Friday, July 13, 2012

zucchini olive oil cake with lemon crunch glaze.

I am a huge lover of savory/sweet foods and dishes.  Ricotta drizzled with honey and cracked black pepper on toasted Italian bread, one of the simplest and best foods ever.  Bittersweet chocolate chip cookies sprinkled with flaky sea salt, I could eat an entire batch of them.  Rosemary ham, cheddar cheese, and strawberry jam, the perfect lunch sandwich.  I could go on and on about all the combinations I love.   The reason I love them so much is that the juxtaposition of savory and sweet brings out the best in each other. 

This juxtaposition is extremely evident in this zucchini olive oil cake.   (I’ll let you ponder all those ingredients in one cake for a minute.)  This cake is one of my hands down favorite cakes I have ever made (and I’ve made a lot of cakes in my life).  The olive oil gives a fruity earthiness to the cake and it keeps it incredibly moist.  The zucchini gives it a lovely texture and flavor and the nuts give it a lovely toasted crunch.  But for me the best part of this cake is the lemon glaze.  It transforms the whole thing from simple to special.  The sweet lemon glaze provides a sweet crunchy crust and it works perfectly with the olive oil.  Sweet and savory has never tasted so good.

Zucchini Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze
Recipe from Gina Depalma’s Dolce Italiano

For the Cake

1 cup walnut pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 ½ cups grated zucchini (about 2 small – and you can always add 3 cups!)

For the Lemon Glaze

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners sugar

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position the rack in the center.  Grease a 10 cup bundt pan (or a regular 9 inch cake pan) using nonstick spray or butter, then dust it with flour to coat it completely, tapping out excess flour.

Place the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them until they are golden brown and aromatic, 12 to 14 minutes.  Cool the walnuts completely, then finely chop them in the food processor and set aside. 
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices into a medium bowl and set aside.  In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and olive oil together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula after each addition.  Beat in the dry ingredients all at once on low speed until they are thoroughly combined, then switch the mixer to medium speed and mix for 30 seconds.  Beat in the zucchini and the walnuts on low speed until they are completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.  Bake the cake for 45 – 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning.  The cake is done with the tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan. 
While the cake is baking prepare the glaze: in a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and granulated sugar, then whish in the confectioners sugar until the glaze is completely smooth. 

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully invert it onto a wire rack and then flip it onto another wire rack so the top of the cake which is nice and crusty is the part you glaze.  Using a pastry brush immediately brush the glaze over the entire surface of the warm cake, using all of the glaze; it will adhere to the cake and set as the cake cools.  Allow the cake to cool completely and the glaze to dry completely.  Enjoy! 

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