If you asked me how baking first entered my life, I’ll have to tell you that my first memories of baking involved a pound cake.
More specifically, it involved me sitting by the kitchen door, watching as my mum made her version of pound cake, with decadent amounts of butter, vanilla essence and freshly grated orange zest, which left the house lingering with a fragrance like that on your fingers after you’ve peeled an orange, only a whole lot stronger.
I don’t remember much about the process of assembling the ingredients and eventually popping the batter into the oven; but what I have ingrained in my mind is a loaf of cake, golden brown on the outside and then once greedily sliced open, showed off a bright yellow crumb threaded with tiny bits of curled orange zest.
Whenever my mum baked this cake, I would wolf down slices of this tea-time/breakfast-time favorite; it went delicious with tea, as it did with just water.
You could safely say that it was among one of the first cakes to make it to my “Favorite Cakes” list. This was a cake that to my young mind and hungry stomach met all the pre-requisites to be considered delicious – it was fragrant, with taste that would match or even beat the aroma, and it had texture but was moist at the very same time.
What I didn’t know then, when I was about six or seven or eight, greedily stuffing down pieces of freshly-baked pound cake into my pudgy little mouth, was that eventually when I would finally get interested in baking for the first time ever, at age twenty seven, the pound cake would be one of the first baked goods to come out of my oven. It wasn’t my mum’s recipe I used, but one that Juan’s mum had relied on for years, and one that I now lean back upon as a base from which I swap and add ingredients to create other versions of cake.
You might imagine, and very rightly so, that because of the memories that pound cake brings to my mind, any cake that is vaguely similar to a pound cake, especially one that takes me back to my childhood, is dear to me.
It’d been a while since I made one, and very soon after I made my end-of-year resolution in early November – “More olive oil, Less butter” – fortune would have it that I would chance upon a cake that resembled that from my childhood, only this time, instead of butter, we’d be using olive oil.
If you’ve just jerked back from your computer in shock and horror, I forgive you – I probably had the same reaction when I first saw a recipe for an olive oil cake a year ago.
At that point, I was of the stern opinion that olive oil was to be used only in savory recipes – you know, to dip breads in, or for cooking in the pan. But somehow, during the course of this year, my mindset has significantly widened, and when I saw Lan’s calamansi olive oil bread, I immediately thought of making it, but with lemon instead.
Despite my apprehension about how the taste of olive oil would interfere with the taste of the cake, I courageously plunged ahead to make this cake.
(I’m currently in a creative, open-to-new-ingredients phase and recipes which venture off the beaten path tend to hold my interest.)
I’ve read in a few places that the trick to prevent the olive oil from overwhelming other flavors is to use one that is milder in taste. I find that sometimes, the cheaper olive oils, usually labeled “light olive oil”, which are made from refined olive oil, have the most neutral taste. So if that helps, go for it, unless you like your olive oil to taste a little stronger.
I know there’s a huge debate about whether or not olive oil should be used in cakes – the other day, in response to a question I posted on Facebook – “Olive oil cakes, yes or no?”, readers replied with extreme answers, all of which fell into either “Definitely, yes!” or “No way!” categories.
There was no in-between. I suppose olive oil cakes are one of those types of “love it or hate it” foods.
But while it draws a lot of discussion and debate, the use of olive oil in baking has apparently existed for centuries. Best of all, the health benefits of using olive oil far outweighs the use of butter – olive oil has reduced cholesterol and less saturated fat content than butter; it also produces lighter-tasting foods and allows the flavor of the other ingredients to stand out. But in my opinion, the most important result of using olive oil, is that olive oil’s vitamin E content naturally keeps baked goods fresh and moist.
So you’re wondering how it turned out?
Now’s the time for you to breathe a huge sigh of relief, just as I did when I first tasted the cake.
The end result was a really moist crumb; a delight to taste because I really hate dry cakes.
There was a subtle hint of olive oil somewhere in the cake, but the lemon flavor really shone, both in the aroma and in the taste, and you could say I was mighty pleased with how it turned out.
It’s the sort of cake that is fragile but so deliciously moist, the kind that goes best with a cup of hot tea on a lazy afternoon as you curl up on the couch with a book. It’s the type of cake that brings back memories of a childhood in the distant past.
It’s the kind of cake that takes baking and eating cakes to a whole new level. Bon Appétit!
LEMON OLIVE OIL CAKE (Makes 1 loaf)
Adapted from More Stomach
1) 200g of sugar
2) 2 eggs
3) Pinch of salt
4) 2/3 cups of milk (any milk you like)
5) 2/3 cup of olive oil (For a more neutral taste, it’s best to use an olive oil which is labeled “light”. I prefer using normal olive oil instead of extra virgin olive oil)
6) Juice and zest of 1 lemon
7) 1 1/3 cup of plain flour
8) 2/3 tablespoon of baking powder
1) Pre-heat oven to 180 deg cel
2) Mix sugar, eggs and the pinch of salt tEogether until combined
3) In another bowl, mix the milk, olive oil, lemon juice together
4) Slowly add olive oil mixture together with egg mixture, then mix in the dry ingredients (flour and baking powder), until homogeneously combined
5) Grease a bread loaf mold, then pour the batter into the bread loaf and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick poked in the middle comes out clean
6) Allow cake to cool before removing from mold
*Note: Keeps for a week in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap