Olive Oil Cake with Persimmons

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For my birthday last year, my friend and I went to our favorite Italian restaurant in Brooklyn called Lillia. It was 11pm at night, we had ordered two Americanos and a slice of olive oil cake served with whipped cream and fresh persimmons. I still remember the taste of that wonderful cake because not only was it a fond memory, but I was also intrigued by the simplicity of the dessert. It wasn’t fancy at all and tasted like a homemade cake my mom would do – except it had an unexpected hint of olive oil and my favorite fall fruit of all time. I’ve made a couple versions of olive oil cakes since but none of them come close to this fantastic recipe.

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Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes one 9″ (23cm) cake

300ml (1¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
250g (1 cup +2 Tablespoons) granulated sugar; plus more for pan and finishing touch
240g (2 cups) cake flour*
28g (⅓ cup) almond flour or fine-grind cornmeal (I used almond flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
60ml (¼ cup) amaretto, Grand Marnier, or other liqueur
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
60ml (¼ cup) fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 small eggs, at room temperature

*Substitute cake flour by sifting together three times 238g (1+3/4 cups) all-purpose flour and 24g (1/4 cup) cornstarch.

Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Drizzle bottom and sides of pan with detachable bottom with oil and use your fingers to coat. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and smooth to eliminate air bubbles; coat parchment with more oil. Generously sprinkle pan with sugar and tilt to coat in an even layer; tap out excess (do not skip this step!). Whisk cake flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to combine and eliminate any lumps. Stir together liquor, lemon juice, and vanilla in a small bowl.

Using an electric mixer on high speed (use whisk attachment if working with a stand mixer), beat eggs, lemon zest, and 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar in a large bowl until mixture is very light, thick, pale, and falls off the whisk or beaters in a slowly dissolving ribbon, about 3 minutes if using a stand mixer and about 5 minutes if using a hand mixer. With mixer still on high speed, gradually stream in 1¼ cups oil and beat until incorporated and mixture is even thicker. Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with amaretto mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Fold batter several times with a large rubber spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of bowl. Gently scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth top, and sprinkle with more sugar.

Place cake in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 350°F (176°C). Bake until top is golden brown, center is firm to the touch, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 40–50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan 15 minutes.

Run a thin knife around edges of cake and remove ring from pan. Slide cake onto rack and let cool completely. For the best flavor and texture, wrap cake in plastic and let sit at room temperature at least a day before serving.

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Bey to Bay: Cornmeal Peach Whiskey Cake

This is the second post for the Bey to Bay coffee and pastry pairing collaboration project with my dear friend Jeremy Kelley. We grew up on opposite sides of the world (Beirut x Bay Area) but with the same Mediterranean climates and ingredients. Follow along our posts and our hashtag #BeytoBay on Instagram!

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As we head into fall season, this is the last chance to use up perfectly ripe summer fruits. And what better way to end summer than with a boozy fruity cake? I’m such a fan of a simple cake like this one that might seem sophisticated at first but is in fact very easy to put together and I’m sure you’ll be making this again and again with different seasonal fruits. Moist, buttery, with a barely there crunch, it’s a cross between a coffee cake and a cornmeal bread. The peach slices are soaked in whiskey and sugar overnight to infuse the flavors and enhance the peaches’ sweetness. Then they are arranged on top of a whipped cornmeal cake batter and baked until fragrant, golden in color, and the sides barely pulling away from the pan. Serve it warm with great coffee (more on that below), or with some more fresh fruit, whipped cream or maybe even a delicious scoop of crème fraîche ice cream if you’re feeling adventurous.

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We wanted a really special coffee that would take the soft, delicate flavors of the cake to yn,the next level but still be light on the palate. Jeremy went with an Ecuador La Papaya by Sey Coffee, which just opened their new roastery in Bushwick. These beans were grown at some of the highest altitudes on earth, giving them a really unique flavor profile of botanical complexity. Its light pomegranate notes and herbal hints of vanilla and blossom were getting infused the butteriness of the cake’s crumbs and brought out the taste of whiskey. This shift of flavor in your mouth from start to finish made the entire pairing highly addictive. We couldn’t stop wanting more.

