One of the first times my friend Megan came to our dessert party she told me she loved everything I made but raved specifically about the Mediterranean Citrus Olive Oil Cake I had made. So when we recently had our friends Megan and Erik and their adorable child Brady over to our place a week or so ago, she requested it for dinner again. She wasn’t the only one, as it’s probably the one dessert that we don’t have leftovers of in our vast sea of desserts – which is all the more impressive as I usually make it gluten free for a few of my gluten/wheat sensitive friends (ok, I really only have one good friend who is wheat allergic, but it just gives me an excuse to play with flours that I normally wouldn’t play with – thereby expanding my baking palette). (Jump directly to the recipe.)
We had talked about about having them over for dinner for awhile, but it just never got around to it. As with most ambitious plans (and in my crazed life, apparently having people over for dinner is what I currently have labeled “ambitious”), we just never get around to it. BUT a month ago, we went skiing (and whipped out our various iPhones) and found an appropriate time that fit into all of our schedules.
This time, however, I decided to try to make it a little more fancy, and plate it all pretty like. Most of the time when I bake desserts, I’m either bringing it over to friends places or baking 15-20 of them for a dessert party. Even when we have our bi-annual chili night (I’m calling it a bi-annual night, as we did it last year, but skipped doing it this year, so hopefully we’ll do it next year) we have so many friends over, that I can’t really make pretty plated desserts.
But now that I’m baking more and have been doing this blog, I have more reasons to make pretty desserts. The problem is, what to make to go with the cake. It’s a great cake on it’s own and pretty unique in it’s flavor profile. But I wanted to bring up a notch….
So I pulled out the Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, which is an awesome book that I can’t recommend enough. It’s not a traditional cookbook – it doesn’t have any recipes at all. Rather the authors went and interviewed and consulted numerous leading chefs and compiled a list of ingredients and compatible flavors. Think of having that awesome professional creative chef friend standing right next to you, the one where you turn to when you say “I’m making pork chops. What flavors go well with pork?” And your friend says, well people always recommend apple, but have you considered apple cider, or honey or brown sugar or ginger or vanilla?” and you think to yourself. “Vanilla. Ginger. Why have I never thought of those before? That sounds great!”
So out came the Flavor Bible. The version of the cake that I was going to make (I’ve made several variations of it, including the gluten free version) had almond flour, lemon, and olive oil. Cross referencing almond, lemon and olive oil, I discovered that basil went well with all of those. So I decided to try a recipe by Johnny Iuzzini’s Dessert Fourplay for basil liquid gel – which sadly turned out to be more of a sweet basil paste. The recipe called for too much agar agar. The recipe I listed here is a simplified version of what I did, because in truth, it’s totally not worth making the liquid gel and it takes forever to make.
I also wanted to plate the dessert with a black olive oil powder (fancy!), but sadly my attempt at molecular gastronomy and making powder was contingent on getting the ingredients in time, and they never did. So I skipped the black olive oil powder and made candied kalamata olives (fancy, but not as fancy as a black olive oil powder). They turned out pretty good, and AJ said he thinks he would have liked them even more if he didn’t know what they were (ie. candied olives sounds kinda gross, but in reality, actually paired well with the cake and were a snap to make). The reality was that the olives are fairly unique in flavor and some might not like them alone, but they pair really well with the cake.
In the end, we all a great time at the park where we learned that Brady was kinda scared of the slide (though he was a trooper and look great on it the few times we were able to get him on it), the grilled Korean inspired marinated short ribs (the marinate I threw together the night before) were a success and Megan got the olive oil cake that she loved,
with a little bit extra thrown in.
Note: Whilst baking, I was listening to the neo-retro-futuristic band The Bird and the Bee’s Interpreting the Masters Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates. Yes, it’s as fantastic as it sounds.
Mediterranean Citrus Olive Oil Cake (gluten free version)
By Irvin Lin
If you never had an olive oil cake before, you’re in for a treat. Not only does the oil create a lovely rich and moist cake but the fragrant olive oil flavor adds a dimension to the cake that will have your dinner guests reaching for seconds. Skip the basil drizzle and candied olives if they sound weird to you. The olive oil cake stands up all by itself.
This gluten free cake uses brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour/starch, xanthan gum and almond meal which can all be found at a upscale, health or natural food store or via the internet. They are probably the most common “gluten free” flours and additives that you can find. If you aren’t making this gluten free, feel free to substitute all the flours, starches and gums with 3/4 cup (95 g) all purpose flour.
