Here’s a dessert for that is more than just a dessert, meskouta. It’s great for breakfast, lunch, a snack, afternoon tea, a midnight munch…you get the picture. It’s light enough to be all of those things, yet dessert-y enough to satisfy the most ravenous sweet tooth. This appears to be one of those recipes that every Moroccan family has, and every grandma makes different, none with exact measurements by U.S. standard, but rather using something to the tune of “4 yogurt cups full.” That always makes translating a recipe easy! I found recipes for lemon, yogurt and orange varieties, and because I was serving this dessert at brunch with my girls Vert, Legume and Fava, I went with orange to complement the mimosas that also graced the table.
Here’s an excerpt from a blog on Moroccan cooking that details a little history of meskouta and a personal story that I found rather sweet:
“Meskouta, also called Kika, is a butterless cake, commonly baked during hard time[s] and France/Spain Colonization, it was the time when butter was just hard to get and very expensive for the majority [of] Moroccan people. So argan or olive or vegetable oils are used, which were more readily available than butter. My mother told me that Meskouta Cakes, in those old times, were baked in a special pot with a cover, over a charcoal brazier “Majmar or Kanoun”, and that her mother used to put sourdough starter “Khmira baldiya” in the cake batter, instead of baking powder, which was not available. She also explained to me that the texture of the cake looked and tasted like bread, mostly served plain or only, on special occasion, with a sugar syrup (much cheaper than frosting), flavored with cinnamon, fresh orange juice and some drops of orange water, though the most popular topping in Morocco is still jam spread with some grated coconut on top of the cake. “
The recipe I used did not come from this site, but rather I tweaked another one that I found. One very tasty substitution I used was swapping out some blood orange infused olive oil for regular vegetable oil. I realize this is not an ingredient readily available, but having specialty oil stores** is one of the perks of living in a place like Chicago. Regular vegetable or olive oil will do just fine. I also used both regular and whole wheat flour because it’s just something I like to do and finished it off with a light orange glaze that soaked into and moistened the cake. Garnished with a variety of jams and jellies (lemon curd seemed to be the favorite), this treat got a hearty thumbs up from all of my guests. This can also be made in a tube pan, but I wanted to make it a loaf, so that’s what I did.
**Old Town Oil in Chicago is AWESOME. If you haven’t been and live in Chicago…go. NOW.**
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup orange infused olive oil
- 1 cup regular flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- ¾ cup confectioners sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350° F.
- Grease and sugar a loaf pan.
- With an electric mixer or by hand, beat together the eggs and sugar until thick. Gradually beat in the oil.
- Stir in the flours, baking powder and salt, and then the orange juice. Beat until smooth, and then mix in the vanilla.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pan, and bake for about 50 minutes, or until the cake tests done.
- While the cake is in the oven, prepare the syrup.
- Heat the juice in a small saucepan and add the sugar. Stir until dissolved and let thicken until slightly syrupy (but not too thick)
- Take the cake out of the oven and pour the syrup on top immediately. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.