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
It’s now, at long last, June and our herbs have survived a winter of deep snows and deeper cold. Our mint beckons. How to use it?
Frosting, of course. Here the mint flavor comes, not primarily from our garden, but from liquor and extract. But your spring mint leaves can still be used to adorn the top of the cake when you are frosted, smoothed, and contemplating a knife to get the first slice.
If you have a cake, chocolate or otherwise, demanding an exceptional frosting, then consider this: a deeply rich buttercream flavored with crème de menthe and peppermint extract.
This recipe, from the team at Baked, is classically tuned and scaled. Yes, the second ingredient is flour. Flour for frosting? Fear not, for it all works to generate an impeccable frosting. As the frosting comes together, the consistency will, as always, depend on the temperature and water levels in the butter that is the foundation ingredient. If your frosting texture is spot on, then you are fine to frost away. If initially the frosting is too soft or too firm, then the instructions below will guide you elegantly.
Crème de Menthe Buttercream
Yield: enough for a standard 2-layer cake
- 2 ¼ cups sugar
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ cups milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 4 ½ sticks unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons crème de menthe
- 2 ¼ teaspoons peppermint extract
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cram and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and had thickened, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Add the crème de menthe and peppermint extract and mix until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put it in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then mix again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, then mix again.