Old is new again: Chocolate Olive Oil Bundt Cake.

I don't spend so much time around adults.  Because of this, I find that I carry on whole conversations with myself in my head.  As I'm washing the dishes I think about recipes, where things originate and who changed them to accommodate what was in hand.  I'll waiver my opinion if necessity was the mother of invention, or if times changed and so did palates.  I'll wonder just how many times the same chocolate cake was recycled and made new.  And then I'll revisit my stacks of old timey recipes and see what I would do differently or if I would even bother making half of them anymore.

I don't make nearly as much dessert as I used to (although it would seem that is usually what I end of writing about), and when I do feel the need to make something I slash the sugar mercilessly.  I almost make a point to see how much I can cut before a boy will notice, and to my endless amazement it never happens.  They see chocolate.  They eat.  Maybe that is just the way our brains work.  (That also works with adding vegetables into chocolate covered things: zucchini, squashes, carrots, and beets have all been eaten this way too, none the wiser.)

I might not have a knack for a lot of things, but I have the uncanny ability to remember desserts that were eaten and enjoyed and who ate them and enjoyed them.  My special skill allows me to recall then that the last time I made this recipe, a faded photocopy of a Hershey's chocolate bundt cake that my mom wrote upon in her perfect penmanship her mark of highest approval "very good!", was in 2011 when we had a houseful of my husband's friends over to watch the Pacquaio/Marquez fight.  For that occasion I didn't cut the sugar or use olive oil, I made it pretty much as directed and frosted it with melted chocolate chips.  And it was eaten completely.  But my tastes have changed since 2011, and one thing that I find myself loving even more than less sugar is olive oil and chocolate together.  

olive oil chocolate bundt.

For at least the last year, pretty much every time I see a baked good call for canola or sunflower oil - any "flavorless" oil really -I use olive oil instead.  I never worry about the density or richness of olive oil overpowering things... and maybe because I love the flavor of good olive oil so much it never does.  I am able to find the once elusive California Olive Ranch oil easily now, and it is my baking staple.

This cake lasts well for about 4 days if covered well.  I generally store cake at room temperature, and this one develops better flavor on the second day - although the texture is really very nice the day it is baked.  You would do well to serve this sans frosting and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or just dusted with powdered sugar.  I made half of the recommended amount of frosting "glaze", which is glossy when first topped and then dries matte. Beating the batter well causes the cake to dome up (as seen in the picture above), but when inverted it isn't noticeable. 

Chocolate Olive Oil Bundt Cake (adapted from Hershey's)
serves 8-12
  • 1 2/3 c. ap flour
  • scant 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder (I use a blend of natural and dutch cocoa)
  • 1-2 t. espresso powder, optional
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. olive oil 
  • 1 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 1 t. vanilla
 Heat oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a 12 cup bundt pan and set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder (if using), baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Measure olive oil, buttermilk, and vanilla into a smaller bowl, and add all at once to the dry ingredients.  Beat on medium-high speed with a hand mixer (or by hand if you like) for a full 3 minutes, making sure the sides are scraped well into the batter.

Pour into prepared pan, and bake in the center of the oven for 50-60 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before inverting and allowing to cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Glaze
(double this amount for a thicker topping)
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 2 T. water
  • 1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate chips
Bring the sugar and water to a just boil in a small saucepan, stirring to be sure the sugar is dissolved completely.  Remove from the heat and stir in chocolate chips, stirring well with a spatula to melt them evenly.  Immediately spoon (or spatula) the thick glaze onto fully cooled cake.

olive oil chocolate bundt.

I have no completed cake picture.  In part because I didn't feel like setting up a tripod in the fading light just before the daylight savings time change... but also in part because I feel the increasing need to only photograph things when I feel like it.  Another thing I think about when washing dishes is if there are any food bloggers that can tell stories without the aid of photography?  While the two go hand in hand, sometimes it's more important to just eat the end results and be satisfied with the enjoyment of cake.  Especially when they have been few and far between.

Yeasted Apricot Upside Down Cake

Before I start, maybe I should say that this isn't the most amazing cake I've ever eaten.  True, I did  love it for the sum of its parts, for the deliberate act of assembling its components, for its subtle mix of simple flavors.  But I think it's possible to love a cake purely for the process of making a cake.  That is how I love this cake.  I love this cake with all of my old soul.

yeasted apricot cake.

