Gina de Palma's Almond Olive Cake

I actually never meant to blog about this cake. It came about in part because of boredom, in part because I hadn’t baked anything in quite a long time, and in part because Brian has developed quite the predilection for almond cakes ever since he sampled a piece (actually probably more like 4 or 5 pieces) of buttery almond cake at our neighborhood Italian grocery store a year ago.

As I perused my cookbooks, old magazines, the Internet, and various other sources of inspiration this weekend, I came across Gina de Palma’s recipe for an almond cake that is made with olive oil instead of butter. Gina de Palma is the pastry chef at Babbo, one of our favorite Italian restaurants in New York City (just thinking about it makes me salivate, especially the thought of their mint love letter ravioli…).  The desserts at Babbo are also worth ordering and definitely worth the extra calories (and that is on top of the thousands of calories that you already consumed eating the beef cheek ravioli, which arrive at the table plump and oozing with rich meat, squab liver and the essence of black truffles. These are also worth getting by the way.) Oh, and I probably should have mentioned that Babbo isn’t your typical red-sauce Italian restaurant—it’s a rare treat that can only be enjoyed after painstakingly hitting the redial button on your phone for 45 minutes (exactly 30 days prior to the day that you want to reserve a table) in hopes that you will eventually get through to the reservationist, who will most likely offer you two equally dismal times of 5:30pm or 10:30pm (take the 5:30pm table, just trust me).

Enough about Babbo, let’s move on to this cake, which is truly one of the best cakes that I have ever made, and that is saying a lot. It’s everything that a cake should be—moist, sweet but not too sweet, tender, and most importantly, delicious.  In fact, I am warning you, once you start eating this cake you may not be able to stop. It took a massive effort for me to restrain myself from taking a second slice.

This cake would be great even without the glaze, but I implore you to make it. The brown butter adds wonderful depth and nuttiness to the glaze, and it compliments the citrusy cake beautifully. The slivers of almond also contribute great textural contrast.

I barely adapted this recipe, so all of the credit should go to Gina de Palma. However, I did make a few minor modifications, which you may or may not want to follow. To begin with, I increased the amount of vanilla extract to a half-teaspoon and the amount of almond extract to a scant full teaspoon. I also ran out of fresh orange juice (I only had one orange), so I add the juice of half a lemon and some skim milk until I reached the full half-cup of liquid that the recipe called for.

Now, on to the recipe because you should really make this immediately, or at least in the near future and I don’t want to delay you any longer.

Happy Cooking, Pippa

Almond Olive Oil Cake Serves 6 to 8 Adapted slightly from pastry chef Gina de Palma of Babbo via Serious Eats

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup orange juice (or juice of 1 medium orange, juice of ½ a lemon, and ¼ cup milk—or enough liquid to equal ½ cup)
  • Zest of ½ medium orange
  • Zest of 1 lemon

For the glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • A few drops of lemon juice
  • ½ cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted and cooled

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan or a springform pan and reserve for later.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk lightly until the yolks are broken up completely. Add the sugar and whisk briskly for approximately 30 seconds. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk until all of the ingredients are combined and the mixture begins to thicken slightly. Whisk in the orange juice (and lemon juice and milk if using), zest, and extracts.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and whisk lightly until the batter is smooth and homogenous.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake taster inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Allow cake to cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then carefully invert the cake out of the pan and allow to cool completely on the rack.
  8. While the cake is cooling, heat a small saucepan (not non-stick if possible) over medium heat. Add the butter and swirl the butter around in the pan, carefully, until the solids begin to turn a light tan/golden color (do not overcook). Remove the pan from the heat. The solids will continue to darken slightly as the butter cools.
  9. While the butter is cooling, whisk together the confectioners sugar and milk in a medium sized bowl. Add the cooled butter slowly, whisking continuously until the glaze is smooth.
  10. Add a few drops of lemon juice, taste, and add more as necessary to balance the sweetness of the glaze. Stir in the toasted and cooled slivered almonds.
  11. When the cake has cooled, place it on a large serving plate and spread the glaze on the top and sides of the cake. (The glaze may be a touch liquidy, which is fine, just allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides of the cake). Allow the glaze to cool and harden.
  12. Serve the cake either on its own, or with slightly sweetened whipped cream or berries.