It wasn’t a particular recipe or picture or memory or craving that inspired me to attempt a gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free version of an olive oil cake. It was an unstocked pantry that brought this all about a few weeks ago. Still slow to build up to the pre-honeymoon stock of baking items, I was craving an upside-down cake and all I had was olive oil. Well, the upside-down cake was sort of a flop. But that’s O.K. What ensued was a two-week exploratory course in all things “olive oil cake.”
And that’s when the obsession started.
First, there was the olive oil cake Tastespotting search, which yielded this recipe, then this recipe, and finally this one (which leads me to an interesting question: if doing the same tastespotting search, which of the olive oil cake pictures would you have clicked on?). Of course, none of the offerings were gluten-free or vegan, let alone sugar-free. But I search for inspiration; rarely is an actual recipe the goal. Then there came the test runs. Some crumbly, others much too dense. Had it been any other recipe, I may have given up. But I couldn’t shake the olive oil cake idea. And so I let myself one last chance at redemption. This time, with rosemary. I think you can guess the rest of the story…
Now, a few things about this recipe. There comes a time during the baking process where compromise is necessary. While I was originally determined to bake this with stevia, agave nectar yielded far superior results here. So while I had to relinquish the stevia idea, please find comfort in the fact that I have a very promising cheesecake recipe — made entirely with stevia — in the works. Also, while I originally intended to use only the gluten-free all purpose flour here, I ran out. That’s when I decided to sub-in some almond flour, which turned out so awesome that I didn’t bother trying it again using the original plan (I think it enhances the flavor and texture of the cake). Finally, this cake is not too sweet at all. Instead, I tried to let the lemon and rosemary flavors do the singing, the agave offering a harmonious accompaniment to the real stars (sorry about the metaphors, The Simpsons “art camp” episode is starting to rub off on me).
Lemon-Rosemary-Olive Oil Cake:
I went a little easy with the rosemary here. I think you could definitely add a bit more if you’d like. Make sure to use a really good olive oil. Extra virgin yields the best flavor.
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer whisked with 1/4 cup warm water until frothy
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup light coconut milk whisked with 1 teaspoon lemon juice (let sit for 10 minutes)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon minced rosemary, plus 1 sprig for topping
1. Preheat oven to 325.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum. Set aside.
3. In a mixer, beat together agave and olive oil. Add egg replacer-water mix, coconut milk-lemon mixture, vanilla, lemon juice, and zest. Turn mixer speed to slow and slowly add dry ingredients until batter just comes together. Fold in minced rosemary.
4. Pour batter into a pre-greased or parchment-lined 4.5×8.5-inch loaf pan (1.5 qt.). Pull leaves off rosemary sprig and sprinkle over the top of the batter. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Run knife around cake to loosen and turn out from loaf pan. Let cool for another 15-20 minutes before slicing.