Sit with me. Let me pour you a cup of tea. There are fragments of a warm autumn afternoon light playing on the table, among the teacups. It’s an everyday afternoon, but we will make it stand out just by choosing your favourite cup, just by stealing ten minutes in the unstoppable flowing of time, just by slicing an apple olive oil cake.
It looks like one of those cakes that you can buy at the local bakery, shimmering on the surface, a pattern of crescent shaped apple slices. A subtle aroma of apples and cardamom lingering in the house reveals the truth, though: you just baked that apple cake, you whisked the ingredients pouring in an herbaceous olive oil, a pinch of cardamom, handfuls of apple slices.
You made that pattern by carefully arranging more apple slices on top, one next to the other, as if they wanted to protect themselves from a cold wind, standing shoulder to shoulder. A tablespoon of apricot jam, diluted in hot water and simmered on the stovetop, is the final polish for your apple carpet. It captures the light and reflects it.
It’s always handy to have an apple olive oil cake in your cooking repertoire.
Months ago I decided to share these recipes, staples of a Tuscan repertoire, analyzing the ingredients and the process with plenty of details so that, if you want, you’ll be able to include them into your collection and make Tuscan cooking your signature style.
You can dress it up for a dinner party: serve a slice of warm apple cake with a scoop of vanilla gelato, a cloud of whipped cream or a drizzle of custard. Wrap in foil a slice of cake for a school break or an office break. Bake the olive oil apple cake on a Sunday and enjoy it for breakfast on the first days of the week with a strong coffee or a cappuccino. Keep a slice of cake for an afternoon tea: you don’t need to set a table with china and a lace tablecloth. Choose your favourite tea, brew it and have a well deserved break with a slice of cake.
Extra virgin olive oil.
This is my favourite ingredient, something that in my book deserves a little investment as it can completely uplift your cooking. I cook with extra virgin olive oil, fry with it, bake with it. If you don’t feel like using extra virgin olive oil you can substitute it with a cold pressed sunflower seed oil or a rice oil, which have definitely a more delicate taste.
I am used to the aroma of olive oil in a cake, and I do appreciate it, especially when paired with lemon juice, as in this cake: it gives the most humble apple cake a Mediterranean twist.
I usually bake with gala apples, but feel free to choose the apples you prefer. The best apples are those that sit in the bowl on your kitchen counter. This is quite an apple loaded cake, as there are three thinly sliced in the batter and one on the top, so you’ll have a moist cake which will keep well for a few days, even on your kitchen counter.
It is not a Tuscan spice, on this we can agree. Usually apple cakes are spiced up with cinnamon or vanilla, but my sister literally hates cinnamon, so I’ve been using cardamom a lot, especially as I love to share a slice of cake and a cup of tea with her when she comes back from work in the afternoon. Again, feel free to experiment and choose your signature spice. Always opt for natural flavourings such as a real vanilla pod, grated zest of lemon or orange, spices… and avoid chemical essences.
Apple olive oil cake
And now, the recipe. Try it, make it yours, scrape the batter in your worn-out cake mould (I am sure you have one, I still use my grandma’s one and it’s the best), bake it in your family, share it with your friends. Then, if you want, come back here and let me know how you like it and how you changed it to meet your taste.
Apple olive oil cake
- 4 apples
- 1 lemon juice
- 4 medium eggs
- 180 g 3/4 cup - 6,3 oz of sugar + 2 tablespoons for the apples
- 120 ml 1/2 cup - 4 fl oz of extra virgin olive oil
- 240 g 1 34 cup - 8,4 oz cake flour
- 8 g (1 3/4 teaspoon - of baking powder
- ½ teaspoon of cardamom powder
- 1 pinch of salt
- Butter to grease the cake mould
- 2 tablespoons of apricot jam
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Peel, core and slice three apples. Put aside the fourth apple, you’ll need it later. Collect them in a bowl, drizzle them with the juice of a lemon and sprinkle them with two tablespoons of sugar. Give them a quick stir and put aside.
- Whip eggs and sugar until light and foamy. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil, then fold in the flour sifted with baking powder, cardamom and salt.
- Now add the apples, pouring in also the lemon juice left in the bowl. Fold gently to apples into the batter.
- Grease a 26 cm round cake mould with a knob of butter and dust it with flour. Scrape the batter into the cake mould and smooth the surface with a spatula.
- Peel core and slice the apple you put aside. Use these apple slices to decorate the surface of the cake, placing them in concentric circles, starting from the outside.
- Bake the cake in a hot oven for about 45-50 minutes, checking if the cake is done with a toothpick: when you insert it in the centre of the cake it should come out clean.
- Once ready, remove the cake from the oven, allowing it a few minutes to cool down on a wire rack, then remove it from the cake mould and place it on a plate.
- Dissolve the apricot jam in a saucepan with two tablespoons of water, warming it on low heat until it starts to boil. Brush the cake with the apricot glaze. Let it cool down completely before slicing it.
