Olive oil cake? Sounds pretty unusual to some, but you’ll find it on many a dessert menu in Mediterranean climates. Don’t let its rustic appearance fool you; this earthy version crowned with wisps of rosemary is packed with rich flavors of fresh orange, plump raisins, toasted pine nuts and elegant dessert wine, and keeps moist for days with the addition of extra virgin olive oil.
The olive oil cake recipe is one of the gems to be found in the latest cookbook from renowned chef Nancy Silverton, who oversees six restaurants on two continents. Silverton has been breaking barriers for women for decades in the culinary world where it’s still unusual to find a female heading a restaurant kitchen. The winner of numerous awards, (including being named “Outstanding Chef” and “Pastry Chef of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation), she is the co-owner of Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, Newport Beach, and Singapore, as well as Mozza2Go and Chi Spacca in Los Angeles. You may recognize her name as the founder of famed eateries La Brea Bakery and Campanile Restaurant.
She is also the author of eight cookbooks. Her latest is Mozza at Home; More Than 150 Crowd-Pleasing Recipes for Relaxed, Family-Style Entertaining by Nancy Silverton with Carolynn Carreno. The book presents nineteen menus for entertaining and family meals at home, with recipes including instructions for this delightful olive oil cake from her friend Dario Cecchini who serves it at his restaurants in Panzano in Tuscany.
The recipe worked well in testing using the substitution of a combination of baking powder and baking soda, although Silverton recommends using an Italian leavening agent for a lighter, airier texture. We found one of the brands she recommended, Paneangeli, online on Amazon.com. The book is widely available in bookstores, or online on Amazon.
Dario’s Olive Oil Cake Recipe with Rosemary and Pine Nuts
SERVES 10 to 12
½ cup plump raisins (preferably Flame raisins; about 5 ounces)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons vin santo (or another sweet dessert wine)
1/3 cup pine nuts, preferably Sicilian
Nonstick cooking spray
1 ½ navel oranges, halved through the stems (unpeeled), seeds removed and discarded
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons Italian leavening
(such as Benchmate or Paneangeli; or 1 teaspoon baking soda
plus 1 teaspoon baking powder)
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 ¾ cups pastry flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
Rosemary tufts pulled from 2 long fresh rosemary sprigs
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Bring the raisins and vin santo to a simmer in a very small saucepan over high heat. Turn off the heat and set aside to allow the raisins to absorb the wine for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325°F.
Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven 8 to 10 minutes, until they are fragrant and golden brown, shaking the baking sheet and rotating it from front to back halfway through the cooking time so the nuts brown evenly. Remove the pine nuts from the oven and set them aside to cool to room temperature.
Increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Spray a 10-inch angel food pan generously with nonstick cooking spray and dust it lightly with flour.
Leaving the peels attached, lay the orange halves flat side down and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices. Chop the slices into ¼-inch-thick cubes.
Put the eggs, Italian leavening, and ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on medium-high speed until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Gradually add the olive oil by pouring it down the side of the bowl in a slow, steady stream and mix until the batter is emulsified. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add one-third of the flour and mix until it is no longer visible. Add one-third of the raisins and mix just to incorporate them. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat two more times, mixing in one-third of the flour at a time, then one-third of the raisins at a time, and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions, until all of the flour and all of the raisins have been incorporated.
Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl from the stand. Add the chopped oranges and use a rubber spatula to gently fold them into the batter. Set the batter aside to rest for 10 minutes. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and scatter the pine nuts over the top. Sprinkle the cake with the remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar and stick the tufts of rosemary into the batter, distributing them over the surface of the cake in an attractive way.
Bake the cake for 10 minutes. Rotate the cake and lower the oven temperature to 325°F. Bake the cake for another 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, rotating the cake once during the baking time so it browns evenly. Remove the cake from the oven and set it aside to cool to room temperature.
To serve, run a knife or offset spatula around the inside of the pan to release the cake from the pan and put a large plate over the top of the pan. Swiftly flip the cake and the plate to invert the cake onto the plate. Invert the cake again onto a large serving plate or cake stand. Pour the confectioners’ sugar into a fine-mesh strainer and tap the strainer over the cake to dust the cake lightly with the sugar. Serve with a cake spatula or knife for guests to cut the size serving they want and serve themselves.
Excerpted from MOZZA AT HOME by Nancy Silverton with Carolyn Carreño. Copyright © 2016 by Random House. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
By Valerie Jarvie for Prime Women magazine