31 March 2016

Olive Oil Cake

I've been on a kick with little olive oil cakes. I think the best thing about them is that if you decide you want to make one, it's only a matter of pouring some of the fruity goodness into a measuring cup and getting a few other things ready, rather than waiting for butter to soften. Life can be so unpredictable, who knows what might happen between the time of taking the butter out and finding it to be soft enough yet. Make an olive oil cake.

I was first turned onto them via Kim Boyce, and a few weeks ago, I made her spelt-rosemary-dark chocolate olive cake again (the mention of which makes me want to make another right now) then switched up the chocolate for dried figs,  and on it goes. That recipe is widely available, and I first made it about 4 years ago, but this one I'm sharing here has even a few more things going on for it: I kept the rosemary, but, going off of a Martha recipe, I loved the use of some cornmeal, ground almonds and the wildcard: red grapes. They all meld together into an impressive cake that is great for breakfast or tea time, and it looks pretty under a cake stand and keeps well overnight there, too. 

A common question I see in comments about olive oil in baked goods is the possibility of it giving it an unfavorable overpowering dimension. My thoughts are that if you've got complementary sidekicks at play, you have nothing to worry about. The fruity dimension will be welcome, and everything will be that much deeper. Lemon zest and orange zest practically beg for olive oil and so does rosemary. Grapes take on a wonderful sweetness when baked, and become more interesting than eating raw, especially since they are never growing here. Even underripe ones are great to use here. 

Grape, Rosemary, Olive Oil Cake 

Adapted from Martha -- note: cake may be halved and baked in a 6 inch cake pan (like I did) or little loaf pan. Or maybe ramekins/muffin tins...

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour (Note: I used 7/8 cup all purpose and 1/8 spelt flour)
1/2 cup finely ground toasted almonds
1/4 cup quick-cooking polenta or medium ground yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup red seedless grapes or a big handful

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9 or 8 inch pan with oil; line with parchment. Whisk together flour, almonds, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. 

Beat eggs, sugar, and zest with a mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low; slowly add oil. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour

Spoon batter into pan; scatter 3/4 of the grapes over top and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 15 minutes. Quickly remove and scatter remaining grapes over cake. Return to oven and bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 27 minutes more. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, lift out with parchment and cool further.

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