It’s easy enough for home cooks to employ heart-healthy ingredients in simple and delicious main dishes. But for the baker who relies on refined white flour and butter, dessert is a challenge. When something more than a piece of fruit is required, it would be nice to have a recipe that doesn’t destroy all the good intentions that went into cooking dinner. A cake made with olive oil and almond flour is a good way to go.
If you are used to thinking of olive oil as a salad dressing ingredient, you might hesitate to add it to cake batter. But in Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain, cakes made with olive oil are common. Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil adds a subtle flavor and aroma to simple cakes. It doesn’t have butter’s warm, toasty flavor, but its own fruity and bitter notes add interest to baked goods. With the addition of citrus zest, anise or chocolate, a simple olive oil cake can have complex layers of flavor.
In addition, olive oil supplies moisture in spades. Cakes made with olive oil are never dry, even after several days. If you can’t finish a whole cake in a day or two, or want to bake a cake that’s intended for snacking throughout the week, olive oil cake is for you. Another benefit: olive oil is more effective than butter at coating flour proteins and preventing gluten formation, resulting in an extremely tender cake with a fine crumb.
While white flour is neutral in flavor, almond flour has a mildly sweet and nutty flavor that adds yet another layer to a Mediterranean cake recipe.
Almond flour is milled from whole almonds into a fine powder. Packed with protein, fiber and healthy fat, it makes a good substitute for white flour in certain baked goods. While it doesn’t have the strength to support high-rising breads, it is perfect for tart crusts, cookies and scones, where tenderness is paramount. Take care when shopping to buy almond flour and not almond meal, which is more coarsely ground and may result in a greasy, crumbly product.
For added nutrition (and enjoyment), serve slices of this cake with berries or fruit and/or a dollop of plain Greek-style yogurt drizzled with honey.
ALMOND FLOUR AND OLIVE OIL CAKE
4 large eggs
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1⁄4 cup lemon juice
1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup almond flour
1⁄4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Confectioners’ sugar for sifting (optional)
1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray, Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, and spray the parchment paper.
2. With an electric mixer on high speed, beat the eggs until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. With the mixer on, slowly add the sugar and continue to beat another 3 minutes. Beat in the oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla.
3. Gently fold in the almond flour, all-purpose flour and salt, taking care not to deflate the eggs. Pour into the prepared pan.
4. Bake until just set and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack.
5. When the cake is cool, release the sides of the pan. Use a spatula to remove it from the bottom of the pan and transfer to a serving platter. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the cake if desired, slice and serve.
Makes 8 servings.