Cake recipe adapted from the New York Times Dessert Cookbook
Basil drizzle and candied olives adapted from Johnny Iuzzini’s Dessert Fourplay
Olive Oil Cake
1/2 cup (80 g) brown rice flour (extra finely ground)
2 tablespoon (25 g) potato starch (not potato flour)
2 tablespoon (15 g) tapioca flour
3/4 cup (85 g) almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
grated zest of four medium lemons, or other citrus fruit of your choice
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, choose a really good fruity olive oil
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated white sugar
2/3 cup of citrus fruit juice (fresh)
confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) to dust the top of the cake
For greasing the pan
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup water
1 cup (200 g) white granulated sugar
Sweet Basil Drizzle
3/4 cup packed fresh basil
1/3 cup simple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
Candied Kalamata Olives
1/4 cup of pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup of simple syrup
granulated white sugar
1. Make the cake by preheating the oven to 375˚F and oiling the bottom and sides of a 10″ spring form pan with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Whisk the dry ingredients (brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt) along with the citrus zest together in a bowl. Mix the juice and the olive oil together in a measuring cup.
2. Beat the eggs together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Gradually add the granulated white sugar until thick. Add the 1/3 of the juice/olive oil mixture and beat then 1/2 of the flour mixture and beat. Repeat, ending with the juice/olive oil mixture. Pour into pan and bake for 35-45 minutes or until the edges of the cake are deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes and then run a thin knife around the side of the pan and remove the side. Cool completely and then dust with confectioner’s sugar.
3. While the cake is baking, make the simple syrup by heating the sugar and water in a medium sized pot until the sugar is completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Set aside to cool. Make the basil drizzle by first boiling some water in a medium sized pot filled halfway up. Throw the basil in once it boils and blanch the basil for 30 seconds. Drain the basil in a colander and rinse the basil under cold water to refresh. Squeeze the basil to get all the water out.
4. Take a large bowl out and fill 1/4 up with a cold water and a tray of ice cubes. Put a smaller bowl in the water (this is called “an ice bath”). Put the basil, simple syrup, the water, and the sugar in a blender/food processor and puree until bright green, smooth, and thin. Pour out into the smaller bowl set in the ice bath. Let steep for 20 minutes. Drain the green liquid through a fine mesh sieve, discard solids. Sweet Basil Drizzle will keep in the refrigerator for three days (but keep mind the longer in the fridge, the less bright green it becomes).
5. Make the candied olives by putting the olives and the simple syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Simmer for 1 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool in the syrup. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees while olives cool in pan. Drain the cooled olives and toss with white sugar to coat lightly. Put on a baking sheet lined with a silpat or aluminum foil. Put in oven for 3 hours to dry out. The olives should still be a little meaty, but not crisp. Cool olives and store olives in a small airtight container or ziplock bag with more sugar (so they don’t stick together). Rinse olives, drain well, and cut in half lengthwise. Keeps for about 3 days in the fridge. Serve cake with the sweet basil drizzle and candied kalamata olives, or all by itself.
Makes one 10 inch cake, serves 8 people.
S. B. Hadley says
I can't believe after 10 years of visiting you in San Francisco I have yet to attend one of your dessert parties. Olive you!
oh my god! it's gluten-free? I'm making this as soon as I'm finished with the gluten-free puff pastry. thank you!
(somehow, I just discovered you. I will be back, sir.)
Heidi Leon Monges says
there is no way (and trust me) no way I can get xantam gum or any other kind of *gum* around here (and i'm a little against buying it on the internet)
What are the expected results if I skip this ingredient?.
Wow. Very impressive. I've made a similar cake, but with polenta grain, but yours looks much more sophisticated. I also liked your accompaniments and will be looking to get the flavor bible book.
thanks for the inspiration.
Mr. Jackhonky says
@Hadley – I can't believe that you haven't either!!! That will all be resolved when you move here!
@Shauna – Hi! I've read your blog on and off again so I'm pleased you found your way here! I'm not celiac or gluten allergic but I have friends who are, so I started baking gluten free for them just to challenge myself (and to take a break from gluten/wheat for myself every now and then).
What's been great is that it totally opened up my palette of flours and now I find myself experimenting more and more with flours other than wheat or along with wheat for the flavor.
Anyway this blog is new but I'll be posting more gluten free recipes, along with "alternative" baking recipes (lately I've been on a vegan baking kick – which is ridiculous because I'll eat my vegan muffin with bacon for breakfast, but whatever).
Let me know what you think of the Mediterranean Citrus Olive Oil cake when you make it. I look forward to reading about your GF puff pastry!
