Lemon & Olive Oil Cake

Cake2

Five years ago I started this website with an earnest love of sharing good food with dear friends. It is a happy coincidence that Pro Bono Baker's anniversary shares calendar space with the birthday of one of my oldest and most treasured friends, Eileen. I joined her this weekend for a birthday brunch in her lovely, sun-soaked apartment and I brought this rustic lemon and olive oil cake.

Calling for equal parts olive oil and sugar, this cake has a gentle sweetness and a delicate flavor. To add some visual flair for the special occasion, I cooked dark cherries with sugar and lemon juice to create a thick glaze that I added just before serving.

Thank you all for a truly enjoyable five years!  I look forward to cooking with you and learning from you for years to come.

Cake3 

Lemon & Olive Oil Cake

Adapted from the April 2006 issue of Gourmet

Ingredients

3/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
1 large lemon
1 C cake flour (not self-rising)
5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
3/4 C plus 1 1/2 Tbl sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil. Cut a circle of parchment paper, fit it into the bottom of the pan and oil the parchment.

In a medium bowl, finely grate the lemon zest and combine with the flour. In a second bowl, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar using an electric hand mixer until thick and pale, about three minutes.  Add the olive oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice and beat until just combined. (The mixture may appear slightly separated.  This is okay.) Gently stir in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon. 

In a third bowl, beat the egg whites with 1/2 teaspoon of salt using clean beaters until foamy. Add 1/4 cup of sugar a little at time and continue to beat the egg whites until they begin to form soft peaks, about three minutes.  Gently fold 1/3 of the whites into the yolk mixture.  Add the remaining whites gently and combine thoroughly.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared springform pan and gently rap the pan on your work surface a few times to release any large air bubbles.  Sprinkle the top evenly with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar.

Bake until puffed and golden or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool the cake for 10 minutes before removing from the springform pan. After time has elapsed, run a thin knife around the edge of the pan and remove the side. Cool the cake
to room temperature, about an hour. Remove the bottom of the pan, peel
off parchment and transfer cake to a serving plate.

show hide 20 comments

Dave -nibbleanibble - Time with friends is good. Add food into the equation and it gets even better.

Dave -nibbleanibble - Time with friends is good. Add food into the equation and it gets even better.

kekstester - Happy Birthday! Looking for cake recipes mith olive oil, I am more than happy I found this one!

kekstester - Happy Birthday! Looking for cake recipes mith olive oil, I am more than happy I found this one!

dan - Congratulations. I can’t seem to make it five months; five years is nothing to sneeze at.

dan - Congratulations. I can’t seem to make it five months; five years is nothing to sneeze at.

Nishta - Congratulations Gemma! I for one have benefited from Pro Bono Baker’s existence for a large part of those five years…thank you for what you do to bring inspiration into my life.

Nishta - Congratulations Gemma! I for one have benefited from Pro Bono Baker’s existence for a large part of those five years…thank you for what you do to bring inspiration into my life.

shannalee - Happy blog birthday – five years is actually a pretty amazing accomplishment, I think. Here’s to many more delicious recipes and good things to eat!

shannalee - Happy blog birthday – five years is actually a pretty amazing accomplishment, I think. Here’s to many more delicious recipes and good things to eat!

Joanna - Congrats on five great years! Also, that cake is gorgeous.

Joanna - Congrats on five great years! Also, that cake is gorgeous.

Anali - Happy Anniversary Gemma! Love the simple cake and the cherry glaze for that special something extra. ; )

Anali - Happy Anniversary Gemma! Love the simple cake and the cherry glaze for that special something extra. ; )

Gemma - Very true Dave!
Glad you found kekstaster, enjoy!
Thanks Dan! I have to admit, I find the clear focus of your blogs very admirable though.
Nishta, you are so sweet, thank you!
Thank you shannalee, Joanna, and Anali!

Gemma - Very true Dave!
Glad you found kekstaster, enjoy!
Thanks Dan! I have to admit, I find the clear focus of your blogs very admirable though.
Nishta, you are so sweet, thank you!
Thank you shannalee, Joanna, and Anali!

buy r4 ds - Ok I made this cake twice over the holidays and it was a huge hit! I used a round cake pan to bake it instead so the cooking time drops to 25 minutes. I served it with some balsamic vinegar macerated strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Thanks again for the recipe.

buy r4 ds - Ok I made this cake twice over the holidays and it was a huge hit! I used a round cake pan to bake it instead so the cooking time drops to 25 minutes. I served it with some balsamic vinegar macerated strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Thanks again for the recipe.