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Topping:
4 medium firm peaches (can also sub with other seasonal fruits like 300g of pitted cherries, strawberries, raspberries)
1½ Tbsp whiskey or bourbon
1 Tbsp granulated sugar

Cake:
113g unsalted butter, room temperature
160g unbleached all-purpose flour
85g fine cornmeal flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
zest of ½ a small lemon
110g granulated sugar
110g packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp whiskey or bourbon
150ml whole milk, room temperature
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

1. Soak the peach slices in whiskey and sugar for at least 4 hours preferrably overnight. The next day, drain the peaches from their juices and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Butter a 9″ (23cm) round cake pan, butter and flour the pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Set aside. Beat butter with the sugars on medium-high speed until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition and beat in whiskey. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk and beginning and ending with flour; beat until just combined.
4. Transfer batter to the prepared pan. Arrange the peach slices on top, pressing some down into batter. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until edges begin to pull away from pan and top springs back when lightly touched, around 50 minutes.
5. Let cool in the pan for 20 min then carefully turn out onto a wire rack (it’s fragile when warm). Let cool completely before serving.

Bey To Bay: Toscakaka Cake

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It took me awhile to write this post. I don’t even know how to start describing my obsession with this incredibly delicious Swedish cake. It’s the type of cake that you want to bake over and over again, show off at gatherings, and eat at least two slices with a cup of coffee. It’s simply a wonderful recipe that you want to keep all to yourself and not share with anyone else.

But it would be selfish of me to find a cake recipe that brings so much joy and not share it on the blog (I didn’t develop the recipe after all!). I came across this Toscakaka cake several years ago here and I’ve been making it ever since. The contrast of the crunchy caramel almond layer with the thick buttery soft cake layer that instantly melts in your mouth is completely addictive. It’s a really big hit among my friends and family – so when my talented and coffee-obsessed best friend Jeremy came up with the idea to try a coffee and cake pairing post, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine our creativity.

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For the pairing, we wanted something light but lively to complement the buttery depth of the toscakaka. Jeremy’s work frequently takes him to the Hudson Valley, so he picked up a bag of Honduras Pacavita Reserve at The Pantry in Cold Spring, a small-batch shop that only recently started roasting but releases some of the best coffees around. Central American varietals are known for their balanced flavor profiles, and a light to medium roast unlocks all sorts of wild flavors that are also smooth and not overwhelming—just what we wanted.

Pourover is Jeremy’s method of choice for delicate coffees like this. His standard setup is a classic Chemex with a Stagg kettle by Fellow Products, brewing at 200 degrees. The paper filter smoothes out the edge and grittiness, bringing out all those subtle complexities of the coffee. The profile of the Pacavita couldn’t have blended more beautifully with the toscakaka. The herbal-lemon note sponged right into the cake’s moist body, layering on an entirely new effect, while the mild cocoa note married the crunchy almond topping seamlessly.

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Note: This is our first collaboration in our “Bey to Bay” series. More on that in our second post! Stay tuned 🙂

Recipe from Poires au Chocolat, paired with Organic Reserva Pacavita coffee from The Pantry

Cake:
70ml milk
1 tsp lemon juice

75g unsalted butter
3 large eggs, room temperature
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp fine sea salt

Almond Topping:
150g flaked almonds
125g unsalted butter
125g packed light brown sugar
50ml whole milk
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional, could replace with vanilla extract)*

1. Preheat oven to 320°F (160°C). Grease a deep 9″ round cake tin with a removable bottom with melted butter and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Toast the almond flakes on a baking sheet for 5-7 minutes until they’re a light golden brown, then set aside.
3. Melt the butter for the cake in a medium saucepan then pour into a bowl and leave to cool (keep the pan to use later). Stir the lemon juice into the milk and leave to sit (or use 75ml buttermilk).
4. Whip the eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a stand mixer on high for 4 minutes (be careful not over-whip) until the mixture is light in color and thick (when you remove the whisk, the trail should stay visible for at least 5 seconds).
5. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the egg bowl then gently fold in with a big metal spoon or large spatula. Drizzle half of the milk over the top and fold in. Repeat with the next 1/3 of flour, the rest of the milk, then the rest of the flour. Finally drizzle half of the melted butter over the top, fold in, then repeat with the remaining butter. Be very gentle but thorough, scraping the bottom – it’s easy to get little pockets of flour but you need to conserve as much volume as you can. Carefully transfer to the tin by scraping it gently out from as little height as possible.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until set and golden. A toothpick should be able to be removed cleanly.
7. While it bakes, make the almond topping: Place the butter, sugar, milk, salt and espresso powder into the saucepan and stir as the butter melts. Keep heating for a few minutes – it should bubble and thicken slightly. Stir in the almonds and set aside. When the cake is ready, turn the oven up to 390°F (200°C), remove the cake to a rack and spoon the glaze over the top. Spread the almonds out into an even layer. Place back into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until the glaze is darkened and bubbling. Cool for a five minutes then slide a knife around the edge of the tin to loosen the sides and remove the cake to a rack.

