Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lemon cake for a grey day

This weekend was chilly and gray, and I felt the need to bake something. I haven't baked in months. I realize that I've made things in the oven, chard tarts, quiche and so on, but that's not baking. Baking is flour, cake pans, making the house smell heavenly with the scent of carmelizing sugar and browning bread.

And because it was chilly, I didn't want to go to the store, so it had to be what I had on hand, which is when I remembered a recipe in the bulging file of "Things I want to try".  An olive oil cake. 

I had never made an olive oil cake before, but was intrigued by the idea, and the recipe had only 5 ingredients.  All of which I had. Perfect.

I took the completed cake to my parents house for Sunday lunch, and didn't tell them what it was. Mom didn't notice the olive oil at all, but thought it was a pleasant lemon cake, that wasn't too sweet. Dad and I thought the olive oil added a pleasant grassy note to the background. But most importantly they kept half the cake 'for later'.  Success!

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

  • 3/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin if desired), plus additional for greasing pan
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease springform pan with some oil, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Oil parchment.

Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons and whisk together with flour. Halve lemon, then squeeze and reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil (3/4 cup) and reserved lemon juice, beating until just combined (mixture may appear separated). Using spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined.

Beat egg whites (from 4 eggs) with 1/2 teaspoon salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.

Isn't is amazing how egg whites go from pale yellow goo to a satiny white cloud when you whip them?
Gently fold one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
Ready to go in the oven

Transfer batter to springform pan and gently rap against work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer cake to a serving plate.


  • The recipe says a springform pan, which would have come in handy when taking the cake out, but I used a 9 inch cake pan with no bad results. Taking it out of the pan took a little juggling, but no real problems.
  • I used all purpose flour instead of cake flour. I'm sure cake flour would have yielded a more tender result, but the texture was close to a pound cake. And everybody loved it,so if you don't have it on hand, I wouldn't worry.
  • The cake sinks a little as it cools, so don't worry if it deflates a bit.

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