Gemma - Balsamic strawberries would be an excellent topping. I will have to try that next time!

Gemma - Balsamic strawberries would be an excellent topping. I will have to try that next time!

Candied Nuts

Candied Nuts (1)

Candied nuts are simple, delicious and almost endlessly variable. I used pecans and walnuts, but almonds and cashews also work quite well. I made a sweet and spicy variety using cinnamon and paprika, but you can use whatever spices you have on hand.  Some other flavors that work well are ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne pepper, or even a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce. Once they cool, they will keep well in an air-tight container and make a lovely holiday gift.

Sweet & Spicy Candied Nuts

Ingredients

1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C white sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
16 oz pecan and walnut halves
1 egg white
1 Tbl water

Method

Preheat oven to 300F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat mat. In a medium bowl, combine the first five ingredients and mix until evenly distributed. In a second medium bowl, add the egg white and water and beat until slightly frothy. Add the nuts to the egg white and water mixture and toss until the nuts are evenly coated.  Add the sugar mixture and gently mix until evenly coated.  Spread the nuts on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the oven and cool, breaking apart those that stick together. 

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ButterYum - Amazing shot – may I ask what camera you use?
:)
ButterYum

ButterYum - Amazing shot – may I ask what camera you use?
:)
ButterYum

gemma - Thanks. I use an Olympus E-330. It’s pretty old by DSLR standards. I use manual lenses. It’s a pretty strange set up, but it was affordable and seems to be working okay!

gemma - Thanks. I use an Olympus E-330. It’s pretty old by DSLR standards. I use manual lenses. It’s a pretty strange set up, but it was affordable and seems to be working okay!

Peanut Butter and Black Sesame Cookies

Peanut Butter Sesame Cookies 1

These pretty little things are like a grown-up version of the
typical peanut butter cookie.  The black sesame seeds are not only
eye-catching, but they toast in the oven as the cookies bake, providing
a nice balance to the sugar. Calling for just five ingredients and
baking up in about ten minutes, these are a snap to make.

Peanut Butter Sesame Cookies 3

Peanut Butter and Black Sesame Cookies

Adapted from the March 2009 issue of Gourmet

Ingredients

1 C creamy peanut butter (the cheap kind, not natural)
3/4 C sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp baking soda
5 Tbl black sesame seeds

Method

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cream the peanut butter and sugar together
in a medium bowl.  Add the egg and baking soda and mix until combined.
Place the sesame seeds in a small dish and prepare a baking sheet lined
with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.*

Use a teaspoon to measure the cookie batter and roll each portion
into a ball using your hands.  Roll the cookie in the sesame seeds to
coat the top and place on the baking sheet.  Continue this process with
the rest of the dough.  Bake the cookies for ten minutes, rotating the
pan halfway through. Bake until the cookies are puffed and cracked,
about ten minutes.  Cool and serve.  These cookies will keep for a few
days in an airtight container.

(* I managed to fit all of my cookies on one large baking sheet, but
it was tight and a few of the cookie edges baked together. You may want to use two baking sheets or bake the cookies in shifts.)

show hide 10 comments

Terry B - Whoa! I’m a huge fan of peanut butter cookies. These sound like a great version.

Terry B - Whoa! I’m a huge fan of peanut butter cookies. These sound like a great version.

Gemma - Thanks Terry! They are a nice, quick cookie. I’m usually not a fan of peanut butter cookies, but I love the extra nuttiness that the toasted sesame seeds provide. And, you can’t beat the short ingredient list!

Fat Burning Furnace Review - Those look delicious! Thank you for sharing the recipe! =)

Fbf System - Yum! I feel like giving it a bite…

craig - The “not natural” peanut butter seems ridiculous.

craig - The “not natural” peanut butter seems ridiculous.

Gemma - Why does it seem ridiculous? Natural nut butters and those that are manufactured not to separate at room temperature have very different properties. It would probably work with natural peanut butter, but I haven’t tried it and I suspect the cookies might just melt into thin pancakes. Let me know if you give it a try and have success with a substitution!

mary - I actually tried an all-natural peanut butter, with no additives and they turned out great!! love this recipe…so easy, not too sweet, perfect little dessert to bring to an unexpected party. Plus, black sesame seeds (Hei Zhi Ma) have tons of health benefits according to Chinese Medicine. They tonify your liver and kidneys, calm your spirit, and help relieve constipation…sorry, was that TMI? :) Enjoy!!

