Before making this cake, I had never had olive oil cake (which heralds from Italy) but I have baked with olive oil before with grand results.  Personally, I don’t mind the strong taste of olive oil in my baked goods and find that it goes especially well with citrus (just like a good salad dressing).  I consulted the web for a recipe but finally settled on my old faithful: Marcella Hazan’s legendary Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking as my guide.  Marcella talks about the area north of Verona (where Shakespeare set Romeo and Juliet) where the stonemasons co-mingle with grape and olive farmers.  Her recipe comes from a trattoria there.  I adapted it to my pantry contents this weekend (no eggs or Marsala wine in the house).   The end result of baking is a sunny colored cake rich with olive oil and just barely sweet.

While glazing this cake I was also reminded of another cake I have salivated over (but haven’t made yet) in Amanda Hesser’s Cooking with Mr. Latte; a pound cake that has been dipped in vanilla syrup from the Hi-Rise Bakery in Boston.  I love the idea of brushing a cake with syrup and having it soak in, creating another flavor level.  I served my cake with strawberries and ricotta whipped cream at a recent family dinner.  My dad really liked the cake and compared it to his mother’s famous Passover sponge cake.

Olive Oil Cake

Preheat oven to 400F and grease a bundt pan with some olive oil or butter

1 ripe banana
2 tblsp. yogurt
1/2 c. + 1 tblsp. maple syrup
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. milk or almond milk
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 tblsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. white whole wheat flour

In a mixing bowl combine the banana, yogurt, agave, orange zest, vanilla, and whisk until  smooth.  Combine the baking soda and flour together in a small bowl, add the to wet ingredients , and stir until fully incorporated.  Bake in upper third of oven for 45 minutes.  Cool for 15 minutes and unmold.  Cool the rest of the way before serving.  Brush with Blood Orange Syrup (recipe here:http://testkitchenette.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/feta-ice-cream-with-blood-orange-mint-syrup/ ) and top with ricotta whipped cream.  You can omit the mint from the syrup.  You’ll want to brush the cake a few times with the syrup and wait a bit so each time it soaks in.

Ricotta Whipped Cream

1/2 pint whipping cream
1/3 c. best quality ricotta cheese
1 tblsp.maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Whip the cream until soft peaks form.  Fold in ricotta, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Spoon over cake.

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