Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

You my recall I made a lemon pound cake a week or so ago, and I wasn't so hot on it. It wasn't lemony enough, and was just generally blah. Though it left me wanting a great pound cake I didn't make much of an effort to find one, as I had moved on to other tasty treats.

Now, I have a serious baking book habit. Serious. I basically want every baking book ever written, and have a good number of them already. The most recent addition to my collection is The Craft of Baking, and on my first flip-through this is the recipe that jumped out at me. I love the name of this cake, and everything it evokes. Olive oil; earthy, fruity, tangy - the perfect complement to zippy, tart lemons.

This is my first olive oil cake, per se, though I have used olive oil several times in baking - whenever a recipe calls for a different oil. So I suppose what I should say is that this is the first time I have baked something where olive oil was intended to be a contributing flavor. Oh, how I loved it.

This, people, is a lemon cake.

This is everything a lemon cake should be. It is also everything a pound cake should be. The crumb is tight and tender, supple even. It is perfectly lemony. Lemony, but not tart. The real triumph of this cake, however is its texture. This cake is so moist, it makes a sound when you tear a piece off. It makes a sound!!! It does not have a drop of extra grease, either. It isn't a very sweet cake, which I appreciate, though the top is sprinkled with sugar before baking, creating a paper-thin crunchy crust. Perfection.

The only downside of this superb pound cake is that it is small and it requires a lot of dishes. You may want to double the recipe and save one loaf for later. I say this under the naive delusion that two loaves have a chance of lasting longer than one (which lasted exactly 6 hours in my house).

Lemon Olive Oil Cake
adapted from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
fresh squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon, strained
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar for topping cake

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2 " loaf pan with parchment, butter parchment and any pan that is exposed. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl. Set aside. Place 2 inches of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. In a heat-proof bowl - preferably the bowl of a stand mixer - combine eggs, sugar and zest, and place bowl over pot of simmering water, whisking until egg mixture is warm to the touch - this doesn't take very long. Remove bowl from pot and attach to mixer fitted with whisk attachment - if you're not using a stand mixer, place bowl on counter and use hand mixer - and beat on medium until mixture thickens and becomes pale, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together olive oil, cream and lemon juice in a small bowl. When the egg mixture has reached appropriate thickness, drizzle olive oil mixture over it and mix until combined. Turn mixer to low and add dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Stir in melted butter. Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth batter and sprinkle with tablespoon of sugar. Bake until top of cake is golden, and tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes in pan, then remove to rack to cool completely before cutting.


  1. That cake looks to be perfection...does the olive oil flavor really come through? Peace, Stephanie

  2. i have this book, too, and have looked thru this recipe. glad to see a winning review! looks lovely.

  3. Stephanie,
    Yes! You can really taste the olive oil! It is definitely more prominent closer to the time the cake was taken out of the oven, and mellows the longer it has been out.

  4. Olive oil is the ingredient for February's cupcake hero. You should submit this in cupcake form! : ) It looks delicious.

  5. Looks really pretty inside and out! Marking this just a pushover for anything lemon.

  6. Sarah, could you explain the mixing in very simple terms? (dummy level here ;-):) I got lost with the simmering water.

    The cake sounds wonderful (and I even have everything on hand) and I'd love to make it!

  7. Hi Miri, I've made some changes to the instructions to make them clearer. Let me know if you still have questions!

  8. I've never made an olive oil cake, I love the idea of it. I got The Craft of Baking recently too, it really is full of inspired recipes.

  9. Thanks! I think I got it.

    If I bring the eggs to room temperature before beginning, can I skip the simmering water? (my mixer's bowl is made of plastic)

  10. Miri,
    If it were me, I'd still heat the eggs using a heat-proof bowl, then transfer them to the bowl of your mixer. Or use a hand-mixer along with the heat-proof bowl to avoid dirtying another bowl.

  11. I've read so many good things about The Craft of Baking; I'll have to see if my library has it. I didn't love the SMS lemon pound cake either--in fact, we threw it out after a while! I'm definitely going to make this; it sounds heavenly!

  12. That looks and sound delicious! I love lemon, the more the better. =) I'll have to take a look at that cookbook the next time I'm at Borders.

  13. I love that cookbook. I haven't made anything from it yet, but I'm having the best time reading it and trying to pick recipes that I'd like to make. This lemon cake sounds like it would be a huge hit with many people I know. I'm thinking of tossing the SMS lemon cake that I put in my freezer to give away (it makes me nervous that the reviews of this cake weren't very good) and making this cake instead. You always find excellent recipes, Sarah!

  14. Hi Sarah

    What brand of extra-virgin olive oil did you use.

  15. I was at Borders last week and trying to decide between The Craft of Baking and PR's newest book. In the end, PR won, but this book is definitely on my list to pick up soon! I love lemon too and I've got a bunch of them sitting in my fridge just waiting to be used.

  16. Jackie,
    I used Bionaturae, it is an organic ev olive oil.

  17. I made this cake today, as I'm stuck in the house; we're caught in that Mid-Atlantic blizzard. Anyway, it's good; very small and alot of work. Next time I will use more lemon juice. But, it is moist. Oh, and mine was done in about 38 mintues. So, watch your time. My oven is usually right on, but this got done very early.


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