Gemma - That’s awesome Mary! Thanks for trying it out and reporting back. I admit I was a bit disappointed that the original recipe called for the sugary stuff. I can’t wait to make these again with healthier ingredients. Cheers!

Homemade Gifts

Homemade Gifts 1

Homemade gifts are a nice touch during the holidays.  Last year I started a bit early in the season and made vanilla extract, infused vodkas and peppermint patty candies. But homemade gifts don't need to be time consuming.  Two of my favorite quick projects are lemon and olive oil hand scrub and vanilla coffee syrup.  Not only are the ingredients inexpensive for these two projects, but many of you will likely already have them on hand.

I whipped up a batch of each in less than 20 minutes on Saturday and packaged them in decorative glass jars — but old jam jars would would work just as well. I like to keep a few of these under the tree to pair with fresh baked cookies for a quick host or hostess gift during the holiday party season.

I'm always on the look-out for new gift ideas.  Feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments.

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Nishta - thanks so much for posting these, Gemma! I was looking for something else (preferably quick & easy) to round out my holiday packages, and this is just perfect.
a friend dropped off some neighbor-grown Meyer lemons & we have all the other ingredients, plus loads of jars to use. I’m also going to throw in some fresh rosemary since we have a ton growing in the yard.
you always pick things that are spot-on. happy holidays!

Gemma - You’re welcome Nishta. Meyer lemons would make the hand scrub extra special — and rosemary — what a great idea!
Happy holidays to you too!

Nic Jones - I’m so happy I came across your site. I’m a big fan of homemade gifts especially now it’s the holiday season, I’m thinking of giving homemade gifts and I’m glad I read your blog. Thanks for this post and keep up the good work.

Gemma - Thanks Nic! I agree, I think handmade gifts are a wonderful way to spread holiday cheer without participating in the often extreme holiday consumerism. (Great site, by the way!)

Savory Parmesan & Thyme Cookies

Parmesan&Thyme 1

Winter arrived in a serious way to Chicago this week. High winds and freezing sleet have created a winter landscape that is alternating between slush and ice, causing few to venture outside without reason. It is officially the season for soups, casseroles and cookies, winter boots, noisy radiators and hot chocolate. While I’m not one to pass up the sweet baked goods that are ubiquitous during this time of year, it’s often the savory ones that I crave. My Uncle Dave recently sent me this recipe for Parmesan and thyme cookies and they turned out to be the perfect weekend baking project. 

Parmesan & Thyme Cookies

Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients

1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 and 1/4 c flour

Method

In a medium bowl cream the butter, Parmesan, thyme, salt and pepper. Add the flour and mix until the dough has a coarse crumb. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and press the dough into a ball. Roll the dough into a 9" log, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to 4 days).

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut 3/8" slices from the log of dough and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat mat. Bake for 20 minutes or until just slightly golden brown.

Additional notes:

If you don't have fresh thyme on hand, dry works almost as well. This dough is a bit tricky to roll out because it is slightly dry.  Be sure to continuously compress the dough to keep it solid as you work.  Once, chilled, the dough is very easy to work with.   

show hide 7 comments

kickpleat - I love the idea of a savory cookie! Perfect!

tramadol - Savory cookie? Never tasted something like that before. But I wanna try that. Hope I could make it right.

Gemma - Thanks kickpleat and tramadol! They provide a nice break from all the sugar this time of year (but not the butter!)

kasia - Oh dear. I tried to make them, and it was a bit of a disaster. The texture was awful – when you bit into them, they sort of exploded into dust. I dunno what went wrong, it was so sad.

Gemma - I’m sorry to hear that Kasia. I assumed it was obvious from the ingredient list, but perhaps I should have made it clear that these are essentially shortbread cookies, which are crumbly thanks to being based on butter without egg or milk. I’ve made them several times and the recipe hasn’t produced anything that I would consider out of the ordinary for a shortbread cookie.
I wonder if you over-baked the cookies? Home oven cooking times can vary, but they should be just slightly golden brown. Baking them longer would certainly make them dry out. Other than that, I’d be sure you are measuring your flour carefully. If you use bleached flour, try switching to unbleached as it can have a richer protein content. I’ll try to bake a batch to bring to you next time I’m in your part of the city!

Kelvin - sorry but can u convert it to metric conversion please? in grams.
thanks alot.

Gemma - Hi Kelvin,
I unfortunately do not have the measurements available. There are convenient conversion tools online though. Good luck!