Thursday, May 24, 2012

Olive Oil Pound Cake

There’s always a mix of anticipation, excitement, and hunger that stirs inside me when I slide cake out of the oven. A puff of hot air hits my face (I always forget to dodge), followed by the magical moment where the cake practically sings “TADA!!” when it’s brought to daylight.

A few times, I’ve baked desserts that I was too disgusted to share. There was an almond citrus cake that looked good on paper, but tasted awful in real life, so awful in fact, it was left untouched on the kitchen counter for a few days till my dad pity-ate a slice everyday for his afternoon tea. I made Earl Grey tea cookies once, carefully selecting a promising recipe, but they ended up looking like cement dog biscuits, a result of my over eagerness in doubling the amount of ground tea leaves to the batter. It was a sad day.

Then there are also happy times when cakes turns out too damn perfect, they looked so good they deserved to be on the front cover of a magazine. Still, watching my friends devour the cakes was the best part of all, how they greedily bit into a piece, leaving a trail of crumbs on the floor, or how they tried to identify all the ingredients in the cake while throwing compliments at me--their mouths still full.

Pound cake definitely falls under the Happy Times category, it has that oomph, that promise to deliver exactly what its name implies: 110% pure richness. This cake is a serious matter, the crumb is undeniably light and airy, yet still carries enough heft to be eaten double-fisted. The golden crust that forms around the cake is my favourite bit, it’s crispy against the teeth, but yields to a dense and moist cake. To sum up: insanely good. 


Although I’m a butter purist, olive oil makes for good desserts, its floral flavour is a nice change. This cake is good any time of the day: for breakfast, after lunch when you’re still hungry despite finishing all the contents of your lunchbox, for that time in the afternoon when you’re itching for sugar and even though that chocolate bar sounds really good, nothing else but this cake will curb your sweet tooth. It’s especially satisfying smuggled into a movie theatre because sometimes homemade pound cake is way better than buttered popcorn.

This cake is from Alice Medrich’s latest cookbook, which is sure to be my go-to dessert resource for a while. I made her one-bowl chocolate cake and cocoa brownies with walnuts and brown butter, both were divine and were rewarded rave reviews. I’ve bookmarked other blog-worthy recipes and cannot wait to share them, knowing that they will all be insanely good.

Olive Oil Pound Cake
Adapted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts: Quicker Smarter Recipes by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2012.

Alice recommends using unbleached all-purpose flour, it's less processed and has a better taste that bleached all-purpose flour. The latter produces cakes that are more tender due to its higher acidity. However, if you don't have unbleached flour, the regular kind works fine too. Also, depending on what kind of olive oil you use, the cake might have a stronger, more robust olive oil flavour as opposed to if you used a delicate olive oil. I used the olive oil I usually use in my cooking and it turned out great. The only addition I made was including lemon zest, you don't have to, but I thought citrus would be a compliment the olive oil nicely.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup flavourful extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 cold large eggs
1 cup whole milk
Zest of 1 lemon 

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour the pan(s), or line the bottom and sides of the loaf pans with parchment paper.

2. Sift the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

3. Using the electric mixer, beat the sugar, salt, oil, and vanilla in a large clean, dry bowl until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then continue to beat until mixture is thick and pale, 3 to 5 minutes. Add one-third of the flour mixture and beat at low speed just until blended. Add half of the milk and beat just until blended. Repeat with another third of the flour, the remaining milk, and then the remaining flour. 

4. Scrape the batter into the pan(s). Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, until cake tester inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan(s) on a rack for about 15 minutes.

5. If using a tube or Bundt pan, slide a skewer around the tube, then slide a thin knife aroudn the edges of the pan to release the cake, invert the pan, and then turn the cake right side up on a rack to cool completely. Or slide a thin knife around the sides of the loaf pans (unless lined with parchment paper), invert the cakes, and turn ride side up to cool on a rack. Once cooled, the cake keeps well at room temperature, wrapped airtight for at least 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months; bring to room temperature before serving.  

Recipe here!

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