Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lemony Buttermilk Olive Oil Cake

Funny the food you come up with because you need to use up some random ingredient. For me, it always seems to happen when I have buttermilk in my fridge. It would be so wonderful if the companies that package it would come up with a little carton--like the size of the ones that held milk at my elementary school cafeteria. But they don't and I hate to waste so then I'm off and running (often back to the market) to make something else with the remaining buttermilk.

As a result of recent cornbread with buttermilk, I had most of a pint left. I brined chicken with some but still have a good amount remaining. I started randomly googling buttermilk and saw cakes. Oh. How about pound cake? Oh, but all that butter (which I love, but still). Well then, how about substituting olive oil for the butter? (And does that mean it's no longer a pound cake?) I have a bumper crop of Meyer lemons so I could add lemon zest to the batter and, ah, that gorgeous bottle of homemade vanilla that Robin Ross of Cupcakes Squared gave me. That would taste wonderful.

As you can see I was off and running. I did a little research to get a sense of how much oil I needed to substitute for the butter and it was just a matter of mixing it all together--then sprinkling some sugar on the top of the batter to get a nice crispy crunchy top.

All this is to say that if you're a home cook who feels comfortable riffing on chicken dishes or pasta dishes but believes you have to go strictly by the book with cakes, well, I'm like you--but I can now say I feel more comfortable taking some liberties with baking recipes.

The cake rose tall in the large loaf pan and was wonderfully moist. It had a nice lemony aroma and flavor. The buttermilk complemented the citrus with its tangy flavor and richness. For those who haven't had a great experience baking with olive oil, I guess it depends on what kind of olive oil you use. A young, very grassy oil may give you a little too much bitterness. But a more mature oil is actually more buttery in flavor and plays well in a cake--and, especially this cake.

You'll get a lot of slices out of this and it is rich. The good news is that it also freezes well.

And take advantage of the season by mashing ripe berries, adding a little Cointreau and sugar (if necessary) to top the cake slice when you serve it.

Lemony Buttermilk Olive Oil Cake
(printable recipe)
Yield: 1 loaf

13.5 ounces all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups low-fat buttermilk
Baking spray
1 ½ tablespoons sugar


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and whisk together.

Place sugar, olive oil, and vanilla in bowl of stand mixer and beat at medium speed until thoroughly blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each one.  Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour mixture.

Spoon batter into a large (9 ½” by 5 ½”) loaf pan, coated with baking spray. Sprinkle top with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Cool pan on wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then run a thin knife around the edges of the pan and remove the cake. Continue cooling on the wire rack until it reaches room temperature.

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