7 April 2011

Ottolenghi's Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing... an Ode to Spring

Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing
When April finally arrives, I’m ready to move into summer food and barbecuing but my mind is still clinging on to the comfort foods of winter. While spring may be in the air, it hasn’t exactly reached our markets yet. Spring is when everything seems to come alive!!!!! The days are longer and the markets begin to burst with the colours of the bountiful fruits and vegetables of the season. This is the time to enjoy fresh rhubarb, sweet garden peas and furled fiddleheads. It is the season for asparagus and escarole and a wide variety of lettuce hand plucked from the garden for green salads. The delightful fragrance of chives, mint, chervil and tarragon fill the air to season your dishes. All of these tastes of Spring are bursting from our gardens, forests, markets and window boxes...but not yet...

So while we are anxiously waiting for fresh garden peas, rhubarb and asparagus I continue to celebrate this "inbetween" season.  What do you do when you’re itching to cook Spring, but the market is stuck in winter?  Bake a cake that will give you the best of both worlds!

"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March."

- Robert Frost, Two Tramps in Mud Time, 1926

This recipe has been on my "to try" list for a while, but since I rarely bake it has not shown up on these pages until now. This is another Yotam Ottolenghi recipe from his cookbook simply titled Ottolenghi Cookbook. Those of you who follow More Than Burnt Toast know of my obsession with creating cakes made of olive oil in the Mediterranean tradition. Butter usually takes centre stage in baking when thinking of some of my favourites like butter tarts, buttery cream frosting and shortbread cookies. But there is something that draws me back time and time again to olive oil. After my successes with olive oil cakes made with blood oranges, clementines, Meyer lemon and poppy seed , banana and pumpkin I thought that my next innovative idea would be apple. This "not-to-sweet" apple cake made with olive oil instead of butter, is a perfect "inbetween" season recipe using winter apples and early Spring maple syrup I found from Hilda at Saffron and Blueberry.

In warm-weather Mediterranean countries where olives grow, and where butter spoils quickly, sweets are more likely to be made with age-old olive oil. In Italy, bakers add olive oil to everything from biscotti to apple cakes. In Spain and Morocco, the zesty character of orange semolina cake is enhanced with fruity-flavoured olive oil. The tender, crumbly Greek cookies kourambiedes, too, are made with olive oil. Oil will tenderize your cake batter and help keep it moist. So it is often used in fruity, dense quick breads and muffins that are leavened with baking powder and baking soda. The trick is keeping mixing to a minimum to prevent developing tough strands of gluten.

This cake is wonderfully moist. The cream cheese and maple syrup icing would work really well with the apple and cinnamon flavours in the cake. I happened to have almost a whole tub of mascarpone so used that instead. The grocer said that even in Italy mascarpone cheese comes in huge tubs where you have a ton leftover. What a perfect excuse to make some icing!!!! The complex flavours of the cake mature over time so for best results wrap the cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to three days before assembly. Make the icing on the day you will be eating the cake. For a lower fat version, you can simply sift some icing sugar on the top of the cake.

**Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing**
adapted from the Ottolenghi Cookbook

For an 8 inch cake that serves 6-8 (either 2 layers with icing in between or 1 cake with lots of icing on top or no icing and just dusted icing/confectioner's sugar)

For the cake:

  • 80g or 3oz sultanas
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 280g or 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 120mL or 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 160g or 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 Bramley apples or 4 Granny Smiths
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 egg whites
  • icing/confectioner's sugar (optional) for dusting - if not making the icing*

For the icing:

  • 100g or 1 stick + 2 tsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 100g or 1/2 cup light muscovado sugar
  • 85mL or 3 oz maple syrup
  • 220g or 1 cup cream cheese or 1/2 mascarpone cheese

 For the cake:

1. Heat the oven to 170C (325F)/Gas Mark 3.

2. Grease (I used butter) a springform pan 20cm (8 in.) in diameter, then line the bottom and sides of it with baking parchment (if you are generous with your greasage, the baking parchment will adhere to the pan nicely which is very convenient when you want to get the cake out of it).

 3. Put the sultana raisins and the water in a saucepan and simmer on low heat until the water has been absorbed completely. Set aside to cool.

4. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda) and set aside.

5. Peel, core and dice the apples into 1cm or 1/2 inch cubes. Set aside.

6. In a separate large bowl, mix the olive oil and sugar together by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (which I have but I did it by hand so you can too).

7. Slit the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds into the oil and sugar. Beat until well mixed (the vanilla can clump when you scrape it out so make sure to "de-clump" it).

8.  Add the lightly beaten eggs gradually, leaving you with a thick, smooth batter in the end.

9. Add the diced apples, sultanas, and the lemon zest.

10.  Add the dry ingredients, folding in gently.

11. In a separate clean and dry bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.

12. Fold the whisked egg whites very gently (to lose as little air as possible) into the main batter in 2 additions. 2 additions is best as the more additions you do, the more you are folding the batter and losing air.

13. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth out the surface (there can be errant pieces of apple sticking out). Bake for an hour and a half or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (it took my oven about an hour and ten minutes so do check before the stipulated time if it looks done to you).

