cake can be made 1 day in advance.

NOTES FROM TARA:

If, by any chance, you are new to olive oil in sweet baking, you may want to cut some of the oil with an equal amount of something more neutral — say grapeseed or canola.

I made my cakes in miniature, for ease of sharing. I divided the batter between three 5 1/2-by-3-inch loaf pans and baked them for about 30 minutes, or until deeply golden as per Ashley's instruction — the edges were coming away from the sides of the pans, and a cake tester inserted into the centre of each cake came away clean. 

The recipient of one of the cakes has a weakness for marmalade-ish glazes, and so that is reflected in the photos. To make, combine the 1/4 cup grapefruit juice that had been set aside for the glaze with 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon marmalade in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stirring, bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring now and again. Remove from the heat and cool to warm before using.

 

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Excuse the announcement but, as there were some kind requests for one, I've added an email subscription feature to this site. You can click "subscribe" up there on the top bar, or right here.

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I've got to begin with thanks.

That last post, about my grandmother, was, well, I don't know what to say. It was a big one for me. To write, and to share. But oh, you guys are amazing. I could not have dreamed of a more comforting, hopeful, or supportive response, nor could I ask to be part of a better community. I cannot get over the generosity of your kindness. I was honoured to read your thoughts and anecdotes and I am working my way through the thread, sending personal replies, rather than commenting here. Until you hear from me directly, please take this as a thank you. Dessert is my preferred way of expressing gratitude lately. I hope there's no objection.

On this end, school's started. Not for just one lad around here, but, for the first time, two are off each day. There are bookbags leaning by the door, and snacks to pack, and matching drink bottles to fill. I spent one afternoon with a sharpie in hand, dutifully labelling the insides of shoes, and coats, and hats; in nice, clear, printing I wrote the names of their respective owners, the names of my children, staking small claims of childhood property in the big, new world they're now a part of.

There's been a lot of firsts. For them, and for my husband and me. There's been a few tears, even. Summer left overnight. There's wasn't the gentle receeding, the diffusion of one season to the next. With Labor Day, a switch was flipped, the needs of the next day changed, and we were expected to fall in line. 

There's been some stumbles, but we're keeping up. And for the times when we don't, we've had chocolate sauce. With the first day of long pants and long sleeves, there was a call for hot chocolate, and I used this sauce as its base. One morning (don't judge!) where there was unexpected sun, so there were coconut-chocolate milkshakes for two. And earlier today there was a 4-year-old-sized ice cream cone, topped with a spoonful of chocolate, apropos of nothing more than the fact we'd made it through Monday. Sometimes the smallest of victories call for the most fanfare.

(There was also an adult-sized sundae of vanilla ice cream, aforementioned chocolate sauce, preserved cherries, and toasty, roasted walnuts, which amounted to frosty trudge through the Black Forest — a trip you really should take.) 

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Chocolate sauce is something seperate from hot fudge; it is thinner, sharper, and less sweet. Chocolate sauce doesn't have its dense chew either. It coats a spoon, but runs off quick enough. It can be used cold, or at room temperture, or gently warmed. It is what I like to use for this cake, or ripple into an ice cream like this one, and if it's usefulness wasn't enough, this chocolate sauce takes less than five minutes to make. Seriously. It's the kind of go-to sweet something to keep stowed in the fridge door for emergency situations. Or Mondays. 

SIMPLE, QUICK CHOCOLATE SAUCE 

This recipe began with one from David Lebovitz; I've halved the overall quantites, added some ingredients and fiddled some others, because I'm evidently a difficult pupil. I can't help it, I like the character coffee brings to chocolate, and so can't seem have one without the other — in this sauce especially. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup white corn syrup, agave nectar or glucose
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules, I use decaf
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup, cocoa powder, instant coffee granules and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. 

Once it's come to the simmer, remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted. Set aside at room temperature for a few hours, it will thicken as it cools. Store, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 10 days.

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