My husband loves biscotti. Every time we see it on a menu the conversation is the same. “Ooh, biscotti!” And I reply by wrinkling my nose. For years, he has refused to accept that I simply do not want such a delicious treat. It’s absolutely impossible in his mind. And to be fair, I can understand his denial.
You see it’s not the flavor. I mean what’s not to like, almonds and sugar? Love it! In fact when I think Italian pastry, I think of that flavor. But let’s face it, biscotti are some hard cookies. And let’s not sugar-coat it (pun intended) by calling them crisp. They are hard and dry and I do not like hard cookies, no matter the flavor. I know, I know they are hard so you can dip them in your coffee. Nope doesn’t do it for me. Sorry.
Then I made this cake. I’ve been curious about olive oil cake for a while and even tried a piece at the now closed Savoy in New York City. So good. It was like a spice cake and was perfect for the cold weather. This one is quite different though. I heard to best olive oil cake was the one at Serious Eats. Well, of course, I always want the best, so I set out to make a gluten-free version. I assumed it would easy since it already included almond flour. I mean we were halfway there.
The big wildcard turned out to be the olive oil and I will share with you what I learned. Olive oil cake is best made with a “fruity” oil. Now since I make no claims to being an olive oil connoisseur, I’m going to shorthand it for you. Spanish olive oils are fruity. So even though this is an Italian cake, take advantage of the fact that we live in a global economy and get a Spanish olive oil. I also read that the oil from New Zealand is good but that seemed harder to find and more expensive. So Spanish won out.
Now back to biscotti. This cake tasted, at least to me, just like biscotti! Yet it wasn’t hard because well, it’s a cake. So I get to indulge in that quintessential Italian pastry taste in a way I never dreamed would be possible. Now the only hard part is knowing when to stop.
Yields One 9-inch cake, 12 to 16 servings
2/3 cups millet flour
1 cup almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil*
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
Grated zest of 1 medium lemon (approx. 2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup orange juice
* A note on olive oil: While this cake has a distinctive Italian flavor, I do not recommend using an Italian oil. You need to use an oil that is fruity. Not being an olive oil connoisseur myself, my research led me to olive oils from Spain which apparently are fruity. The bottle claimed the oil was “best used uncooked, as heat will lessen its aromatic properties.” Perfect! This is exactly what is needed in an olive oil cake. Too strong an oil makes a really bad cake. I learned this the hard way with too many cakes ending up in the trash.
For the glaze:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
A few drops of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sliced, blanched almonds, toasted and cooled
- Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour with millet flour a 9-inch springform pan.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the millet flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt until thoroughly combined and set aside.
- In large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs lightly to break up the yolks.
- Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk thoroughly in both directions for about 30 seconds.
- Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds.
- Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.
- Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.
- Pour the batter into the springform pan and bang down the pan a few times to level the batter.
- Place the pan on the center rack and bake for 30-45 minutes or until the cake has come away from the sides or the pan. If you press the cake lightly with your finger, it should spring back.
- Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes before running a butter knife all around the cake and removing the outer ring.
- In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the bubbles subside (5 to 10 mins.), lower the heat and watch the butter carefully, swirling it in the pan occasionally to distribute the heat. When the butter begins to turn a light tan color and smells slightly nutty, immediately remove it from heat and let the butter sit. It will continue to darken as it sits. Put it aside to cool.
- In a medium bowl, sift the confectioner's sugar. Whisk in the milk until completely smooth.
- Whisk in the butter until thoroughly combined.
- Add a few drops of lemon juice to balance the sweetness. Your taste and strength of the lemon will determine how much you add but it is about 2 or 3 drops.
- Spread the glaze onto the top and sides of the cake.
- Sprinkle the almonds generously on the top of the cake.
- Let the cake sit until set and dry and serve.