Monday, May 7, 2012

olive oil, chocolate and rosemary cake

If you read lots of food blogs, you might think that the last thing the world needs is another glowing review of Kim Boyce's book, Good to the Grain. But I'm afraid I'd have to disagree with you.

I've had this book for a little while now and had, until a couple of weeks ago, only made the now-famous whole wheat choc chip cookies. I didn't tell you about them because it seemed that everyone else was telling you about them. But holy heavens, if you haven't made them yet, jump to it: they are good. They've come to be known in these here parts as the cookies by neighbours, friends and family. Can you see why?

But just the other week I realised my fridge had been overtaken by carrots. Does that ever happen to you? I remembered a spelt flour and carrot muffin I'd seen in the book, so got to work one evening preparing all the ingredients so I could whip up the muffins before work in the morning. And holy moly, they were incredible. Moist, wholesome and sweetened not just by the combination of brown and white sugars but by the grated carrots and the spelt flour too. They're topped with an oat bran-fortified streusel topping, which turns them into a textural delight. See?

After the success of these muffins, I decided I really need to bunker down and get cooking. Well, baking, more specifically. I need make everything in this book, ASAP. But then I realised that if I really jumped into the task with the gusto I'd summoned apr├Ęs muffin, it wouldn't be long before I found my velour leisure suit becoming uncomfortably snug (yep, velour). So I decided that I'd let myself make a treat a week from this gorgeous selection - and that I'd give at least half of what I made away.

So this week I made Kim's olive oil, chocolate and rosemary cake. And oh... yes baby. Most people think they've misheard when you first say 'rosemary' followed by the word 'cake'. Unless they're Italian. Rosemary is one of the key ingredients in castagnaccio, the Tuscan chestnut flour cake that also contains raisins and pine nuts. I've been eating the castagnaccio made by Lisa Costa at Coffea Torrefazione Bottega pretty much for years now (and yes - she still makes it, so go try a slice!), so I jumped to try a cake recipe that included both rosemary and chocolate. 

Boyce is right when she writes of the magic that happens between the oil, the smoky chocolate and the pungent herb; the flavours of each are heightened, complemented and yet balanced by each other. It's pretty spectacular. The mix of white and spelt flour generates a toothsome crumb, soft but robust enough to suspend the broken shards of dark chocolate that are scattered through the batter. It is one of the most exciting cakes I've had in a long time: beautiful with coffee in the afternoon, but elegant and surprising enough to be part of a casual dinner. 

As you'll see below, it's also a sublimely quick and easy cake to whip up. Of course you don't have to use a tart pan, but there's a certain genius in the idea: the olive oil in the batter means that the edges of the cake make love to the corrugated edges of the pan while it's in the oven, resulting in the most deliciously crispy and fragrant crust. Dirty, but deliciously true, my friends. 

Olive oil, chocolate and rosemary cake

oil for the cake pan
3/4 cup spelt flour
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt, or 2/3 tsp flaked sea salt (like Maldon)
3 eggs
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tblsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
140g dark chocolate, chopped roughly (Boyce says 1/2-inch pieces)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. With a pastry brush or paper towel, grease the pan with olive oil. 

2. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. 

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until combined, then add the oil, milk and rosemary. Whisk again until all ingredients are well combined. 

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix in gently with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until well combined. Fold in the chocolate and pour the batter into the prepared pan. 

5. Bake for around 40 minutes, or until the edges are deep golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (Do check at 35 minutes, as my oven seemed faster and the cake was done a little earlier).


  1. I was so excited to see that you made the carrot muffins because I haven't tried that recipe yet, because that too-many-carrots thing totally happens here, too! I suspect my loftmate is half-French, half-rabbit.

    I can't wait to see which recipe you do next! I also can't wait to make this cake again.

    1. You must must try them! They're so good. There's also lots of allspice in them (something I forgot to mention), which brings a little moodiness to the party. My loftmate is 100% cat, but the carrot thing happens anyway?

  2. It's the dancing muffins! :) Ever since falling in love with The Curious Chocolatier's dark chocolate with freeze-dried apricot and rosemary bar, I've been a sucker for rosemary in sweet treats. Bring it on!

  3. I love hearing about cookbooks which people can't stop cooking from. I wasn't familiar with Kim's book but I'll be tracking it down now. Love the sound of this cake and adore the idea of baking it in a tart tin. Definitely adding this to my must bake list!
    Di @ Life is Di-licious


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