Olive oil cake was a must for chef Kenney
When this request was first posed, it came across in a rush: "Can you get the recipe for the olive cake and roasted strawberries at Downtown?"
To which I replied, "Olives and strawberries? Who eats that?"
But it turned out to be an olive oil cake, and that little modification makes all the difference.
Olive oil stands in for butter or shortening in much Mediterranean baking. The technique often means you can use less overall fat, plus you pick up some of the health benefits of olive oil. Don't fear that you'll end up with the heavy taste of olives in your sweet cake. Choose one with a light flavor, and it won't be a problem.
Ed Kenney, chef/owner of Downtown, says he tasted one at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif. "I came back and said, 'We gotta have an olive oil cake.' "
R&D fell to pastry chef Wing Ho, who made six or eight versions for tasting, Kenney says. "He spent all day coming up with all these different olive oil cakes."
They settled on this version, flavored with lots of lime zest and incorporating semolina flour. Here it is, for recipe requestor Alex Kendrick.
Downtown Olive Oil Cake
5 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 lime, zested and juiced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
1/4 tablespoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with olive oil.
Whisk yolks until light in color. Add sugar and whisk until doubled in volume. Add olive oil, lime juice and zest. Mix until combined. Set aside.
Sift flours together.
Whisk whites to medium peaks. Gently add flours and yolk mixture. Fold gently until there are no lumps, being careful to keep as much volume as possible. Pour into cake pan. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Nutritional information unavailable.
The cake is served at Downtown with roasted strawberries. Ho provided this basic guide to roasting fruit, which he says will work will just about any firm fruit:
Cut fruit into random-shaped chunks about the size of a quarter. Toss with sugar (preferable raw sugar) and a pinch of salt. Let sit 30 minutes, allowing the fruit to macerate, or give off its juices.
Preheat your oven to "full blast" (this would be the highest heat you're comfortable with; on an electric range probably 500 degrees).
Place fruit and juices in a non-stick pan in a single layer. Be sure the pan isn't too large or too much of the fruit's juice will evaporate in the oven. Place pan in upper half of oven for 15-20 minutes, until the edges of fruit begin to caramelize.
Remove from the oven and immediately transfer to a cool pan to halt cooking. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
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