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.

Bench notes:
- 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
Serves 8

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
2 oranges
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.


Victoria said...

Last week I found some delicious apricots - a rarity in upstate New York - to finally make the apricot tart from my much-loved Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I didn't get around to it and instead made the apricot compote you had posted a while ago with a cornmeal cake.

The apricots were so beautiful and fragrant - just perfect with thick Greek yogurt. I got some more this week to finally get to the tart, but all I can think of doing with them is making your lovely compote.

Pure Dessert is one of my favorite cookbooks; I give it as a present all the time because the desserts are so good and not impossible to replicate.

Thanks for all the wonderful recipes and beautiful pictures.

Kirby! said...

I love baking with olive oil... I made some lemon olive oil cookies last year that were really tasty. And I like the combo with figs here.

Cakespy said...

Serves 8-ha! In this house, more like 2. ;-) It looks really amazing--I have really been enjoying using olive oil in baking lately!

Hungry Dog said...

Wow, this is stunning! I love olive oil cakes, good idea with the figs.

Anonymous said...

This looks scrumptious, love to try it, but I have a gallon of good-quality Greek olive oil in my cupboard. Do I need to find some Spanish oil for this recipe, or will mine do? Thank you for sharing this tempting recipe!

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

i grew up on olive oil cake as it was one of those snacks my mom used to always make for us, so this brings childhood memories. you are so lucky in CA with so many farmers and growers devoted to quality... beautiful once again.

pastry studio said...

Thanks so much to all of your for your lovely comments!

Victoria, I think you're referring to the Cornmeal Cake with Apricot compote here:

and YES, it is beyond delicious!

Anonymous, if your Greek olive oil is fruity and delicious and you love the flavor, I'm sure it will bake off well in this cake!

Sasha said...

This cake is beautiful!
I love the texture a cake takes on with cornmeal.

Helene said...

I grew up on a version of this (house next to olive oil makers) and I love seeing all the different versions out there. Just made me hungry (should know better than to visit ur blog without having had breakfast!).
Perfect with figs! Genius!

Bunny said...

Oh my word you description of this cake has me weak in the knees! I've never made a cake with olive oil, it sounds amazing!

Unknown said...

Was bored eating the same old chocolate cakes.thanks for sharing this recipe-- "olive oil cakes"..I liked it really.. :-)

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lauren said...

I made this for dessert last night. So light and delicious! It is such a moist cake, and the flavor is really delicate. I topped with some toasted blanched almonds and served with a side of thick unsweetened yogurt. I have only just discovered your blog, and I love it! Thanks for sharing such great recipes and gorgeous photos!

pastry studio said...

lauren, welcome and thanks so much for letting me know you had great success with this cake. It's one of my favorite recipes and it came together in just one try!

Jennifer Galatioto said...

This looks outstanding. I make a similar olive oil cake with citrus and almond meal.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great recipe. I "winterized" it with the following compote:

and the following rosemary whipped cream.

It was delicious.

pastry studio said...

Anonymous, thanks for your feedback. Your version sounds really delicious!

Hot TaMolly said...

I just made this cake and it is delish! The only white wine I had was reisling, so I reduced the sugar a little bit. I also only used lemon zest and squeezed in a little juice. I topped it off with some coarse sea salt. I think next time I will sub some honey for sugar, or add in a little vanilla. The cake needs a little bit more depth (maybe if I had used the orange...)

wolf tshirt said...

I was trying to impress my in-laws and this just did the trick! This is just amazing.

Anonymous said...

I tried this recipe this week, I agree with another comment;-P-just for two...-, it was moist and delisious! I put in some more rosemary and zest and put some slivered almonds on the bottom of the pan, next time I'll roast them slightly beforehand and next time I'll do it in a muffin pan for individual little cakes/dessert. I served rhubarb with it, boiled in amaretto-syrup and served them with some drizzled sirup and creme fraiche with amaretto and vanilla....yum

pastry studio said...

Anonymous, so glad to hear of your creative embellishments. They sound delicious. This is one of my favorite cakes and I think it lends itself to a lot of different garnishes. Thank you for your feedback!