Last year I found a copy of Debora Madison's Seasonal Fruit Desserts at the library.  It may no longer be in print, but I loved it so much I found a used copy online, and I'm so glad I did.  It's become a manual I consult whenever I have extra fruit on hand, and it's consistent in the new inspiration and techniques it teaches me.  

Ripe apricots in hand, I began my search online for what to make with them when I remembered she had a recipe for a yeasted pear cake, baked in a cast iron skillet upside down style.  Obsessed as I've been with mint lately, I was really looking for a way to combine some perfectly ripe apricots with fresh mint... and preferably in some type of cake since it has been awhile since I've made a cake.  Fortunately, I decided on this old-fashioned skillet cake.  I was happy for a few occasions to share it, since it is a good sized cake and not really a "good keeper", although I have been appreciating it gracefully staling cold from the fridge and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I can't complain.

browning apricots.

With only 6 tablespoons of sugar, this is a decidedly unsweet confection.  The apricots turn soft and jamlike and make this the perfect thing to have with coffee or tea (or with the aforementioned ice cream, the ice cream adds a little extra sweetness and helps the dry crumb go down a little easier).  I played around with the spices a little and think I could have maybe been a little more aggressive, but in a way it works because the apricots are the stars of the show.

browned apricots

Make sure you take note of each part of the process, enjoying the steps as you go.  It's not a one-bowl cake; it requires some finesse, especially when working with a soft and somewhat sticky dough.  The texture of the cake is akin to a biscuit, and as Madison says, it is best warm.  I would store any leftovers in the refrigerator and try to eat them within a few days.  The texture changes, but it's still good.

I used Lonesome Stone Milling's organic all purpose flour which is wheatier than most, more like a "white wheat" available in the regular grocery.  The recipe is written for a 10 inch cast iron skillet (oddly enough, that's my number 8 skillet), you could use a well buttered 10 inch springform or cake pan and brown the fruit with the butter in a skillet first if you don't have cast iron that size.

Yeasted Apricot Upside Down Cake (adapted from Deborah Madison)
makes 1 10 inch cake
  •  6-7 ripe apricots, washed (but not peeled) and halved
  • 2 T. dark brown sugar
  • 8 T. (1 stick or 4 oz.) soft butter, divided
  • 1/4 c. warm water (100 degrees)
  • 1/2 c. warm whole milk (100 degrees)
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 t. active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 c. ap flour, divided 
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1 green cardamom pod, seeds removed and crushed
  • 1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/2 t. almond extract
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
Melt 3 T. of the butter in the cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  After it melts, brush it well up the sides of the pan and add the dark brown sugar and the apricot halves.  Toss the apricots in the bubbling mixture to coat, and then let them brown slightly on both sides, about 4 minutes total.  Turn them all cut side down and arrange them as you like and remove the skillet from the heat.

Put the warm water and milk in a small measuring cup and add the yeast and 1 t. of the sugar from the measured 1/4 c. of granulated sugar.  Set aside to proof, and meanwhile whisk together 2 c. of the ap flour with the cinnamon and cardamom.

In a bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if working with a hand mixer), add the egg and egg yolks, almond extract, remaining sugar, and salt.  Working with the paddle attachment, beat in the yeast mixture on low speed, then add the flour/spice mixture (also at low speed) 1/2 c. at a time until it is all incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium-high, and add the soft butter.  Beat for 2-3 minutes until the batter is smooth and glossy.  By hand, stir in the remaining 1/2 c. flour, and turn it out onto a lightly floured counter.  (It will still be sticky, use a bench scraper to help you maneuver it.)  Knead it gently a few times, then pat into circle the same size as the skillet holding the apricots.  Lay the disc over the fruit, and slide the whole pan into a plastic bag to rise for 30-40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Once the oven is hot and the cake is noticeably risen, remove it from the plastic bag and bake until golden brown and a tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

After removing from the oven, immediately invert by placing a cake plate over the pan and flipping it carefully.  As Madison recommends, serve it warm with whipped cream (she also recommends sabayon) - I say go for the vanilla ice cream.

yeasted apricot cake
Just prior to baking.