14. Let cool completely in the pan.

For the icing:

1. Beat the butter, muscovado sugar and maple syrup together either by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I used my stand mixer for this) until light and airy. Add the cream cheese and continue beating until thoroughly blended and smooth.

To assemble:

1. If you wish to put icing in between two layers, cut the cake in half using a serrated knife.

2. Spread the icing as you wish, between two layers, over the top of the cake only, on top and on the sides, knock yourself out. I followed the directions but it doesn't mean you have to on this.

* If you do not wish to make the icing, you can simply sift some icing sugar on the cake. Your waistline will thank you for it.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. That cake is beautiful and very tempting!



  2. That's definitely a gorgeous cake, Val...and that flavor combo makes my mouth water!

  3. What a wonderful post! That cake looks as gorgeous as it sounds. And thanks for reminding me about olive oil cakes. I think I have to try each and every one of the ones you mentioned.

  4. I've been thinking that this is ABSOLUTELY going to have to be the dessert I make for easter. It is full of so many delicious ingredients!

  5. If you do make it Joanne it is one of those desserts that absolutely improves with age. Even the crumb improves over time at room temperature.

  6. I bake cakes with oil but usually canola with great results. That icing sound crazy good with the maple syrup. At this time of the year I crave anything with maple syrup.

  7. Apple, olive oil, maple - so much to love about this cake.

  8. I love olive oil cakes, so rich!

  9. I love the poem- it's so true! This cake is lovely also. I love the maple frosting! :)

  10. I will take summer and sunshine and this cake as well :) I've heard a lot about olive oil cakes, but never made or tried one before! It looks delicious and apples are the perfect addition :)

  11. I love how ingredients can usher in a seaason - even when the ground is not ready. The apples and maple speak of days gone by - but the cake speaks of today.

  12. Wow, amazing cake, I love the Ottolenghi book myself. And the poem is beautiful...

  13. A great royal wedding weekend cake idea! I am currently scouring the food blogs for a lovely one.. this is certianly in the running! xxx

  14. This is a gorgeous cake! Graet combintion of ingredients. The olive oil makes it healthy too right!!

  15. The apples and olive oil make this cake extremely healthy Maris:D There is the option of dropping the icing and just sprinkling the whole thing with icing sigar as I do my other olive oil cakes:D

  16. And now this cake is on my list! I can't tell you how many times I've bookmarked, earmarked, clipped or otherwise saved an olive oil cake recipe. Now you've convinced me to tryit myself! But I've never seen one with apple. Thanks so much for sharing!

  17. This sounds like a perfect treat to bridge that gap--when we are ready for spring but spring is not quite ready for us. I've enjoyed your post this morning with my first cup of coffee--and, while making a grocery list. This cold appear on our table over the weekend.


  18. I was thinking of making an olive oil cake for a recent contest...this is way over the top.watr

  19. I love moist cake. I mean, who doesn't?
    Weather has been kind of lazy this year, outside my window: rain, wind and a cool feeling. Not a leave yet on the trees. I wonder if Spring forgot about us!


  20. Wow. What a cake and what a background. I wish I was there right now munching on a piece and taking in that view. Gorgeous;

  21. Somehow I missed this post! This sounds delightful. I'd have to leave out the raisins for the husband and I'm thinking maybe some walnuts in their place!

  22. What lovely Cake Val, look amazing and georgeous, I love cakes! xx gloria

  23. This is a beauty of a cake. I have always wanted to make an olive oil cake and been afraid to. This might be the impetus that pushes me to make it.

  24. What a gorgeous looking and sounding cake Val. It looks divine :)

  25. For someone who doesn't bake much, this is one gorgeous cake! Olive oil cakes are so good, and so moist.
    Bookmarked! Welcome Spring!

  26. Your cake looks beautiful and I bet it is delicious. This will be on my to do list. Thanks!

  27. I've enjoyed olive oil cakes since reading about them; what a great in-between seasons recipe to enjoy them both. Spring has sprung here and I spent the day in my herb garden; it was bliss! Hope it comes soon for you too, Val!

  28. Hi Val - that cake is a masterpiece. Love how you staged the photo too, beautiful-- and YAY for olive oil cakes!

  29. Apple, cinnamon, and maple syrup just belong together. For some reason, olive oil cakes have made me both curious and frightened. This beauty makes confident in dipping my toe in the water.

  30. What a magnificent cake, Val. I've really been wanting to make an olive oil cake too. (And olive oil ice cream...have you ever made that?) The frosting is perfect with the cake. In fact, I'd probably have eaten spoonfuls of it before I even put it ON the cake! :)

  31. I gaven't had olive oil ice cream yet Barbara, but I do have it bookmarked!

  32. i would absolutely love this, val! the moist and flavorful cake topped with that decadent frosting would be impossible for me to resist. this one's a keeper!

  33. This cake sounds delightful Val and you've decorated it rather nicely.

  34. What a scrumptious combination!

  35. I really want to make that cake! It looks absolutely divine and so moist inside too! :D Thankyou for sharing the recipe!

  36. AnonymousJune 20, 2011

    What a beautiful recipe and a butter-free recipe too. I love how pretty it looks. The icing is done beautifully.



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