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Recipes for olive oil cake

Tender and moist, these easy cakes are great alone (even for breakfast) or with fruit.

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

Simple olive oil cake.

Olive oil cake used to strike me as exotic. In fact, it isn’t, especially in olive-producing nations like Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Cooks debate, however, whether to use a mild olive oil that isn’t noticeable in the finished product or one that draws attention to itself.

I am squarely in the latter camp. To my palate, not even a particularly strong oil would overwhelm a cake, but I do want to detect its essence, so I reach for the extra-virgin. To me it’s a flavor that you notice but can’t quite put your finger on. The oil makes these cakes exceptionally moist and gives them staying power. Well wrapped, they’ll taste great for up to three days.

SIMPLE OLIVE OIL CAKE

Makes one 9-inch cake

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This rich, simple cake is nice on its own (it’s good for breakfast) or served with a dollop of whipped cream and cooked or fresh fruit.

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the pan

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2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for the pan

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

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Salt

3 large eggs

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

¾ cup milk

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

With the rack in the middle position heat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil and flour a 9-inch springform pan (or coat with nonstick baking spray) and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and ½ teaspoon salt, and set aside.

With a hand-held or standing mixer, beat the eggs and 1 cup sugar in the bowl at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Adjust speed to low, slowly add the milk and vanilla to the egg mixture, and beat to combine thoroughly, 5 to 10 seconds. Add about a third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the ¾ cup oil, mixing until just incorporated after each addition, about 5 seconds. Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining oil. Scrape down the bowl and add remaining flour mixture; adjust speed to medium-low and mix until batter is just incorporated and smooth, about 15 seconds (do not overmix). Scrape the batter into the pan, sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and bake until slightly puffed, beginning to brown, the edges just pulling away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pan after 20 minutes (do not overbake).

Transfer to a wire rack and cool for about 20 minutes. Remove sides of the pan and cool cake to room temperature. Carefully remove the pan bottom and transfer to a serving plate. Slice and serve.

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

TIP: For a tender cake, after the last addition of dry ingredients, mix the batter just until it looks smooth and uniform, and you can’t see any streaks or bits of flour.

VARIATIONS

> Simple Olive Oil and Sherry Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake

The addition of sherry and orange zest here are inspired by an olive oil poundcake recipe in Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich.

Follow the directions for the Simple Olive Oil Cake, making the following changes:

1) Before combining the eggs and sugar in the bowl to beat them together, stir the sugar with 1½ tablespoons finely grated zest from 1 large orange for 30 seconds. Add the eggs to the orange sugar and beat as directed.

2) Decrease the quantity of milk to ¼ cup and vanilla to ½ teaspoon. Along with the milk and vanilla, add ½ cup amontillado sherry to the egg mixture and beat as directed. Proceed as directed with the recipe.

> Simple Anise-Scented Olive Oil Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake

Pernod, ouzo, pastis, absinthe, and sambuca are all anise-flavored liqueurs.

Follow the directions for the Simple Olive Oil Cake, making the following changes:

1) Add 1½ teaspoons ground anise to the flour mixture.

2) Decrease the quantity of milk to ¼ cup and vanilla to ½ teaspoon. Along with the milk and vanilla, add ½ cup anise-flavored liqueur to the egg mixture, and beat as directed. Proceed as directed with the recipe.

> Simple Olive Oil and Lemon Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake

Follow the directions for the Simple Olive Oil Cake, making the following changes:

1) Before combining the eggs and sugar in the bowl to beat them together, stir the sugar with 2 tablespoons of finely grated zest from 2 or 3 large lemons until moist and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Squeeze ½ cup juice from the zested lemons and set aside. Add the eggs to the lemon sugar and beat as directed.

2) Decrease the quantity of milk to ¼ cup and vanilla to ½ teaspoon. After adding the milk and vanilla to the egg mixture, add the reserved lemon juice and beat as directed. Proceed as directed with the recipe.

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.” Send comments to cooking@globe.com.
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