Sunday, March 04, 2007

Olive oil cake

I haven't been posting recipes here, but my baking experiment last night was such a success that now's a good time to start.

I wanted to bring dessert to my friends Jason and Jerry's dinner party; because of time constraints and sheer laziness I was limited to what I had in the cupboard. (Such an old fashioned word, cupboard, as if cabinet is some great modern improvement.) Olive oil cake came to mind - weird, since I had never made it before or read any recent recipes. But I had the last cup of the McEvoy olive oil that is so grassy and green, and it should be put to good use since it's so amazing. I just finished a half gallon of the stuff, over how much time...6 months? Is that a lot of olive oil?!

A quick web search brought up a few decent versions, some with interesting add-ons like cornmeal, orange zest, rosemary or currants. I ultimately chose the one that called for the exact number of eggs I had in the fridge: 3. The original recipe used 2 lemons but I had only one lemon and an almost-overripe orange. I liked the idea of cornmeal, so I used a little bit – I feel like I used too much cornmeal actually, so in the recipe below I lowered the amount. The recipe I nabbed was all sorts of messed up - it called for milk but never mentioned when to add it to the batter. It omitted salt, which seems to me a gross oversight in any recipe, savory or sweet. I also used less sugar and upped the cooking time. So here is my thoroughly altered recipe for olive oil cake. Overall, a major success: not too sweet, a pretty complex flavor without any sort of olive-y note and a perfectly crumby texture. (I just like the word "crumby" so I try to use it often. That and "garlicky.")

Of course, thanks to Jason and Jerry for the ridiculous martinis and an all-around lovely evening.

Olive Oil Cake

3 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp grated lemon and orange zest
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/3 c cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking soda 
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour an 8" springform pan, or line a cake pan with parchment paper. I floured the pan with a little cornmeal mixed into the flour, and it added a nice extra crunchiness.

Place egg yolks, sugar, olive oil and lemon zest in a large bowl and mix until combined. In another bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Alternating with milk, add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix until just combined. With a mixer, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold into the batter until combined, being careful not to overmix.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the pan and turn the oven down to 325° and bake for another 20-25 minutes. The cake will rise and turn a nice deep golden brown color. It is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Dust with powdered sugar, garnish with lemon zest and serve with crème fraiche and berries.