Suzi's Blog

Olive Oil Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote


Ordinarily, I want my cake made with butter and not oil. It’s a personal preference matter. I just find oil-based cakes to be less attractive in terms of taste and texture.

Except for olive oil cakes. Somehow a good olive oil seems to shine in creating a very special density and texture that I love — and that I don’t believe butter can match.

Beyond olive oil, this cake is rich with eggs and milk, plus citrus impact from zest and juice and liqueur. And the cake is paired with a spring celebration of strawberries and rhubarb in a compote.

“Compote” is a French word for “mixture.” The dessert began in the 1600’s in France combing fruit, often whole, cooked in sugar syrup seasoned with spices or other fruit: cinnamon, lemon or orange peel, vanilla. Sometimes almonds, coconut, candied fruit or raisins were added. These were very sweet desserts.

Served with biscuits and sour cream, the French believed a compote balanced the effect of summer humidity on the human body. Think of it as organic air conditioning.

This cake, served with the strawberry-rhubarb compote, is a totally satisfying dessert all by itself, but it is also a platform for extensions: whipped cream, ice cream, gelato, … You can make it simple, as pictured, or an extravaganza. Add a scoop of blueberry gelato, for example, and you have your total 4th of July dessert.

The compote can be chilled before using, or served warm which actually intensifies the rhubarb notes.


Olive Oil Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote


Yield: serves 8


For the Cake:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ¼ cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ tablespoons grated orange zest
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier
For the Compote:
  • 12 ounces slender rhubarb stalks (about 3), cut into 2-by ⅓ – inch-thick sticks
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, halved
  • ½ to ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling


For the Cake:

Heat the oven to 350° F. Oil, butter, or spray a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. (If your cake pan is less than 2 inches deep, divide between 2 pans and start checking for doneness at 30 minutes.)

In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest and juice and Grand Marnier. Add the dry ingredients; whisk until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely, 2 hours.

For the Compote:

In a large heavy skillet, bring the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often. Continue to cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, or until the juices thicken slightly and the rhubarb is falling apart. Let cool.

Sift confectioners’ sugar over the cake. Cut the cake into wedges, place on dessert plates, and spoon the compote on top. Drizzle a little olive oil around the cake and serve.

Sources: cake from Maialino Restaurant in New York City and compote from Curtis Stone’s What’s for Dinner

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5 for 1/50th second at ISO-640



Flourless Chocolate Cake


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Some food items are simply hard to photograph. Soup. Drinks. Flourless chocolate cake.

The taste of this cake is exceptional but photographing it is hard. The side is one solid slab of darkness. No grain or texture. Just a mass of dark something. This could probably double as part of a set on a science fiction film.

Except, this is no fiction. It’s a real cake, a real recipe. Both molten and flourless chocolate cake recipes abound. Sometimes, you can be a bit confused about what you are eating: is this kinda molten or flourless kinda? Here, there is no question. No molten anything. Deep, dark and dense.

Overpoweringly dense. I actually recommend that you not eat this by itself. The flavor is so overpowering, that a complement is needed. Unsweetened whipped cream — yes, whipped perhaps with a little vanilla but no sugar — is the perfect foil, and that follows in the recipe below.

Or vanilla ice cream. Better, French vanilla.

Or, a glass of port or brandy.

Just something to offset the relentless dense chocolate intensity. Hey, I’m not complaining here. I love this dessert, but everyone has their limits and this certainly pushed mine.

A heavy meal, say steaks off the grill, can often demand an equally intense dessert so that there is no “meal letdown.” You scale up your wine complexity during your meal. Dessert often follows the same pattern. If “light and delicate” won’t do, then it is time for the heavy artillery. This cake is just what you meal demands. There will be no complaints but quite possibly a few “Oh my Gods.”

The official name for this recipe is Chocolate Cracked Earth. Do not be concerned. It’s a massive creature and the thermal stress in your oven is going to create cracks. See, I told you this belonged in a science fiction film.


Chocolate Cracked Earth (aka Flourless Chocolate Cake)

Yield: serves 10


  • ·       1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • ·       1 stick unsalted butter*
  • ·       9 large eggs, separated
  • ·       ¾ cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • ·       2 cups heavy cream, cold
  • ·       Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan.

Put the chocolate and butter into the top of a double boiler (or in a heat proof bowl) and heat over (but not touching) about 1-inch of simmering water until melted. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a mixing bowl until light yellow in color. Whisk a little of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs – this will keep the eggs from scrambling from the heat of the chocolate; then whisk in the rest of the chocolate mixture.

Beat the egg whites in a mixing bowl until stiff peaks form and fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is set, the top starts to crack and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes, then remove sides of pan.

While the cake is cooking, make the whipped cream. Whip the cream until it becomes light and fluffy.

Serve at room temperature dusted with confectioners’ and the whipped cream.

Source: Tyler Florence on

Photo Credits: Canon T2i, 18-55MM Macro lens, F/5.6, 1/10th second, ISO 3200