Olive Yew

Olive trees’ lifespans, on average, are between 300 and 600 years; the oldest known tree is 2000 years old. (!!!)
But… and there’s always a but… I hate olives.  I’m sorry.  I do.  
I just can’t bring myself to like them… They’re sort of slimy, very squishy, and all together too salty.  
That being said, I love olive oil.  I’m not kidding.  The stuff runs through my veins.
Olive oil is liquid gold; the specialty stuff, even more so.
One of the most heavenly things on Earth is a fresh, hot baguette dipped in olive oil+Parmesan.  
There is nothing like it.
For those of you who live in Ithaca, you may have been to the little specialty olive oil and vinegar shop downtown, in the commons: F. Oliver’s.
Talk about wonderful olive oils.  I was in there the other day, recycling old bottles (If you have empty bottles from their store, don’t recycle them the regular way!  Take them down to the store and they will refill them for you or recycle and reuse them.), when I stumbled upon what may possibly be my favorite oil ever- even more so than coconut or toasted sesame- their fresh pressed blood orange olive oil.
Laaaaaawd is it good.  Mix it with some pomegranate molasses and you have the most deliciously tangy salad dressing ever.
I also got some Tuscan garden olive oil.  Gorgeous in a balsamic vinaigrette.
And no, unfortunately enough, I am not getting paid to say these things.
I wish.
Anyways, in addition to picking up some fancy schmancy new oils, I learned that F. Oliver’s is having a recipe contest.
Basically, you develop your best recipe using their oils or vinegars, send it in, and keep your fingers crossed.
The winner gets a free bottle of vinegar or oil every month for the rest of the year!
Obviously, I want to win.  Come on… Imagine all the avocado oil I could get. 
So I made a cake with blood orange olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.
The cake itself is super soft, with a very fine, tight crumb.  The edges and top are ever so slightly crispy, which is a wonderful contrast to the tender interior.
It’s redolent with orange and almond, and it’s made with whole wheat flour.  
It’s a very virtuous cake, dairy-free, whole-wheat, with lots of healthy fats from the olive oil and almonds.  
I’ve paired it with fresh berries that have been roasted into a sticky, syrupy treat with a touch of sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar that is older than I; they’re complex and balance out the sweetness of the cake wonderfully.
Taming the sweetness even further is a simple whipped mascarpone that I dolloped on top.  It’s plain and unsweetened, but gives richness and body to the dish.  
I ate could eat it by the spoonful.
This is a lovely, quick cake, perfect for a brunch (Mother’s day, anyone?) or quick weeknight dessert.  
It’s also classy enough for a light dinner party finisher, sure to leave everyone’s sweet tooth satisfied without weighing them down.
When I say quick, I mean that this is a 2 bowl dessert; the cake is made with one utensil and the batter comes together in 5 minutes if you know your kitchen well; the strawberries roast at the same temperature as the cake and give you just enough time to prep and throw them in and then take them out at the same time as the cake, preventing unnecessary energy waste from an idle oven.
You can serve the cake and compote warm from the oven, so you don’t have to bother with cooling times, and the mascarpone takes all of 30 seconds to whip.
Olive this cake.  Eye really dew.

Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries and Whipped Mascarpone
(that’s a mouthful)
for the cake:
175 g white whole wheat flour (1 1/3 cups)
75 g almond meal (2/3 cup)
12 g baking powder (2 teaspoons)
8 g kosher salt (1 heaping teaspoon)

80 g granulated sugar (1/3 cup)
120 g brown sugar (very loosely packed 2/3 cup)
zest of one orange
135 g F. Oliver’s fresh pressed blood orange extra virgin olive oil (2/3 cup)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
140 g freshly squeezed orange juice (2/3 cup), from about 1 1/2 oranges
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease a 9-inch springform or regular cake pan with 2 inch sides.  (Alternatively, you could use an 8-inch with 3 inch sides or a 10-inch with 1 1/2 inch sides.)
Whisk the flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.

In another bowl, place the sugars, orange zest, olive oil, and eggs, and whisk vigorously to combine, about 2 minutes.  Mixture should lighten in color.
Whisk the vanilla extract and orange juice into the sugar mixture.
Whisking constantly, slowly add in the flour mixture.
Mix until batter is homogeneous.  
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until cake is deeply golden and springy to the touch, and a tester comes out with only a couple crumbs.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then unmold from pan and allow to cool fully.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve with balsamic roasted strawberries and whipped mascarpone.

for the strawberries:
260 g chopped strawberries (2 cups)
15 g granulated sugar (1 tablespoon)
20 g F. Oliver’s 18-year old special reserve balsamic vinegar (1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon)
splash vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 (or make these simultaneously to the cake).
Toss strawberries with sugar, vinegar, and vanilla.
Spread out in an even layer over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 20-24 minutes, until softened and caramelized.  
Strawberries should be slightly sticky.
Stir around to fully coat each strawberry with the sauce, and serve slightly warm.

for the whipped mascarpone:
5 tablespoons mascarpone
3 tablespoons half and half
Using an immersion blender, food processor, or stand- or hand-mixer, beat mascarpone and half and half together until very fluffy and light.
Store in refrigerator until use; serve chilled.

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