Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spelt Olive Oil Cake with Chocolate Chunks

Ever since I got the book Good to the Grain - from which I baked these cookies last week - I haven't been able to get this cake out of my head. It is so unusual, so unpredictable, so humble, yet so sophisticated. It was curiosity that made me bake it the first time, but it is the sheer deliciousness of this cake that will keep me coming back to this recipe for years to come.

It doesn't look like much, but it has a little secret; the thing that sets this cake apart. What is it, you ask? Rosemary. Am I the last person on the planet to bake a dessert with rosemary? I was skeptical, I admit, but after eating this cake I can't believe I waited so long.

I was shocked and amazed at how seamlessly rosemary fit into this cake. Though I haven't baked with rosemary before, this wasn't my entry into herbal desserts. I made basil ice cream last summer and was less than thrilled about it. Because of that experience, I definitely had my doubts going into this cake, but I shouldn't have worried. It is spectacular.

This is a cake that can follow a fancy meal just as easily as it can be an afternoon snack. It has more dimension of flavor than almost anything I can remember eating. Though foods containing both olive oil and rosemary are, more often than not, savory, they make perfect sense in this cake. Really, this is the most surprising thing I've ever made. Each bite I take is new, and transportive and utterly delightful.

There isn't a lot of sugar in this cake, so the sweetness is subtle. It has the perfect quantity of bittersweet chocolate, whose richness and bitterness offset all of the other ingredients beautifully. I couldn't detect the taste of the spelt at all, but chocolate and rosemary are fairly strong flavors to compete with. The crumb of this cake is fluffy and soft and fine and moist, and it has a firm crust. It isn't the prettiest cake around - actually, it kept reminding me of another wonderful though entirely different cake - but I guarantee it can hold its own in the taste department against most anything else.

Oh, and if I haven't convinced you yet, it has minimal ingredients and is mixed up by hand in mere minutes. Make this cake. Make this cake, make this cake, make this cake.

Spelt Olive Oil Cake with Chocolate Chunks
adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

3/4 cup white spelt flour
1 1/2 cups white wheat flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9 inch spring form cake pan. In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a medium sized bowl, whisk eggs thoroughly. Add olive oil, buttermilk and rosemary and whisk well to combine. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and whisk until just combined. Stir in chocolate. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 40-55 minutes, or until evenly golden brown and tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool completely before slicing.


  1. Damn! This cake looks awesome - can't wait to get a hold of fresh rosemary for this!

    Thanks for sharing!
    LeeYong rolfmester@yahoo.com

  2. Wow, very savory...
    Recipe with chocolate is my favourite.

  3. Such a beautiful site and cake! I love the idea of using rosemary in a cake recipe. I can't wait to give this a try. And of course, chocolate makes everything better. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Mmm, love simple things like this. You've ranted and raved about the rosemary, but do you think the cake would still be good without it?
    More so because I just don't have fresh rosemary very often. But I'm tempted to get some, or find someone who has some that I can snitch a bit of.

  5. Look! Great minds think alike!


    This recipe looks so very special. I can't wait to try it!

  6. Katrina - I'm sure it would still be good, but it really is the rosemary what makes this cake special. In a pinch, you could used dried rosemary, I'm sure - maybe soak it in water (or another liquid that is in the cake) to reconstitute it a bit.

    Adrianna - I saw that right after I posted mine, so funny! You'll love the book, I can't wait to see what you make first! I'm already plotting my next one...

  7. Interesting flavors with the chocolate and rosemary. I might have to try this one!

  8. looks delicious!

  9. I made this last week. It's so unusual and as you say, so very good. It felt so odd to be pouring a full cup of olive oil into a batter, and the batter had an otherwordly greenish tinge to it. I love this book too, I think I've cooked about half the recipes in it already, and i finally forked out for teff flour, which I never thought would happen...


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