Rosemary Olive Oil Cakes

When I made these cakes, Ryan said, “another olive oil cake!?”  But what can I say? I love olive oil cakes like dry roots love rain (to steal a simile from the poet Carl Sandburg). Not that I recall having made that many olive oil cakes for Ryan, but perhaps just one was enough to satisfy him, whereas I could eat one everyday for breakfast and never be sick of them.

I needed to make something comforting to cheer myself up over the weekend. I tend to have bouts of generalized anxiety about the world, the environment, our food system, and all the wrongs that I can’t possibly control. Even though I know I do my best to be part of the solution, it’s hard not to be clubbed in the head by depressing headlines, traffic jams, unseasonable heat, and pollution that makes it hard for me to breathe.

Cakes are a good distraction for worrying times because they require focus and naturally bring the mind back to the present moment. I think this is true for most cooking projects, actually, and that’s why so many people are returning to the kitchen; it’s comforting to make something with your own hands, and have immediate, nourishing results.

I love this cake in particular because it uses almond meal and rice flour instead of wheat flour. In this country where wheat constitutes so much of our diet, it’s nice to switch up our grains. I adapted this recipe from Alice Medrich’s great book, Flavor Flours. I substituted the butter in her almond butter cake for extra virgin olive oil, and accentuated the subtle flavor of the almond meal with a little almond and citrus extract. Finally, I added a touch of rosemary, which- combined with the citrus- perfumes the cakes in the most delicious way.

Rosemary Olive Oil Cakes

Adapted from Flavor Flours, by Alice Medrich.

Makes 12 cakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups (360 grams) white rice flour
  • 1 cup (100 grams) almond flour/meal
  • 2 cups minus 3 tablespoons (360 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup (360 grams) extra virgin olive oil (use a liquid measuring cup!)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 cup plain yogurt or slightly watered down Greek yogurt
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon extract
  • Coarse sanding sugar, if desired

Directions:

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the sides of two 6 cup large muffin tins well with extra virgin olive oil. If you are nervous about your cakes sticking, you can line the pans with cupcake liners. (I didn’t and had no problem getting my cakes out.)
  2. Combine the rice and almond flours, sugar, butter, and salt in the bowl of a standup mixer and beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until the mixture is the texture of brown sugar, about a minute. Add the baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, yogurt, extracts, rosemary, and eggs, and beat on medium-high speed for at least 2 minutes; the batter should be very smooth and fluffy. (Remember, you don’t have to worry about overbeating, because the cake contains no wheat flour, and thus no gluten.)
  3. Scoop the batter into the prepared pans, filling each muffin cup only about half way. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, if using. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate, and then bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the cakes are risen and well-browned, and spring back a little when touched gently on top. You can also use a toothpick inserted into the top of one of the cakes to test them; they’re done when the toothpick comes out clean and dry.
  4. When they’re done, place the tins on racks to cool for 10 minutes. Then slide a thin knife or offset spatula around the edges of each cake to detach it from the pan. Gently remove each cake from the pan and place on a rack to finish cooling. If desired, place a small sprig of rosemary on each cake before serving.