Of all the many cakes I've made over the years, not many yeasted cakes come to mind (a noteable exception is the panettone), and this one seems to be versatile enough that with mindful spicing, you could use just about any fruit that comes to mind.  I'd imagine using a whiter flour would result in a slightly less dense cake, but I like this old-timey texture and depression-era sweetness.  It's satisfying.

apricot cake slice

This slice is 3 days old, and I took the picture tonight just as the sun was about to fall behind the trees.  It's not photogenic really, but it shows the texture of the cold cake pretty well.  I always think there are two types of people (well, 3 really if you count "pie" people) those who refrigerate cakes and those who don't.  I am one who doesn't.  I don't like cold cake, I like cake about to fall apart under the weigh of my fork - or better, under the weight of thinking about my fork.  But this is a sturdy cake that I love and I hope you'll love it too.  If you happen to try it with other seasonal fruits, let me know will you?

(P.S. A couple weeks ago when I was just starting to see apricots pop up at my food co-op, I made this apricot jam... it's a winner.  I'm eating it nearly every day (it's particularly good in vinaigrette with really good olive oil and Bragg's cider vinegar) and I am still not tired of apricot!)

Salad Dressing Cake.

I guess it all started when I wanted a tuna sandwich for lunch one day last week.  I love tuna sandwiches, but I hate hate hate the conundrum of purchasing mayonnaise.  I like lacto-fermenting my own, but haven't done that so much since I made the commitment to higher quality olive oils.  I don't have any "neutral flavored oils" in my kitchen arsenal at all anymore; if it can't be made with butter, olive oil, coconut oil or bacon grease, I probably will opt out.  But that tuna sandwich was nagging me, and I recalled this recipe for super quick mayonnaise made with a whole egg and an immersion blender.  Armed with a new bottle of olive oil, I figured I'd give it a go.  I didn't have any purchased mayo on hand, so it was my only option if that tuna sandwich was going to become a reality for me...

salad dressing cake

To the basic mayo recipe, I added a spoonful of dijon mustard and extra lemon juice; the recipe did work (although the texture wasn't quite as lovely as the yolks-only, lovingly hand whisked versions).  My only complaint was that the quality extra virgin olive oil I used made the mayo seem a bit too rich and mineral-y.  It was edible, but I didn't want to go through the trouble of lacto-fermenting it, and I didn't have a good excuse to go all out on a mayo binge to use up the cup or so I had leftover.  I also didn't think I could pass it off on the rest of the family - I have one kid who can't even eat condiments yet, another who won't eat them out of choice, and finally a husband who is a harder sell than I am.

Fortunately I remembered about salad dressing cake.  Salad dressing cake could very well be the first cake I ever made myself, mixing the simple, pantry-staple ingredients with a whole cup of mayonnaise, Miracle Whip actually, which was what we called mayo at my house growing up.  It was proof that miracles do indeed exist.  How on earth could you make a chocolate cake with a cup of sickly sweet and thick Miracle Whip that left no trace on the tongue of mayo?  How could you make a cake that was so perfectly full of moisture, a good keeper at room temperature or in the fridge, and barely messed up the kitchen?  It's magic.  And I'm glad I remembered it now. 

salad dressing cake

You can frost this cake however you see fit, but I can't properly enjoy an everyday chocolate cake at my house without a simple butter infused, powdered sugar based buttercream spiked with almond extract.  I don't ever measure, I just try not to make too much, and if I do, I store the leftover in a glass jar until I need to make another cake - which will then usually happen sooner than later because I have extra frosting.  It's a vicious cycle.

I also encourage you to make immersion blender mayo with 100% olive oil for this recipe.  You get a nuance of olive in the background for those that are interested in tasting it, yet it's subtle enough that the rest of your family won't go noticing it.  They'll just think you made the best chocolate cake ever.

Salad Dressing Cake
makes 1 8x8 inch cake
  • 2 c. ap flour
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t. kosher salt
  • 2 t. baking soda
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a glass 8x8 inch baking dish.

In a 4 cup measure (or medium sized bowl), combine the mayo, cold water, vanilla, and espresso powder if using and stir well to combine.  (I still had a dirty immersion blender from making the mayo, so I used it to blend the wet ingredients.)

