I was first intrigued by the idea of mini olive oil cakes about a year ago. Normally when curiosity gets a hold of me I just have to make it myself. However in this case, I got my Nutrition: Science and Applications professor to bake Mini Olive Oil Cakes with Lemon Glaze for me (hey, it was his idea!).
Wanting to try out a new recipe exchange-type thing that semester, he offered to make any dish for a student provided they share a “healthy” recipe. Timed to go along with a lecture on lipids, mini olive oil cakes along with their lemon glaze were all tupperware-ed up for me (they were so good Felicia and I ate them all before dinner that day). So when I came across another olive oil cake recipe, you could bet I was eager to try it!
Now since my parents don’t like the texture of coarsely ground cornmeal, I decided to make two versions of this cake. I made the cake batter as written below without the cornmeal, divided the batter in half using a kitchen scale, and then added 1 tbsp coarsely ground cornmeal to one batch and 1 tbsp of the same cornmeal ground into a powder (using my nifty bullet blender). Personally, I liked the coarse ground version better as the textural contrast seemed on par with Martha’s rustic description of this cake as one “traditionally made to celebrate the beginning of a fruit harvest.” Nonetheless, the fine ground version had a pillowy soft texture that I’m sure is more desirable to some. But for those interested in making that version, I’d recommend upping the amount of milk as the increased surface area of the further ground cornmeal particles seemed to result in a slightly, but noticeably drier cake.
Bearing grapes and olive oil, this Italian harvest cake frequently makes a fall appearance on Tuscan estates. Although the harvest season for grapes may not be till fall, I just couldn’t wait that long!
Grape Olive Oil Harvest Cake
Makes two 4-in cakes (adapted from Martha Stewart)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 2 tbsp coarsely ground cornmeal
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 large egg
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 3 tbsp milk
- Handful of seedless black grapes (really any kind of grape would pair well though)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour the mini cake pans and set on a baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, mix together the flour, almond flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Set aside as your dry mixture.
- With an electric mixer, beat together the egg, sugar, and lemon zest on high speed until foamy and light (in color). Reduce speed to low and slowly stream in olive oil until fully incorporated.
- Beat in half the dry mixture, followed by milk, and ending with the other half of the dry mixture.
- Pour batter into the prepared baking pans. Scatter grapes over top the batter and push them in slightly.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cakes are golden and passes the toothpick test. Let cool slightly before serving (grapes will be juicy hot).
(Coarsely ground cornmeal version)
(Finely ground cornmeal version)