Sunday, May 31, 2015

Apricot & Almond Olive Oil Cake

This past month I blasted the blog with gluten-free recipes galore. I tried to cover all occasions.

For your everyday, I made Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. I pack these in the morning and can't wait to eat them. They're full of great ingredients and a sinch to make.

I made Flourless Chocolate Pear & Hazelnut Cake to impress your dinner guests - not only the special ones.

There were Freakin' Fudgy Gluten-Free Brownies that are the definition of fudgy. You might even replace your go-to brownie recipe.

And finally, the BEST Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Cookies because you just need to have these in your life.

Now I'm back baking with wheat and thought I'd also give my chocolate stash and my butter bank a break! Apricots are coming into season and they are a beaut to bake with. Gently cooked apricots take on a gnarly jammy flavour and retain their moist, almost creamy texture.

This is a Southern Italian recipe featuring olive oil instead of butter. The baked cake has a super moist and spongy texture and comes together in minutes. It's a one-bowl + one saucepan deal. 

Almonds make a very welcome presence in this recipe. They pair wonderfully with stone fruits like cherries and plums - apricots are no exception.

Chillin' in the background of the olive oil (I use extra virgin) are perfumes of lemon and vanilla bean. To get the most of these flavours, we need to infuse them into milk and let it steep. It needs to cool before we combine it with the rest of the ingredients to make a smooth and silky batter.

This cake really couldn't get more Italian with all its Mediterranean flavours. It is bright and light and suited to breakfast, brunch or dessert. I'd serve it with some Greek yogurt or ricotta and a drizzle of honey, or some vanilla bean ice cream.

Try to use apricots that are on the larger side so that the slices take up more surface area and don't get buried by the batter as they sink into it during baking. Although, who could blame them for sinking too deep - I'd like to sink right in myself...

And no need to poke them in, because of the sinking thing... you know? Just lay them on the surface and it will all take care of itself.

As much as I adore butter, olive oil (and any liquid oil in general) has the advantage of staying liquid at cold temperatures so that you can refrigerate this cake and it will still be soft and moist straight from the chiller. It keeps well for about a week. But, I'm not sure if that matters because it doesn't normally live to see the third day. Sorry cake, I'm hungry.


Apricot & Almond Olive Oil Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake

¾ cup plus 2 tbsp (175g) sugar
1 cup (230 ml) milk
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp (100 ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups (190 g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (25g) ground almonds
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda 
¼ tsp salt
5-6 apricots, cut into quarters

flaked almonds, for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C. Lightly butter and flour a 9x9 inch round springform cake pan and line the base with parchment paper.

Place the sugar, milk, lemon zest and scraped vanilla bean seeds with the pod in a medium saucepan over low heat and bring just barely to a simmer while stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Do not let it boil. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for 15 minutes to infuse and cool down.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk through ground almonds. Add the olive oil, beaten eggs and cooled milk mixture and whisk gently to form a smooth batter. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and arrange the apricot quarters on top any way you like. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and bake for 30–35 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing the sides and leaving to cool completely. 

If you are using very small apricots, they may plummet to the bottom of the tin during baking. To avoid this, make a double layer of apricot quarters.
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