@Heidi – If you skip down to Note 1 I talked a little bit about the xanthan/guar gum which is used to replace the gluten that the rice/potato/tapioca flours don't have. If you aren't gluten allergic skip those flours and the gum and just use 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour.
If you are gluten allergic, I HIGHLY recommend you get some xanthan gum as baking without will lead to dubious results. That said, what the gum does is hold the bake good together (something the gluten's role is). Most baked goods will come out crumbly if you don't use it.
That said, this cake is pretty dense and moist, so skipping the xanthan gum probably won't effect it too much, though it might be a little more crumbly. For added insurance, I would probably take an extra tablespoon of potato starch and mix it in with the fruit juice. It will help the cake stick together more without the gum.
@FJK – And thanks for reading my blog! The polenta grain version sounds awesomely rustic and homey. I'm totally going to try that next time. Don't be fooled by the smoke and mirrors of the "sophistication"… I learned when doing my dessert parties that pretty much everything looks fancy when you dust it with powdered sugar.
Also the Flavor Bible rocks. I don't use it as much as I should, but when I think about it, it really rocks. It's geared more toward savory cooking than sweet baking, but it's totally helpful for both when coming up with complimentary flavors.
Any idea what the ratio/quantities are to make almond flour from almonds? Whole nuts to end quantity of flour? I'm anxious to try this and I have almonds in the cupboard but ordering via the internet for almond flour will be too long a delay!
Mr. Jackhonky says
@thenewstead6 – So I'll totally confess something. I've never made my own almond flour/meal, I've only read about it!
That said, what I've read says that about a 1/4 lb of nuts equal about 1 cup of nut meal. People advise that you grind it with a little sugar as well to help absorb the oil (and to help prevent it from turning into nut butter). I've also read advice that says freezing the nuts help with the grinding.
So, here's what I would do if I were in your position. Stick some nuts in the freezer for a couple of hours, then pull them out and grind them 1/4- 1/2 cup at at time, pulsing and watching them closely to make sure they don't turn into butter.
I'd probably also sift them in a sieve to get all the big chunks out (you can stick the chunks back into the blender/processor/coffee grinder to grind the smaller). Most recipes that call for almond flour want a finer texture (and in fact Elana's Pantry, who wrote the Gluten Free Almond Flour cookbook totally tells you NOT to use Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour because it's too coarse).
That said, this recipe doesn't need it to be that fine, and coarse home ground almond meal is totally ok. I'd probably recommend that you get real almond meal if you want to make something like madeleine, financiers or french macarons.
Mr. Jackhonky says
@thenewstead6 – Whoops. Also, I would throw in a tablespoon of sugar per 1/4 cup of almonds while grinding and just reduce the amount of sugar you end up using from the overall recipe.
Wow! This looks amazing! I love baking with almond flour, and I'm especially excited to try out those olives.
Yum! The flavors in that cake sound delish! I love the idea of a dessert party.
I'm glad Shauna pointed you out on FB – your blog seems right up my alley (I've recently written about gluten-free cake, mint chip ice cream, and chicken pot pie, also!)
I just Kindle-d up the Flavor Bible. It turns out that the iPad is a nice kitchen tool; it just sits there and displays information without being a pain to keep open to the right page.
Mr. Jackhonky says
@Stephanie – I love almond flour! The moisture and the flavor you get from it is so wonderful. Hope you enjoy the olives. They have a really particular flavor (sweet AND savory).
@Tara – The flavors are really great. This time round I actually used a mix of lemons and blood oranges, but I usually just use plain oranges. It's pretty versatile and the olive oil really goes with all citrus.
The dessert party evolved from the fact that I used throw parties and have appetizers and savory food, and it was just a lot of trouble to constantly being making the hot food, and being in the kitchen the entire time. I realized that I barely had a chance to enjoy the party…BUT with the desserts I can make them all advance and enjoy my party as well!
And yay for thinking alike! Cake, Mint chip ice cream and pot pie! Whoo hoo!
@Ali – That is probably a REALLY good use of the iPad. I haven't thought about getting one, as I usually don't like to get first gen. Apple products…but I can totally see the advantage of using something like the iPad in the kitchen.
Of course, I'm pretty messy in the kitchen, so I'd probably have to have it all swaddled in plastic wrap…
we’ve been looking for a olive oil cake to try…this looks like the one!
This is the single most important book that I own. You are amazing Chef and I look forward to interacting and learning more about baking from you. Keep up the awesome job – your work is impeccable.
OMG looks SO good!