A Christmas cake recipe with a twist

Categories: Holidays

I know too many people who tell me they can’t bake. This cake will prove them wrong. It’s beyond simple but, above all else, it’s worked every single time I’ve strung it together. If I work fast enough, I can make it before the oven hits 350 degrees! That might be a stretch for some, but allow about 10 minutes and you’ll easily have a cake batter prepped for baking. I also actually think – as many Italians do – that an olive oil cake is a perfectly acceptable food product for colazione, or breakfast as we know it, alongside a tea or an espresso/cappuccino of course. (Love this Kate Spade teatowel I found that echoes that very sentiment!)

In this case, I’m promoting it as an easy cake for some Holiday baking. Think of it as a quick dessert to have on hand at all times during this busy season. It freezes like a dream. Douse it with some liqueur-laced cherries or raspberries, serve with whipped cream and you have a free-form Trifle.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite recipe from my book, but if someone told me I had to, then this would be it. I’ve fed it to people far and wide. (If you happened to be at any of my book signings in Chapters bookstore you’d have seen it on display. Then, I left it for the lovely staff there to devour.) Now for some baking tips.

*I use sour cherries, frozen ones that I defrosted and drained, or use jarred ones.
*If you forgot to pull eggs out of the fridge, place 3 in a bowl of hot tap water and allow to heat up just a little. This gives them more oomph to increase in volume easily.
*Sometimes I buy citrus fruits to use the zest – organically grown is best – but the children eat the fruit before I get to zesting! So, zest the washed and dried fruit ahead and add to a cup of sugar. Pop in a bag or sealed container. That way you’ll have highly perfumed sugar ready to go when you want to bake.
*Line a 9″ pan with parchment. Butter the sides.

Ah, if cherries are not your thing then I highly recommend fresh raspberries as an option with lemon zest instead of orange zest. (Cherries, orange, and almond – as in the original recipe – are classic.) You could also try it with drained canned pears or peaches and some Amaretto! If you prefer a plain cake then omit the fruit and zest, but I do like it with both in there I must say. This cake is very forgiving and if you don’t have white wine, then use fresh juice, water or juice from the canned fruits. Almonds add a nice crunch but they are optional. If you have eggs, sugar, flour, olive oil and baking powder then you have a cake. The enhancers are wonderful, but you’re not married to them. Feel free to create.

Eggs: I love driving to the nearby farm to get ours, but do what you can. I cannot say enough about great quality ingredients, especially in a recipe that has only a few. (Showing a random picture of incredibly colored eggs here that I gathered from the hen house. The simple things, right?)

1) Beat eggs until light, fluffy and voluminous. In other words, run your mixer and just whip up those eggs until they look like clouds of white/pale yellow fluffiness. I have been known to answer the phone, watch TV, or, weigh out all my other ingredients while the Kitchen-Aid is doing its thing. Don’t stress it, the longer they whip up, the better.

Olive oil: I love the fruity and/or peppery flavour of olive oil in this cake. It truly is subtle but, something unique. The cake is never oily or greasy, but that punch of taste you get from an olive oil as opposed to vegetable oil is incredible. I love shopping for my oils at La Grotta del Formaggio.

And Bake…

Now for the recipe as it appears in my book. Enjoy this great little cake that for me is an ode to the great country that first introduced me to olive oil – reluctantly I might add – as I’d only ever known the stuff where I grew up as being something you put in a sore ear! I now love great EVOO and that’s mostly what I cook with, and put in my cakes. Buon Appetito!
(Watch a video of the book right here: https://alifewithgusto.com/my-books/desserts-with-gusto/

The beautiful olive trees outside the house I lived in Florence.

Olive Oil Cake with Cherries / Torta al’Olio d’Oliva

Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) cake; 8-10 servings

1 cup (250 mL) flour
1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) sea salt
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking powder
3 large eggs, room temperature
Zest of one orange
1 cup (250 mL) sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp (140 mL) olive oil
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) almond extract
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 mL) white wine
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or drained jarred cherries, pitted
1/4 cup (60 mL) sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Butter a 9” (23 cm) cake pan and line the base with parchment paper. Do not use a springform pan; this recipe yields a loose batter.

Sift flour, salt, and baking powder.

Using a stand mixer or handheld beaters, whisk eggs, zest, and sugar until the mixture is fluffy and thick. Let some of the batter fall from the whisk; if it holds a pattern for a few seconds on the surface of the mixture, it’s ready.

Slowly drizzle in the oil and extracts, gently mixing together.

Fold in half the flour. Add the wine until combined. Finish off with the remaining flour.

Evenly place the cherries on the bottom of the cake pan. Gently pour the batter over the cherries. Sprinkle top with sliced almonds.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Cool completely before unmolding by running a knife around the edge and inverting onto a plate.

The cake keeps really well at room temperature for 2-3 days, wrapped or in an airtight container.

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