Sunday, March 2, 2008

Loving: lemon olive-oil cake

Most of you who know me know that I like to bake cakes above all else. There's something deeply satisfying about every step of the process, going from a simple heap of flour and sugar to something that gives people a sense of celebration and special occasion.

I baked this cake for no other occasion than to try out the appealing flavor combination - lemon and olive oil. It presents itself as a very simple and rustic cake with no frosting or decoration, and the rugged and imperfect look of it made it all the more appealing to me. The olive oil replaces butter entirely, so I dare to call it relatively healthy as far as cakes go. It would also be a good recipe for vegans. You don't miss the butter at all because the flavor of the olive oil shines through, and makes the cake incredibly moist.

The cake good enough to can stand on its own, but for extra moisture and something refreshing, I served it with some creme fraiche mixed with Meyer lemon zest and confectioner's sugar on the side. I also sprinkled the top of the cake with just a little confectioner's sugar and the candied lemon peels I made earlier this week. So simple, easy and yummy! This one's definitely a keeper.

Recipe: Lemon olive-oil cake
Adapted from Epicurious

3/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin if desired), plus additio
nal for greasing pan
2 large organic lemons or 3 organic Meyer lemons
1 cup organic cake flour (not self-rising) or pastry flour
5 large organic eggs, separated into 5 yolks and 4 whites (use the extra egg white for your morning eggs)
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (separate sugar into th
ree parts: 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup and 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Special equipment: an 8 or 9-inch (24-cm) springform pan; parchment paper; electric mixer


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Grease springform pan with some oil, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Oil parchment.

Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 3 teaspoons and whisk together with flour. Halve lemon, then squeeze and reserve 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil (3/4 cup) and reserved lemon juice, beating until just combined (mixture may appear separated).

Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined (once you add the flour, the batter will start to bubble like hot lava - cool!)

Beat 4 egg whites with 1/2 teaspoon salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.

Gently fold one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to springform pan and gently rap against work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer cake to a serving plate.

Cake can be made 1 day ahead and wrapped well or stored in a cake keeper at room temperature.

Some notes on the recipe:
• I splurged on a really fruity, good quality extra-virgin olive oil, but you can also use non extra-virgin olive oil if you want a more subtle olive oil flavor.
Don't be afraid to add more lemon zest and lemon juice than called for - here I doubled what was on the original Epicurious site.
Experiment with regular and Meyer lemons. Meyer lemon rinds tend to be sweeter, with a more subtle lemon flavor.
I used a great stone-ground organic pastry flour instead of cake flour, and it made for a very tender cake. I think the recipe seems flexible enough that you can use all-purpose flour if you don't have either pastry or cake flour on hand.
I reduced the temperature to 325 degrees to too-quick browning at the top. Adjust to 350 depending on your oven and the size of your pan.


Chuck said...

What a coincidence, I just made this cake yesterday. I was a little skeptical about using olive oil, but it turned out great. I like your use of Meyer lemons and candied lemon peels!

Brilynn said...

I've seen a few olive oil cakes floating around lately but still have yet to make one. I definitely want to now!

Undercover Cook said...

Brilynn, go for it! It's a very satisfying cake, especially with a dollop of the sweet lemon creme fraiche.

Undercover Cook said...

Chuck, I love the SND site and the concept of communal dinners. What a way to create a sense of community.

Deborah said...

I love the sound of the lemon creme fraiche. I've never made an olive oil cake, but now I want to !

Hillary said...

Oooh! I wouldn't think that sounds appealing but it does! Especially after seeing that picture...I may have to try this out. Thanks!

mimsi said...

i have no shame.
please make me this cake.

Undercover Cook said...

Good luck, Hillary! Please let me know how it turns out! I'm sure it will be quite yummy.

Undercover Cook said...

O.k. Mimsi. Getting the lemon zester out as we speak...

Undercover Cook said...

Deborah, the lightly sweetened lemon creme fraiche definitely added a nice element to the cake. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

This looks awesome! I was already wondering if it would be adaptable before you mentioned that it is dairy-free! Yum!!!

The olive oil makes me wonder what it would be like as a "savory cake"...maybe with rosemary? Whoo, crazy!


Undercover Cook said...

Melissa, I considered incorporating rosemary or lavender, but decided against it because I was afraid it would be too strong and I wouldn't be able to taste the olive oil (as odd as it is to desire that in a cake). If you give it a try, let me know how it goes!