Individual Lemon Olive Oil Cakes & Raspberry Thyme Glaze

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hello! I've missed my time here! After a much needed break from the holiday whirlwind, it is about that time to get back to work over here. Not that I haven't been absolutely swamped doing other things... besides chasing down a ten month old baby who is attempting to walk already, I'm excited to report that I had my first official launch for Elevated Comfort, LLC in St. Louis last month! I flew out to help host a special dinner for the organizers out in Ferguson. It was an incredible experience both to be in the presence of some of the most passionate young people I've ever met, and to get some hands on work experience doing what I love. I'm hesitant to say that I'm in the "catering" business - something about that word is scary to me - but I am so happy to be taking huge strides in the direction of calling myself a personal chef.

There's more! Some of you may have seen a little buzz on my Twitter and Instagram feeds about my other current project, a joint venture with my friend and fellow food blogger Resha over at Carnal Dish. We have teamed up to launch For The Love of Brunch, and our first event will be on Valentine's Day! The menu is ridiculous - biscuits for days - and we're already deep into planning the next brunch while this one goes down. It's huge to both of us to finally have an opportunity to feed some people locally and we can't wait to be in a position to take this thing on the road and host brunches in other cities too. Resha and I are both avid home cooks, so it's a dope partnership to be able to share that creative outlet with a person who has a similar outlook on food.

As if that wasn't enough on my plate, I also finally got the things that I needed in place to start churning out my first cookbook. After much thought and consideration, I have opted to go the self-publishing route. It's been a bit of heartache - okay, massive ulcer - which I'm sure is absolutely normal for this sort of thing. Since the holidays, I've been tinkering around with a new camera, laptop, and photography applications which means my workflow has been turned upside down. As a control freak, that's a bit of a source of anxiety for me that other creatives might understand. But, progress will soon be made and I will be able to get the first volume of the Elevated Comfort recipe collection into your hands. My goal is still to have this out sometime in February, but nevertheless it is on its way! Many of you have seen sneak peaks of my photos as I do the final shoots for the completed recipes, and I'm so encouraged by your support and excitement for the project. Thank you guys, seriously. This one means a lot to me.

For that reason, I wanted to share one of the recipes from the Elevated Comfort collection here with my blog readers. It's just perfect for Valentine's Day, and since dessert seems to be a frequent source of stress I wanted to give y'all an easy one to accomplish. Olive oil cake is one of the quickest, most consistently delicious baked desserts I've learned how to whip up. Keep in mind, that's coming from somebody who is adamantly not a baker. This one is easy though. I'm talking mixing bowl and a whisk easy. I made my first few attempts using Maialino Restaurant's recipe for a full size cake. It's pretty perfect, and I wanted to stay true to the original. In keeping with the "cooking for two" theme of my first Elevated Comfort collection, I decided to utilize my ramekins to make individual olive oil cakes. I also swapped out the orange flavor for lemon in my version to work with the set of ingredients I'm using in the book. The result was a beautifully bright, tender cake that takes minutes to prepare and uses ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen. Don't be fooled by the name, either. While you do want to use the best olive oil you can, the flavor of the cake is similar to a very moist yellow sponge cake.

Olive oil cake is a dessert that doesn't need a topping, but it goes well with something simple if you want to dress it up. You could dust it with powdered sugar (or not) and simply call it a day. It's that good. But if you're like me and love having a little bit of fruit with your cake, you'll definitely enjoy making the raspberry thyme glaze. I'm a huge fan of adding an herbal note to desserts lately. There's something about the sweet and savory mix that is more interesting to me. You can adjust the sweetness to your liking especially depending on the time of year you get raspberries and how sweet they are on their own. I took the step of straining it to remove the seeds, also completely optional but it refines the glaze quite a bit. I wrote the recipe to make exactly enough to garnish two cakes, although you could certainly double it and make extra.

Individual Lemon Olive Oil Cakes & Raspberry Thyme Glaze

2/3 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 c. good quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for ramekins
1/3 c. + 2 tbsp whole milk
1 large egg
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, optional

For the Raspberry Thyme Glaze:
6 oz. fresh raspberries
1/3 c. sugar, or to taste
1/2 c. water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
A couple sprigs of fresh thyme
2 grinds of cracked black pepper
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp lemon juice

Serves: 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour. plus additional time to cool
Recommended Equipment: 8 oz ramekins (2), small nonstick pot

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Grease the inside of the ramekins with a light coating of olive oil, and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Easy way to do this is to trace around the bottom of one of your ramekins. Fold over the paper or double it up so you can cut two circles out at once. Cut just inside the traced circle to make rounds which will fit into the bottoms of the ramekins.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, lemon zest and juice and the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Similar to pancake batter, you don't want to over mix to ensure a tender cake.

Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins, stopping just beneath the rim. You should have exactly enough batter for two ramekins. Gently tap the ramekins on your counter to settle any air bubbles.

The cakes will bake for about 1 hour on the middle rack. I have a convection oven that cooks a little faster, so I started checking at the 45 minute point. You'll want to see the top of the cakes turn a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean.

Transfer the ramekins to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the inside of the ramekin to loosen the cake. If your ramekin has a little ridge on the inside, this requires a little bit of a maneuver around it. I found that a plastic knife was much more flexible without poking the cake too much. Pop out the cakes and allow to cool for another two hours before serving.

The raspberry thyme glaze can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the fridge, or just use your time while the cakes cool! To a small nonstick pot, add half the raspberries with all of the sugar, a few sprigs of thyme, water and vanilla. Add a couple grinds of black pepper and a tiny pinch of salt. Allow this to come to a boil.

Reduce your heat a bit and simmer until the raspberries have broken down and the liquid is reduced by half. If the mixture bubbles up too much, simply turn down the heat. After several minutes, you'll have a thick and syrupy liquid about the consistency and color of cough syrup. Stir in a teaspoon of lemon juice.

Pour the liquid into a fine mesh strainer sitting over a bowl or wide mouth jar. Use the back of your spoon to press the raspberry pulp into the strainer to squeeze out as much syrup as you can get. When you've got nothing but seeds left behind, discard the solids in the strainer.

Drizzle a little bit of the raspberry glaze over the cakes, along with a few fresh berries for garnish. If desired dust with a bit of powdered sugar. (By the way, there's no need to buy powdered sugar separately especially if you're like me and don't use it often. Just put a big scoop of sugar into your blender and blend at the highest speed for a few seconds until the sugar is finely pulverized. Bingo. Powdered sugar.)

The cakes can be glazed ahead of time and sit at room temperature, or served immediately! You and your loved one are definitely in for a treat.

The raspberry glaze recipe can easily be doubled using a 12 ounce package of raspberries, and you'll have leftovers. Stir the remaining fresh raspberries back into the syrup, crushing them just a tad if you wish or just leave them whole. Refrigerate this for up to a few days and you'll have an awesome compote to use as a topping for anything you desire. It's especially lovely on crepes!

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