25 March 2011

Ottolenghi Apple & Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing – Recipe

One of the many things I miss about living in London is wandering up to Islington's Upper Street for a lazy weekend lunch at Ottolenghi. I went there for the friendly communal atmosphere and the beautifully vibrant and fresh food that would be laid out in abundant piles. To this day I've yet to have a broccoli dish as exciting as their chargrilled version with garlic and chilli. Oh, and the cakes. Definitely the cakes.
Naturally, as a fan of Ottolenghi's food, I went out and bought the cookbook when it came out a few years ago. Unfortunately it became one of those that sat untouched on my bookshelf, for I was never quite able (unsurprisingly) to replicate the magic in my own kitchen. It remained untouched until, that is, the other day when I was struck by an insatiable urge for cake. I dug out the book, and found this interesting recipe for apple cake that uses olive oil. I'll admit to being a tad sceptical, but the olive oil really works. I used regular olive oil, but I subsequently found out that you're meant to use extra virgin olive oil, which I imagine gives it even more depth of flavour. Next time, I suppose. I'd also be tempted to substitute the water the sultanas are soaked in for some sort of booze such as dark rum or sherry.

Anyway, it's a fairly straightforward recipe and the end result is decadently moreish. The cake benefits from a day or two in the fridge to allow the flavours to mature (just make sure you wrap it well in clingfilm and take it out of the fridge a couple of hours before icing and serving).

Ottolenghi Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing
(taken from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook)

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
80g sultanas
4 tbsp water
280g plain flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ a teaspoon baking powder
1¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
120ml extra virgin olive oil
160g caster sugar
½ vanilla pod
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Bramley/Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1cm dice (should be approx 360g)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 egg whites

For the Maple icing:
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g light muscovado sugar
85ml maple syrup
220g cream cheese, at room temperature

Method
  1. Grease a 20-24cm springform non-stick cake tin. Place the sultanas and water (or booze) in a saucepan and simmer over a low heat until all of the water has been absorbed. Leave to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and set aside.
  3. Put the oil and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use an electric whisk). Slit the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape the seeds out into the bowl. Beat the oil, sugar and vanilla together, then gradually add the eggs. Mix until smooth and thick. Add the diced apples, sultanas and lemon zest, then lightly fold in the dry ingredients.
  4. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until they form soft peaks. Carefully fold them into the batter in 2 batches, trying to lose as little air as possible.
  5. Pour the batter into the cake tin, level it with a palette knife. Bake for 1½ hours, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin.
  6. Once cold, remove the cake from the tin and cut the cake horizontally in half using a serrated knife.
  7. To make the icing, beat together the butter, muscovado sugar and maple syrup in an electric mixer until light and airy. Add the cream cheese and continue to beat until the icing is totally smooth.
  8. Using a palette knife spread a 1cm-thick layer of icing over the bottom half of the cake. Carefully place the top half on it. Spread the rest of the icing on top.