About 75% olive-oil cake. That’s a guess for my score on a body-composition test right now. Last week, I made my first olive-oil cake, and I have been devouring it in big chunks every day since.
I don’t make desserts at home too often, but last week left me with a bunch of leftover ricotta and a recipe from the Smitten Kitchen
cookbook that promised to use it up. (The recipe isn’t on the Smitten Kitchen blog, but you can find a facsimile here
.) When I was finished, all I could ask myself was: what had taken so long?
At its best, olive-oil cake is as moist as can possibly be. A touch of sweetness and often citrus lets the bright flavor of the oil come through. Like pound cake, it works well with creamy or fruity garnishes—this recipe called for concord-grape coulis. But unlike pound cake, it’s not so dry that it needs them. I found I preferred my cake plain, with just a light dusting of sugar. It’s equally good as a breakfast pastry or light dessert, or a midafternoon snack, or …
The fun thing about olive-oil cake is that it’s flexible—you can make it with different flours or swap out sweet fruits for savory herbs. Although I haven’t perfected my version yet, I have a long to-do list of recipes waiting once I get the technique down.
Here are a few of my favorites, each labeled with the attribute that makes them stand out.
Prettiest: Olive-Oil Cake with Candied Orange
from Bon Appétit
Maybe it’s the long Chicago winter, but I’ve really been feeling cardamom lately, whether in hot mulled wine or cold whiskey slushies
. This iteration of the olive-oil cake is soaked in a cardamom syrup that reminds me of gulab jamun, my favorite Indian dessert. The candied oranges and syrup can be made a day ahead, which takes some of the pressure off if you’re preparing this for a party. Which you should, since the sliced oranges on top makes this cake look very special-occasion-worthy.
Most savory: Polenta Rosemary Olive-Oil Cake
from Turntable Kitchen
(adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes
This herb-infused recipe would be a great way to dip a toe into 2014’s savory-dessert trend. In preparing this post, I looked at a bunch of other rosemary-garnished olive-oil cakes, including this parmesan-sprinkled one
and this pine-nutty one
recommended by former Gourmet
editor in chief Ruth Reichl. But all of them still cling to citrus zest as if it were the only lifeboat in a stormy dessert sea. By contrast, this recipe goes all in on the herbs and throws in toothsome polenta flour to boot.
Classiest: Maialino’s Olive-Oil Cake
All of my cooking to-do lists involve recipes from Food52’s Genius Recipe column, which usually lives up to its name. This looks like a pretty standard olive-oil cake classed up with some Grand Marnier. I’ll take the geniuses’ word for it that the addition makes a delicious difference.
Most allergy-free: Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Chocolate Olive-Oil Cake
by Baked Bree
(adapted from Nigellissima
by Nigella Lawson)
Made with almond meal, this recipe seems like a good alternative to the flourless chocolate cake you’ve been serving to gluten-free friends since time immemorial. My mouth waters just thinking about the flavor combination of decadent dark chocolate with slightly floral olive oil. Mm-mm.
A few runners-up: Add cherries
! Add a glaze