After a week of Holiday indulging I had a hard time deciding what to make for my dessert party on New Year’s Eve. The first thing that came to mind was, keep it simple. I did not want another decadent chocolate cake, or sugary icing, or anything ‘candy cane’. I was done with Christmas and looking forward to a new year to come. I remembered making an incredible olive oil cake in Italy while on my honeymoon a couple of years ago in Ravello. It was delightfully indulgent, yet still somehow light enough to enjoy after a 5-course Italian lunch (seriously). I wanted to incorporate fruit and pears have been deliciously at their peak this month. Since I am beyond-over poached pears (after having done so far too many times in culinary school!), I decided to roast ’em. What better than a champagne toast with sweet wine-douced, roasted pears at midnight? A big slice of moist olive oil cake with homemade whip and toasted almonds to go with them! The olive oil gives the cake an incredibly (and healthy) moist texture and paired with Sauternes dessert wine you’ve got one indulgent and subtly boozie dessert. I made a simple syrup with the dessert wine to pour over the cake and the pears that I swear put this one over the top. It was such a big hit, everyone had seconds. And of course could not believe that everything on the table was…VEGAN. This was the way to ring int he new year- delightfully decadent with healthful ingredients and a little booze.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is a heart healthy oil that protects against heart disease and high cholesterol. It is a perfect oil for vegan baking and adds a subtle depth of flavor and richness to cake. Since it is the highlight of this cake, I recommend using a good fruit-forward and buttery brand, like this one.
Sauternes is a French sweet wine from the Sauternais region in Bordeaux. It is made from Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes. Wines from this area can be very expensive, largly due to the high cost of production. In the United States there is a semi-generic label for sweet white dessert wines knows as sauterne without the ‘s’ at the end and uncapitalized. This, or other sweet dessert wines, can also be used in this recipe.
Olive Oil Cake with Sauternes Roasted Pears + Homemade Whip
4 bosc pears, quartered lengthwise, core removed, keeping stem intact
1/3 cup Sauternes dessert wine
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fine sugar (I used castor sugar)
To roast the pears, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the pears on a baking sheet cut-side up. Drizzle with the wine, olive oil and sprinkle with the sugar. Roast for 45 minutes, turning occasionally, until tender and starting to caramelise. Allow to cool to room temperature. You can do this a day ahead. Store in the fridge overnight. Take out of fridge and bring back to room temperature before serving.
Olive Oil Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
In the meantime, to make the olive oil cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 8 or 9-inch cake or springform pan. Cut out and place parchment paper at the bottom of the pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, maple syrup, water, lemon juice and zest. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not over mix.
Fill the prepared pan evenly with batter. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack. Run a knife between the cake and the side of pan to loosen the edges before removing from pan.
This can also be made ahead of time. Store in a cake dome at room temperature for a couple of days.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Sauternes dessert wine
To make the syrup, place the sugar and 2 Tbsp water in a small pan and stir constantly over very low heat, without letting it boil, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Increase the heat and allow to simmer, until the syrup turns a golden brown color. Keep a close eye on the syrup, as once it starts to color it can burn very quickly. Turn off the heat, add the wine and stir to cobine. Set aside to cool.
1 (14-ounce) can of coconut milk, *chilled in fridge over night
2/3 cups powdered sugar
To make the whipped cream, chill the bowl and whisk of a stand mixer in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Skim the solidified coconut cream off the top of the chilled coconut milk and transfer the solids to the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the powdered sugar and whip for a few minutes until the mixture begins to stiffen and turn into whipped cream. Work quickly so everything stays cold. Chill whipped cream in a covered container in the refrigerator. It should firm up even more as it sits in the refrigerator for the next few hours or overnight, so this is also something that can be done ahead of time.