In a large mixing bowl, sift or mix well the dry ingredients.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until just mixed thoroughly and no dry spots remain.  Use a spatula to ease it into the prepared baking dish, and smooth the top out towards the corners to counteract some of the doming action in the center as the cake bakes.  Bake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

salad dressing cake

Mulberries. Mulberry Cake.

the first of the mulberries.

I first ate a mulberry two summers ago after discovering what I thought to be a tree full of them growing in a public park.  Any prior knowledge I had of mulberries centered around the Dr. Seuss book And To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, which in my mind was one of the earliest books I read myself.  I don't recall that book contained the eating or description of the mulberry, which is a less seedy, blackberryish berry that grows either on trees or bushes depending I assume on the maintenance of the plants and the locations they are found.   What I do know now is that a fat, thumb-sized, perfectly ripe mulberry has no comparison in the berry world.

The first taste of mulberry for me (after confirming with someone who knew what a mulberry was), wasn't really so sweet.  Mulberries must be falling-off-the-tree ripe, and deep black - at least the varieties that I've seen here should be deep black.  The reddish ones, or ones that need some coercion to detach from their tree, are sour or tart; they are seedy and not that pleasant.  Last year's severe drought is blamed for just about everything bad in the Wisconsin food world of 2012... and what few mulberries I saw were tiny and I suspect gobbled up by the birds.  But this year:  sweet success.   The clutch of public trees I had my sights on were prolific this year, still bearing as I check up on them every few days or so, ripening slowly as if to provide me desserts just as I need them.

mulberry cake

I made the first full pint of berries we found into a tiny batch of jam, a single jar that I've been enjoying on toast about every other day.  But when we checked the tree Monday and many more berries had ripened, I thought I should really celebrate by making a cake.  I never need prompting to make a cake... but it helps that I had recently made one of my favorite summertime cakes ever - Dorie Greenspan's Dimply Plum Cake.  Except the two pieces I gave some visiting friends, I ate that whole cake myself, and then had to refrain from making another. 

I made only a few well suited changes to Dorie's impeccable original recipe, chiefly adding coconut oil instead of another type of vegetable oil.  Coconut oil and butter work together to provide an amazing texture, almost bordering on a softer version of shortbread.  Playing around with the spices is only half the fun too.  This cake is so endlessly adaptable, you could really do any kind of fruit, nut, or berry I would think. 

mulberry cake (batter)


If you are a raw batter taster, as I am, I would heartily encourage you to taste this batter.  It is billowy, silky, and downright indescribably delicious.  I tried to think of just one spice that could complement the flavor of mulberry, and settled in on nutmeg.  It could be that a nutmeg heavy cake I had made for a Daring Baker challenge was lingering in my mind, and I grated in a good amount of it due to the happy memory of enjoying it.  I'd see no reason why you couldn't fold the berries into the cake batter instead of arranging them on top, but I wanted to keep the spirit of Dorie's cake, and let the berries dimple the top.  The cake is best served with just a bit of barely sweet whipped cream, and additional mulberries.

Mulberry Cake (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)
  • 1 1/2 c. AP flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • about 1 t. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 T. (2 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 c. (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 c. melted coconut oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. ripe mulberries (you can snip off their stems if you like, but I went for rustic and left them attached...)
Preheat oven to 350.  Butter and flour an 8 inch round pan, I used a springform pan.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  In a large bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the sugar, and beat another 3 minutes until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, and beat a full minute after each addition.  With the mixer on medium speed, blend in the coconut oil, lemon zest, and vanilla.  Dorie says "the batter will look smooth and creamy, almost satiny", which is so apt I need to include her description.  Taste it.  It's wonderful.  Finally, add the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.  Before transferring the batter to the baking pan, use a spatula to be sure you've incorporated any dry spots.

