If you've never used really fruity extra virgin olive oil as the fat component of a cake, stop what you're doing and pay attention. If you don't like the taste of really fruity extra virgin olive oil, move along; there is nothing here for you today. For those of you who began to salivate at the first mention of olive oil, read on. This one's for you.
While I often think of lemons as a winter fruit--something to give me a little burst of sunshine in the cold, dark days of December and January, adding an herbal note fast-forwards them to Springtime. I've always made these with plain old lemons, but if you have some Meyer lemons just lying about, by all means snap them up and use them. You could also substitute grapefruit juice or orange juice. Change up the herbs, if you want to, as well. Mint, tarragon, thyme, lavender--or even use judicious amounts of rosemary or sage.
The template is simple citrus+herbs+separated egg foam method.
Here's how it goes
Lemon Verbena Olive Oil Cake
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- juice of 1 1/2 large lemons (just under 1/4 cup juice)
- zest of 2 lemons
- 15 leaves lemon verbena, minced
- 5 egg yolks
- heavy pinch of salt
- 4 egg whites
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup cake flour, sifted
Combine the olive oil and the lemon juice and set aside in a liquid measure.
With the whip attachment, whip yolks, salt and 1/2 sugar until very light, thick and billowy.
Still whisking on medium speed, slowly stream in the oil/juice mixture. Whisk in the zest and lemon verbena leaves.
Whisk the whites with the other half of the sugar to medium peaks.
Fold the whites and the sifted flour together gently but thoroughly. The batter should be very light and poufy.
Spoon into a greased 8" cake pan and smooth the top a little. Sprinkle with some sugar--white or demerara, whatever you have--bake at 350 degrees until light golden brown on top and well risen. Depending on your oven, this could take between 20-35 minutes. Keep an eye on it, but don't open the oven or your lovely cake won't rise as high as it could. At the restaurant, we used to bake these in extra-mini loaf pans--probably about 2" wide by 4" long by maybe 1" deep, and they took 16 minutes to bake, just for reference.
Serve this little guy warm or at room temperature. He's quite lovely if you hit him with some powdered sugar. The cake will hold a day or two at room temperature. To make sure he stayed nice and moist, we used to make a lemon verbena simple syrup to brush onto him before reheating.
This recipe doubles very easily, so if you want to make a larger cake, feel free to double up. And that's really all I have to say about that.