Friday, August 7, 2009
Olive Oil Cake
I recently received a wonderful sample of some delicious extra virgin olive oil from California Olive Ranch, so I set about thinking how I could put it to best advantage in the pastry kitchen. I also had some oranges, fresh figs and fresh rosemary on hand and wanted to include those as well. The result is a cake that melds the luscious taste and aroma of terrific olive oil, the textural interest of cornmeal, a slight herbal back note and a subtle blush of wine. Together with a fruit compote it becomes a great example of northern California (and Mediterranean) baking at its best.
The cake is light, very, very tender and moist. The small amount of cornmeal adds a lovely barely-there edge to the texture. The orange and lemon zest and rosemary really brighten the flavor without competing with everything else. The flavor of the olive oil is so deliciously creamy and earthy and mysterious that you can hardly keep from having another taste. I think all the beautiful flavors and textures are in perfect balance.
This dessert would make a very lovely end to any meal but is especially delicious if it follows a table full of the bounty of fresh summer products. But I can also imagine it in the midst of winter accompanied by some poached pears and a thin slice of a grand Parmigiano Reggiano.
California Olive Ranch Arbosana Extra Virgin Olive Oil is supremely delicious in this recipe. I prefer olive oils in the style emanating from Spain and this is definitely in that category. Recently awarded a gold medal by the California Olive Oil Council and rated "#1 California-grown EVOO" by Cooks Illustrated, it has a very clean, very fresh, aromatic and refined flavor. If you’d like to try this or explore any of their other blends, you can order it online. And for my readers, just use ‘PASTRY09’ as a coupon code upon checkout and you’ll receive free shipping. This offer is available through September 30, 2009.
Many thanks to California Olive Ranch for featuring my post on Olive Oil and Sherry Poundcake with Peaches in Honey Lemon Syrup and to Alice Medrich for her kind emails. I highly recommend all of her flawless cookbooks, which are each in their own way pure classics.
- For the wine, I used a Viognier, which has crisp citrus overtones with a very slight hint of honey.
- This cake would also be delicious with apricots and whipped cream or whipped cream with apricot compote swirled in. Or peaches with whipped cream sweetened with Rosemary Syrup. Or serve the cake plain with some red flame grapes or blackberries.
- My cake baked in 35 minutes, but you can start checking it around 28 minutes or so. The difference between a moist cake and a dry cake can be about 2 or 3 minutes.
Olive Oil Cake
1 1/4 C cake flour
1/4 C + 2 T yellow cornmeal
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 C sugar
zest of 1/2 orange
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 t rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 C good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs @ room temperature
1/2 C white wine, such as Viognier or Sauvignon Blanc
Fig and Orange Honey Compote
1 pint of fresh figs
1/2 C honey
1/4 C + 2 T water
2 – 4 t fresh lemon juice, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8” x 2 1/2" round cake pan with parchment circle, oil and a very light dusting of flour.
Sift the cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
Place the sugar, orange and lemon zest and finely chopped rosemary in a food processor and blend a couple of minutes until the mixture is aromatic. Pour into a large bowl and whisk in the oil until smooth. Add the eggs and blend thoroughly. Mix in the wine. Gently stir in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt until just blended. Do not overmix.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.
Cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife or spatula around edge of cake and invert. Remove parchment paper and flip the cake bake over onto a serving platter. Cool completely.
For the compote, slice the peel and white pith from the oranges with a very sharp knife. Carve out the orange sections over a bowl to collect all the juice. Cut the figs into quarters and add to the bowl of orange slices.
Place the honey and water in a saucepan and warm over low heat until dissolved and blended. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice to taste. Toss the fruit with honey lemon syrup.
Dust the cake with powdered sugar and serve with fruit.