We have a long running—about a decade—tradition with our friend, Craig, to have dinner at his house on the “Eve of the Eve” (the night before Christmas Eve). This year, our plans came together a bit later than usual, so I found myself faced with the same dilemma as at Thanksgiving with the Momofuku Brownie Pie: What can I make without having to go back to the grocery store again?
I also really was hoping to use up some of the extra holiday baking supplies I had on hand, meaning tons of sugar, butter, cream and milk. Craig’s a great cook and he’s also been really exemplary about eating healthier, so I wanted to make something a bit on the lighter side. I pored through all the BAKED cookbooks and started in on the Bouchon Bakery cookbook when I found it: Olive Oil Cake.
I made Blood Orange Olive Oil ice cream earlier this year with good success. Olive oil as an ingredient in desserts sounds strange to people, but, like mayonnaise (eggs and oil), it’s really just at heart an essential component of baking: fat.
So, instead of using butter, this cake uses olive oil. The Bouchon recipe calls for regular olive oil, but I opted for using my favorite blood orange-infused oil, like with the ice cream, for extra flavor.
Reminder: Cooking by the Book posts are meant to be companions to the original recipe, not a substitute. As long as the book is still in print, I won’t be copying the recipe here for you. See here for why.
Before You Start (Regarding Ingredients)
Nothing strange needed here. Olive oil may not seem like a natural ingredient to you, but it replaces the butter and is something you’re bound to have on hand. Good quality is key, though, so I do recommend splurging for some good stuff and even a specialty infused one, like the blood orange oil I used. I plan on making this a go-to recipe in the future because it’s so simple, and I want to see what other interesting flavors of olive oil I can experiment with.
Also very simple. I hope the other Bouchon Bakery recipes are this simple, but I kind of doubt it. The directions are quite helpfully clear about what you should be looking at in the mixing bowl at given stages in the process.
One note, though. While the cookbook does provide measurements in cups, tablespoons, etc., its “native” measurement is by weight, since it’s a professional bakery book. Weight is way more accurate and I swear this is the year I go buy myself a scale. Anyway, because the weights don’t translate into nice even cups or tablespoons, you end up having to measure out things like two tablespoons plus two-eights teaspoons.
The recipe also calls for three tablespoons of mixed, then strained, egg. According to the book, whisking then straining the egg ensures that you’re working with nice, clean egg (none of the gunky stubborn egg white bits that clump up and look gross). Good point. (I tried it when I made a batch of lime curd and it worked wonders.) At any rate, roughly speaking, three tablespoons of egg is about equivalent to one large egg, whisked and strained. In case you’re like me and don’t have a kitchen scale.
Fantastic! Like I said, I’m planning on making this a go-to recipe. It’s simple, quick, elegant and looks more involved than it really is.
I did two different preparations of this cake for three different occasions in one week. (So that should tell you how easy and tasty it is.) The first time I made it, for our Christmas Eve Eve dinner, I did a layered cake with Caracara ginger marmalade between the layers, topped with PAMA liqueur glaze. (Also based on a Bouchon Bakery recipe for cherry glaze.)
I really liked the flavors of this—sweet, tangy orange; spicy ginger; tart pomegranate; the richness of the cake—as a holiday dessert. I made it the night before, so when we took it to dinner it wasn’t quite as spiffy as it was when I made it. The marmalade got a bit drippy and oozy.
I did a more refined presentation for the other two dinners, cutting the cake into scallop-edged rounds with a biscuit cutter.
Should I try this recipe? Yes! It’s easy and great for dinner parties when you don’t have a lot of time for fussing around in the kitchen but you want people to think you worked harder than you did.
Difficulty: 1 out of 5
Should I buy the book? At this point, I really can’t say. This recipe was really easy, and so was the recipe for making the cherry glaze (which I turned into the PAMA glaze on my cakes). But as I flipped through the book looking for something to make, it seemed like there were quite a few I felt were out of my comfort zone. I’ll be trying more over time so check back for future posts and thoughts.
by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel
Retail List Price: $50.00
400 pages, hardcover
Clarkson Potter (October 2012)