I love olive trees. They seem to be the only plant apart from succulents that thrive on my sunny terrace. It seems incredible that those little olives, when pressed, make a wonderful gold liquid that is rich, fruity and can be used in so many ways. When I first discovered that olive oil could be used in cakes instead of butter, I was curious to see if I could taste the oil. And that’s the funny thing, olive oil cakes do not taste “oily”. Nor do they have an “oily” texture. They are moist and have a subtle olive oil fruitiness.
There are so many types of olive oil around. I use two types at home: pure olive oil for cooking (I use the brand Moro) and cold pressed local extra virgin olive oil for dressing salads, usually an Australian variety such as Mount Zero, which has a stronger flavour and is a darker colour that borders on green. Lighter pure olive oil is the right type to use when making cakes as the taste is not overpowering but still adds a richness and texture that is quite different from cakes you make with butter.
I had purchased a bag of organic lemons last week (as I was going to try to make Limoncello….a story for another blog post!) and decided to make a lemon cake with olive oil. I did some Internet research and found this recipe by blogger spinachtiger, which I liked the sound of as it added half a cup of sour cream to the batter, making it extra moist. I modified her recipe only slightly. The resulting cake was deliciously light and ever so soft, with the citrus tang balancing beautifully with the slightly fruity olive oil. The texture of the cake seemed to improve the second day when I ate it cold from the fridge. I had dusted it with some icing sugar and served it with a glass of limoncello. You can never have enough citrus, can you?!
Lemon olive oil cake
1 cup sugar
zest of 3 lemons
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour, sifted
1/2 cup pure olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
Preheat the oven to 170C/340F. Place the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and rub them together with your fingertips so the zest is well incorporated. Set aside. Using an electric mixer on slow speed, mix the eggs and sour cream until well incorporated. Add the lemon juice and the sugar mixture and beat, then add the flour and beat until the mixture is homogeneous. Lastly add the olive oil, pouring slowly while you beat.
Pour the mixture into a lined 23cm (9 inch) spring form cake tin and bake at 170C/340F for ten minutes then lower the temperature to 160C/325F and bake for another 30 minutes. You can turn the temperature up to 180C/350F for the last five minutes if you want the top of the cake to get a bit of colour (otherwise it remains quite pale). Remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or cold dusted with icing sugar.
(The first time I made this, I cooked it for 30 minutes at 175C and as it cooled, the middle of the cake sunk spectacularly! So reducing the temperature after 10 minutes and cooking it a bit longer seemed to work better).