It keeps well in an airtight container for two to three days.

Rhubarb Financier Tart with Rose Water

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This is what I consider a perfect spring time treat. The combination of the tart rhubarb, hint of rose, and lightly sweetened almond cake got me hooked the first time making this wonderful financier cake last spring. So when I first spotted rhubarb at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago, I immediately bought a pound to bake this again since I never got around posting the recipe last year.

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I absolutely love the bright colors of the rhubarb stalks that add a wonderful gradient of colors on the cake ranging from crimson red, pink, to light green. Serve the tart anytime of the day, as a breakfast treat, afternoon snack, or a light dessert with vanilla whipped cream.

Recipe adapted from Hint of Vanilla

Roasted Rhubarb
450g rhubarb, split lengthwise
20g granulated sugar

Financier Batter
250g unsalted butter
120g almond flour
120g all-purpose flour
280g icing sugar
288g egg whites
2 tsp rose water
Extra sugar for sprinkling before baking
Icing sugar for finishing

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (one for roasting the rhubarb and another for the cake). Spray a 9-inch tart ring with non-stick spray.

Trim the rhubarb ends and cut into strips. Place on one of the baking sheets sprinkle the granulated sugar over. Roast the rhubarb until it is tender, but still has a bite and some structure to it – about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

For the financier, lower the oven temperature to 325°F (165°C).

To start, place the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Let the butter cook until the liquid becomes a light brown color and the milk solids on the bottom of the pan are a dark brown. Remove from the heat and pour the brown butter in a clean bowl to cool slightly. This should yield about 206 g of brown butter. If you have more than that, reserve the excess for other uses.

Meanwhile, sift the almond flour, all-purpose flour, and icing sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the egg whites and rose water, then beat with paddle attachment just until everything is incorporated. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure there are no pockets of dry ingredients. Once the brown butter is no longer hot (warm is okay), slowly pour it into the almond and egg white mixture with the mixer on low speed.

Pour the financier batter into the tart ring. Arrange the rhubarb on the financier trimming the ends to fit the tart ring. Sprinkle the vanilla sugar over top the rhubarb. Bake until the batter is golden brown underneath the rhubarb and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few crumbs sticking to it – about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

To finish, dust the tart with sifted icing sugar and serve.

Chocolate Pear Cake

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The recipe of this post comes from Emiko Davie’s Florentine cookbook. It is a one of a kind book that beautifully captures the magic of Florence’s markets, trattorias and streets. Emiko’s writing weaves stories of the city’s history and culture with an authentic collection of meticulous regional Italian recipes that are beautifully captured through photography.

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The Torta di Pera e Cioccolato cake particularly caught my attention since I’ve tried combining both of these ingredients in a dessert before and I was not very impressed with the result. So I decided to give it another try – mainly because Emiko’s recipes are meticulous and so reliable!

This is not a flourless cake as it contains almond flour, and it’s not as decadent as the flourless chocolate tahini recipe I posted a few weeks ago, but it does have a melt in your mouth texture that makes it really hard to just eat one slice. Remember, the quality of chocolate matters significantly – the better the chocolate, the better the cake!

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Recipe from Florentine by Emiko Davies

50g granulated sugar
500ml water
2 medium pears, peeled, cored and cut into eighths lengthways
150g dark chocolate
90g unsalted butter at room temperature, cubed
90g caster (superfine) sugar
90g almond meal
3 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon cocoa powder for dusting cake pan
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Combine the granulated sugar with the water in a saucepan and set over medium heat. Add the pear slices and poach for 10-15 minutes, or until tender but not too soft (a knife should easily penetrate the flesh without any resistance). Drain and let the pear cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Grease a 9″ round springform cake tin and dust with the cocoa powder.
3. Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie. When melted, remove from the heat, add the butter and stir until the butter has melted. Add the caster sugar and almond meal, stirring to combine. When the mixture is cool, add the 3 egg yolks.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to firm peaks, then gently fold them into the chocolate batter. Pour the chocolate mixture into the cake pan. Arrange the pear pieces on the top of the batter, pushing them slightly in. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely before unmolding from the pan and dust with icing sugar before serving.