- It keeps well for a few days on your kitchen counter, simply covered with a paper napkin or a kitchen towel.
An apple olive oil cake in your cooking repertoire
After reading Cooking for Mr. Latte, by Amanda Hesser, I fell in love with the concept of having a cooking repertoire, and I decided to share here on the blog these recipes, staples of a Tuscan repertoire, analysing the ingredients and the process with plenty of details so that, if you want, you’ll be able to include them into your collection and make Tuscan cooking your signature style.
I chose these recipes not to impress, but to nourish, and because, using Amanda Hesser’s words, they would express my true sensibility as a cook, not my ambition.
All the recipes of my cooking repertoire
These are all the recipes I added so far into my cooking repertoire. This is an ever growing list, an always expanding collection which represents the way I live Tuscan food and cooking. Have you already tried something?
- Crespelle alla fiorentina. It is a handy recipe to learn as you can vary the filling according to the season: asparagus, artichokes and butternut squash are some of my favourites along with spinach and Swiss chard. You can mix the vegetables with fresh milky ricotta or add some béchamel into the filling. Cheese is a welcomed ingredient: Parmigiano Reggiano, Tuscan or Roman Pecorino, ricotta salata, or any other savoury aged cheese that you would happily grate over your pasta.
- Ricotta and Tuscan kale gnudi. There are two crucial ingredients here which can help you ease the anxiety while waiting for your gnudi to float tot the top: ricotta and cavolo nero, the Tuscan kale. Use a well-drained ricotta and squeeze very well the cooked kale. Once you make this, they will be your next success in the kitchen.
- Tuscan ragù. The Tuscan ragù is cooked with red wine, poured in little by little, and with tomato purée (just tomatoes that have been peeled and blended into a sauce), even better if it is your home made tomato purée, made during the heat of summer. To give more character to the ragù and have a more rustic sauce, sometimes I prefer to replace the passata with the same weight of peeled tomatoes, roughly crushed with my hands.
Main courses and side dishes
- Beef and eggplant meatballs. According to the season, you can substitute roasted eggplants with boiled potatoes, roasted butternut squash or breadcrumbs soaked in milk. I usually choose between grated Parmigiano Reggiano, aged Pecorino or Provolone to add flavour to the meat, sometimes adding brined capers, too. This time I opted for Parmigiano, along with a pinch of dry oregano to give a mediterranean touch.
- Stuffed turkey breast. One of the recipes that my mum taught me and that I immediately associate with Sunday lunches is the stuffed turkey breast, roasted on the stovetop and not in the oven. It is a humble dish, but it has an enormous potential.
- Baked eggplants. Colours and textures of that once loved recipe surfaced along with the ingredients: eggplants of course, either the round purple ones or those thin long ones, then breadcrumbs, parsley, capers, garlic and some grated Parmigiano. There it was, my forgiving recipe, thick slices of eggplants topped with boldly flavoured breadcrumbs, roasted in the oven until golden and crisp.
- Italian potato salad. So a potato salad, which I had overlooked for years, becomes a distinguishing element of a menu, especially if you dress it with an Italian twist, with wild fennel, capers and olives. You can find the same aromas in a roasted pork loin with olive oil and wine, or in the baked eggplants that you are planing to serve as an appetiser.
- Coffee and vanilla pound cake. A versatile recipe to make a pound cake with the ingredients you have at hand, with a detailed explanation of the four macro categories of ingredients you can use, plus a recipe for a vanilla pound cake marbled with coffee, designed to wake you up in the morning. Use white farro flour, white sugar and dark cane sugar, Greek yogurt and butter.
- Ricotta crumb cake. I still have to decide if I prefer the cake warm from the oven, or after a few hours of fridge. This ricotta crumb cake is an unmissable summer cake, and I’ll let you decide when to serve it, if you are in hurry or armed by adamant patience.
- Apparently Ottolenghi has a recipe for an apple olive oil cake in his latest cookbook, with a maple frosting, too. I discovered the recipe in Megan’s blog, A sweet spoonful.
- Aran has a recipe for a gluten free apple, olive oil and yoghurt cake, and she has also a stunning video for that!
- A very unusual apple cake, parsnip and apple breakfast cake by Miss Foodwise.
- I read this article and suddenly I felt less of a failure in trying to balance work and life. Yet shift it must. Change it must. For “balance” implies stasis – and stasis is antithetical to the creative life.
- On a side note, a few months ago I answered a request by MyHeritage to have my DNA tested, I was so curious. Finally I got my results! I am mainly Mediterranean, a clear 87,7%: no suspect, though a 42% from Greece explains my love for tzatziki, sirtaki and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This test also reveals what I have always suspected, too: I have a fraction of Irish, Scottish and Welsh blood in my veins, and this explains so many things, like, a lot!