Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
My friend and colleague, Stephanie, is one of my favorite people to talk food with. We cover our latest kitchen conquests, swap recipes, discuss celebrity chefs and TV shows, share articles and more. On her birthday, we got chatting about favorite cakes. We both prefer pastries, cookies and other desserts over cake, so when we find a great cake recipe, it’s something particularly exciting.
Stephanie brought in her Torta di Cioccolato di Olio di Oliva, Chocolate Olive Oil Cake, and I was sold from the first bite. She was kind enough to let me borrow her copy of “Ciao Italia in Umbria: Recipes and Reflections from the Heart of Italy,” by Mary Ann Esposito, to get the recipe. (By the way, it’s a lovely book with inspiring recipes and interesting, relevant vignettes throughout.) I was pleasantly surprised to see how simple and straightforward this cake is from start to finish. How delightful — it’s so tasty and easy to make. Even if you are a cake novice, you can do this. Here it is:
Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
Torta di Cioccolato di Olio di Oliva
For the cake
3 c. white, unbleached, all-purpose flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill and it is perfect for baking)
2 c. sugar
6 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Droste, available at Premier Gourmet; also would recommend Ghirardelli or Perugina, if you can find it)
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. Colavita™ Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 c. cold water
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature (recipe calls for Philadelphia Lite; I used one regular and one light)
3 1/2 to 4 c. confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon oil (also available at Premier Gourmet) or 1 tbsp. almond extract
- Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. With a hand mixer on low speed beat in the oil, vinegar, vanilla and water until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared pans.
- Bake for 30 mins., or until a cake skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Do not overbake the cake. It should be firm to the touch, and a cake skewer inserted in the middle of the cake should come out clean.
- Put the cake pans on cooling racks and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans to cool completely. Frost when cool with frosting below.
- Beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth; gradually add in enough of the sugar to make a smooth frosting that is not runny. Stir in the cinnamon oil or the almond extract.
- (Ensure cake is completely cooled!) Frost the cake layers.
- Cut the cake into wedges to serve.
Okay, so what’s so special about this cake? I’ll give you my top three reasons and guess they would be your answers too. Super moist. Decadent, rich chocolate taste. Impossibly smooth cream cheese frosting, bursting with a kick.
If you like the flavor of cinnamon, as in cinnamon candy and Vietnamese cinnamon, not just the regular brown ground stuff — this version is a must. It creates a very different flavor, unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, but provides a senses awakening, satisfying complement to the chocolate. Even if you’re unsure, I highly recommend giving it a try, as you should try anything at least once.
But be careful with that cinnamon oil because a little goes a very long way. When I told my family how little was used to make the frosting for the entire cake, they could not believe it. Oil and extract are two quite different things when it comes to potency. I also love almond flavor of any sort, so I plan to try the cake with that frosting as well.
However you end up making this cake, just make it and enjoy it. Bring it to a party and people will offer audible confirmation that they’re enjoying every bite. Everyone will ask, “What is that?” as they contemplate the secret ingredient for a second before it comes to them — cinnamon! Serve it as a birthday cake, as I did, and your guests will love that it might look like vanilla frosted chocolate cake, but it’s so much more. Also, it’s nut-free if you do the cinnamon version, so no allergy concerns.
Bonus: it tastes even better the second, third and fourth day in the refrigerator, so you can make it ahead and truly enjoy leftovers. Just be sure to bring the cake up to room temperature before serving.
This is without a doubt my new favorite chocolate cake. It’s a lick-the-batter-bowl-and-plate recipe. You’ve been warned.