Sfouf bi Debes (Carob Molasses Cake)

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Sfouf is the most popular recipe on my blog: it’s a semolina anise seed tea cake that’s fluffy, moist, incredibly flavorful and vegan. The baking time is actually longer than the time it takes to mix all the ingredients together; it’s no wonder why it is the most viewed page on this site!

This version of sfouf is made with carob molasses (also known as debes el kharrub in Arabic) instead of refined white sugar. It’s a healthy and popular alternative to regular turmeric sfouf especially during Easter lent.

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Since the carob tree is native to the Mediterranean region, carob molasses is widely consumed in Lebanon. The pods of the carob fruit are mashed with water to release their sugar, then strained and boiled down until a dark thick syrup is formed. In fact it is very common in these regions to make syrups from fruits and there’s an incredible variety ranging from pomegranates, dates, grapes, to mulberry, prickly pears, and figs.

Carob molasses has a very distinctive earthy flavor that’s almost reminiscent of cocoa. That’s why it’s a great alternative to chocolate in many recipes, especially when you taste it in its raw form (I think it looses the rich cocoa taste when baked). So there you have it: an even healthier vegan sfouf cake that’s naturally sweetened. Feel free to experiment with other types of molasses if you can’t find carob at your local food market.

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp tahini paste
1 cup boiling water
2 tsp anise seed
2 cups fine semolina flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup carob molasses
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup toasted white sesame seeds for decoration (you can also substitute with pine nuts or halved blanched almonds)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (355ºF) and grease a 11″ (28cm) round tin pan with the tbsp of tahini.
2. Seep anise seeds in the boiling water for 5 minutes, then strain and set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, toast the white sesame seeds in a non stick pan on medium high heat until fragrant and barely golden. Set aside to cool.
4. In a large bowl, mix the fine semolina, flour, baking powder, and ground anise seeds until homogeneous.
5. Slowly add the anise tea, carob molasses, and vegetable oil to the dry ingredients and mix until no lumps remain. The batter will be slightly thick.
6. Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with sesame seeds.

7. Bake for 30-35 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

9. Let cool in the pan completely before inverting onto a wire rack.
10. Cut into square or diamond shapes, and store in an airtight container (cake can be frozen up to 3 months).

Flourless Chocolate Tahini Soufflé Cake

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I have a particular weakness for flourless chocolate cakes. All you need to make this incredibly rich dessert is high quality bittersweet chocolate, sugar and eggs – that’s it! It’s simple enough to bake in under an hour yet fancy enough to impress your friends. When done right (I’m talking about whisking the eggs and gently folding in the ingredients), the intense chocolate flavor shines though a lightly textured center with a crackling crisp top and chewy edges.

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Recently, I’ve begun tampering with Claire Ptak’s chocolate sunken soufflé cake and I found that the addition of tahini to the cake batter takes it to a whole other level. The creamy tahini turns the originally dense cake into a silky and velvety consistency that melts in your mouth. Don’t worry about the savory/nutty notes of tahini, they’re very subtle and do not overpower the indulgent chocolate flavor.

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Recipe adapted from The Violet Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients:
100g bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
100g dark chocolate (85% cocoa solids)
150g unsalted butter, cut into large cubes
60ml (4 Tbsp) high quality tahini
4 eggs separated, at room temperature
160g caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Dutch processed cocoa powder (for dusting on top)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Butter a 9″ (23cm) springform cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and stir occasionally. Once they’re melted, remove the pan from the heat but keep the bowl over the pan of water to keep it warm. Stir in the tahini.
3. Measure 75g of sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg yolks, and whisk for 4 minutes on medium high speed until the mixture has doubled in volume.
4. Set the bowl of melted chocolate on your work surface and gently fold in the whisked yolks. Do not mix until homogeneous, the mixture should be marbly.
5. Wash the mixer bowl, dry thoroughly and add the rest of the sugar (75g) with the egg whites. Whisk on high speed until medium-soft peaks form (do not over-whip). Then fold the whites into the chocolate until just mixed. Slowly pour the batter into the cake pan.
6. Bake for 25 minutes, until the top of the cake is puffed and just started to crack. Place the cake pan on a wire rack and let it cool for 20 minutes. To serve, remove the sides of the pan and slide the warm cake on a plate. Dust with cocoa powder.