Sauternes and Olive Oil Cake

It is unlikely that you will be using a vintage Château d'Yquem to make this. Fortunately it works well with most dessert wines, including the dreaded Beaumes-de-Venise. The olive oil, however, must be of the very best quality - extra virgin, green and full of fruit -and will cost as much as a medium-priced Sauternes.

This recipe I have based on an inspired idea of Alice Waters, chef proprietor of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. She is one of the paramount masters of modem cooking, and her philosophy and recipes have been among my most profound influences.

Ingredients

  • 125g/ oz plain flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ lemon
  • ½ orange
  • 4 eggs
  • 125g/ oz caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp Sautemes or other dessert wine
  • 3 tbsp best-quality extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • icing sugar, to dust

Utensils

  • grater
  • 25cm / 10in springform cake pan
  • non-stick baking paper
  • pastry brush
  • food mixer
  • rubber spatula
  • sieve

Method

Mise en Place

Measure out all the ingredients and sift the flour into a bowl. Grate 1/2 teaspoon of zest each from the lemon and the orange, using the second-finest grating surface.

Preheat the oven to l40°C/285°F/gasl-2. Cut a circle of non-stick baking paper to fit the bottom of the cake pan exactly and line the base with it Brush the sides of the pan with olive oil and dust with flour, shaking off the excess.

Preparation

Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of the mixer and beat on high speed until it reaches the ribbon stage (i.e. off-white and stiff). Add the orange and lemon zest Turn the mixer to low and pour in the flour in a steady stream to combine with the egg and sugar mixture. Quickly add the wine and the olive oil. Switch off as soon as you have poured in the oil (it will not be fully incorporated).

Remove the mixer bowl and, with the spatula, stir gently, starting from the centre at the bottom and working outwards and upwards while rotating the bowl one quarter-turn. Repeat 3 more times (which means the bowl will have been turned full circle). This is called ‘folding’ and is the best way of ensuring all the elements are thoroughly mixed without losing lightness by being heavy-handed.

Working quickly, pour this mixture into the pan, using the spatula to scrape the last of it from the bowl. If the mixture collapses when you are folding in the flour, go ahead and bake anyway - it will be a little heavy, but will still have all the flavours.

Cooking

Put immediately into the centre of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Do not open the door for at least 15 minutes. After 20 minutes, insert a small clean knife into the centre of the cake (I stress clean because I have on occasion tested with a garlic-tainted knife, which does nothing to improve the flavour). If it comes out clean the cake is done, so remove it; if the mixture clings to the knife, cook for a further 5 minutes, by which time it should be cooked - but there is no harm in testing again.

Leave to cool in the pan on a cake rack, removing from the pan as soon as you can handle it. It is unlikely to stick because you have oiled the pan. If it does, it will be immediately apparent when you undo the spring clip. Refasten and run a small clean sharp knife round and it will unmould easily. Leave the paper on the bottom and return to the rack to cool completely.

Serving

Lightly dust the cake with icing sugar and cut into wedges. Serve with seasonal fruit, such as peach segments, or Compote of Winter Fruits.

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