Smooth the batter into the prepared pan, and decorate the top with the mulberries.  Bake for about 40 minutes until the top is nicely browned and a tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge before unmolding it.  Cool it right side up.  Store the cake at room temperature for 2 days (it's moist, so will mold if you try to push it further), or coax another 2 days of longevity by storage in the fridge.  The texture changes under refrigeration, which isn't bad, but you may wish to allow your slices to come back to room temperature before eating them.

mulberry cake

After the discovery of what mulberries looked like, I identified trees in nearly every park we frequented.  Some trees are so big, I'd need a ladder and a friend to help glean.  But fortunately, the best glut of berries to be found is right in my own neighborhood, and is low enough to reach - even for my kiddo.  Just this week, we noticed another similarly sized tree hiding in plain sight, not far from the first... more than plenty for fresh eating and playing around with.  Not much makes me happier than seeing my picky eater stained purple from picking and eating berries and excited to look for more.  He even liked my cake, and now that he's finished off the last of the fresh mint ice cream (which is the best recipe ever, by the way), he may even help me to eat it.  If I'll share it, that is.

mulberry cake

Daring Baker's Challenge March 2013: Hidden Vegetables.

Ruth from Makey-Cakey was our March 2013 Daring Bakers’ challenge host. She encouraged us all to get experimental in the kitchen and sneak some hidden veggies into our baking, with surprising and delicious results!

I kind of opted out on the challenge this month - in part because I've done my fair share of hiding vegetables in baked goods.  Instead of making something new,  I have quite a few successful experiments that I'll list here for you.

For example:

Beet Cake.  This was de-gluten-free-ified  from one of my favorite local bakers, Annie Wegner-LeFort. It was also a hit with my son, who would never touch a beet if prepared traditionally.  Click the photo for the recipe (and a link to the original, gluten-free recipe) on flickr.

chocolate beet cake

Hidden Veg Muffins.  There is pureed carrot in here, and some banana, making for a muffin with very little refined sugar.  For some reason, my kid will not eat carrots - but I try and sneak them in where I can, and this is one place where they went undetected.  Recipe is also linked to the photo on flickr.

hidden veg muffins.

And speaking of muffins, these Sweet Potato Muffins went over well at my house as well.  A whole cup of sweet potato puree in these!

sweet potato muffins

I mentioned in the notes for these Vegan Zucchini Carrot Muffins (also posted on flickr), that the world really doesn't need another muffin recipe - but that sometimes a good muffin recipe is hard to find.  I've made these several times - and they are deliciously able to hide about 2 cups of shredded vegetables and keep them hidden from suspecting children.

vegan zucchini carrot muffins

On a more desserty note, I had tinkered for some time with black bean brownies.  I probably haven't made them again in the 3 years since I wrote about them, but they were good, and vegan to boot.  I do highly recommend whipped cream with cayenne pepper though, which is what made these brownies not truly vegan.

Deena's Chocolate Zucchini Cake is probably one of my most favorite cakes ever - if you don't include her Honey Cake.  So much of what Deena writes sticks like glue in my  head.  The opening of her post on this worthy cake says: "My friend's husband once left her a note in the kitchen that read: Honey, we're out of bundt cake."  I always think of this when I want to make a bundt cake, because I grew up in a bundt cake-eating family, and I long to hear (or see)  these words lingering around a bundt in my own house.  My Husband is not so much a sweets eater, so I live vicariously through these words - and I make this bundt cake in the height of zucchini season when I have friends for supper.  Perhaps when my kids grow big enough to leave me notes, I'll be as lucky as Deena's friend...

chocolate zucchini bundt cake

Since adding copious amounts of shredded vegetables to cake is usually always a good idea, I took Susan from Wild Yeast's lead and made a cake with a whole lot of shredded parsnip.  The original cake was made with carrots, and it too is one of my favorites.  I try to leave myself a supply of sourdough ends to dry and grind up, just so I have the ability to make it on a whim, since there is no flour in this recipe - only dried bread crumbs!  I wonder how this cake would fare with well-drained zucchini?

baked parsnip bread crumb cake
Sourdough Breadcrumb Parsnip Cake.

Most recently, I made these Carrot-Banana Muffins, which were devoid of refined sugar and gluten.  In my opinion, they are the perfect near-dessert muffin - and they really satisfy a sweet tooth.  And we all know that I have a whole mouth full of those that I'm trying to deal with.

carrot banana muffin

Hopefully, I'll be bake to my Daring self next month and able to concoct something new and exciting.  But I'm glad I had a chance to think back on all of the ways I've been successfully able to hide vegetables in the baked goods here at my house.  Be sure to check the Daring Baker blogroll and website for more inspiration!