Olive Oil Cake with Strawberries, Basil-and-Lemon Syrup and Mascarpone
This recipe for olive oil cake was given to me by a genius chef in a little Italian town near Milan. The flavour of the cake changes every time you use a different olive oil and my Italian friends are amazed by it. Like all the best recipes, it is also the simplest cake to make: you just put everything in a bowl and stir.
We're glazing it with a basil-and-lemon syrup and serving it with sweet strawberries, but it is also delicious served simply with some fruit and whipped cream.
You will need
For the cake 200g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
200g caster sugar
200g olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon For the basil-and-lemon glaze 4 tbsps caster sugar
Juice of half a lemon
8 fresh basil leaves, shredded, plus a few extra for garnish To serve 250g mascarpone
2 tbsps caster sugar
1 punnet of fresh strawberries, hulled
Pre-heat the oven to 180Â°C/350Â°F/Gas mark 4. Oil and line an eight-inch cake tin. Now make the basil-and-lemon syrup. Put the sugar and lemon juice in a non-stick saucepan. Heat just until the sugar is melted and frothing. Remove from the heat, add the shredded basil and leave to infuse while you bake the cake.
To make the cake: Put the flour in a large bowl, add the baking powder and stir well. Add the caster sugar, olive oil, eggs, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Stir until everything is combined, making sure there is no flour at the end of the bowl. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes.
Check to see if it is done by inserting a wooden skewer in the middle of the cake at 40 minutes -- if the skewer comes out clean it is cooked; if not, check again every five minutes. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove it to a rack.
Re-heat the basil-and-lemon syrup briefly, then strain to remove the basil leaves. Put a plate underneath the cake rack and spoon the lemon and basil syrup over the cake. Leave to cool.
To serve, mix the mascarpone with the 2 tbsps caster sugar, dust the cake with icing sugar and top with a few basil leaves, put the chilled strawberries in a bowl and then let everyone help themselves.
Tip: You can also make this in a nine-inch tube cake tin and serve the cream and strawberries on top for a special occasion (see above). Dust with icing sugar.
Or why not spread the mascarpone over the cake, layer on sliced strawberries, dust with icing sugar and sprinkle on a few basil leaves?