Friday, April 12, 2013

My Favorite Things: Olive-Oil-Wine-Cake with Strawberries on Top

Let it be known that I'm kind of obsessed with Edible Santa Barbara. I always check the ATM stand at the farmers market to see if there's a new issue out that I can snag for free, and recently I was delighted to discover the new "Bread and Wine Issue." It included a whole bunch of inspired recipes, as usual, but I was intrigued by one in particular: wine cake, of course.
Olive-Oil-Wine-Cake with Strawberry-Pinot-Noir topping!

In addition to wine, the other main ingredient this cake recipe called for was olive oil. A whole lot of olive oil, since it was taking the place of butter in the recipe. Brown paper packages tied up with strings are okay, I guess, but wine, cake, and olive oil? These are a few of my favorite things!

For the olive oil, I headed straight to Il Fustino, one of Santa Barbara's best olive oil makers and vendors. The shop looks clean and inviting inside; the walls are lined with stainless steel containers of olive oils and balsamic vinegars, as well as all kinds of snacks and seasonings from local merchants. Each tank had a recipe suggestion for that type of olive oil for customers to take home!

"Il Fustino" means "The Tank" in Italian. Looks like this place got named during a game of I Spy (or "Io vedo," if you will).

I chatted with James Kirkley, whose dad, Jim, founded Il Fustino after working in the software industry for years. James's mom, Laura, does all the marketing for Il Fustino. James told me that all of their oils are grown in California and are certified to be Extra Virgin by the California Olive Oil Council.

Don't ask me what the Extra Virgin certification process entails, but I have to assume you sign up for it at Comic-Con.

I tasted a few of the oils right from the tank before settling on Olio Nuovo (which just means "new oil"), freshly pressed from the new Arbequina olive crop and unfiltered. It had a green tinge, smelled like newly cut grass, and tasted kind of peppery. James told me the peppery flavor was due to the polyphenols (antioxidants that reduce the risks of cancer and heart disease). This stuff was strong, but I figured if I was going to use olive oil in my cake, I wanted to taste it in the finished product.

Now it was time for the "wine" part of the wine cake operation. Unfortunately, I don't know of any local winemakers who produce Moscato, which the recipe called for, so I did the next best thing and purchased some at The Winehound, my favorite local wine shop. I told Bob, the least snobby wine connoisseur I've ever met, of my wine cake aspirations and he helped me pick out a good, inexpensive Moscato.

I also needed to buy some Pinot Noir for the strawberry topping, so I tried something new: "moobuzz" Pinot Noir by The Other Guys, Inc. in Monterery, CA (distance from me: 237 miles). "Moobuzz" is a cute reference to "The Land of Milk and Honey" - get it? Milk comes from cows, which go "moo," and honey comes from bees, which go "buzz!" How could I not buy this delightfully punny wine?

Here's the recipe, courtesy of Edible Santa Barbara, with my own twist:

Wine Cake

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup unbleached organic cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup dessert wine (I used Moscato)

For the glaze:
3 tablespoons Moscato
1/2 cup organic powdered sugar

For the topping:
1 pint strawberries
1 cup Pinot Noir
1/8 cup unbleached granulated sugar

First, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees. The directions said to lightly butter a 9- by 5-inch metal loaf pan and line the bottom and two longer sides with parchment paper. Well, there was about a 0% chance that I was in possession of any parchment paper, but luckily I had some really thin, paper crafty bags left over from my over-the-top Valentine's Day crafts-travaganza. I cut one along the edges and figured it made an okay substitute:

I combined the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and put it aside. Then I was supposed to beat the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer, but since I don't just have a stand mixer lying around, I got a real arm workout in here. After I beat the eggs and sugar together, it was time to add the vanilla extract and olive oil (still mixing ferociously for about 5 minutes).

Before you judge me for not having a stand mixer, remember that I haven't had any weddings, so I don't have any of the standard wedding-gift-kitchen appliances like stand mixers, fondu sets, matching silverware, etc.

Then I got to open the Moscato - pop! - and I poured it into the bowl, alternating it with adding the dry ingredients little by little (still beating the crap out of the mixture by hand). I grumbled to David that we should get married soon for the sole purpose of acquiring a stand mixer. He laughed... and then ran away.
The wet ingredients with some bubbly Moscato!
While the cake baked, I got to work making the strawberry/wine topping! Yes, more wine. This one was simple: I just cut the strawberries in half and mixed them up in a bowl with the sugar, then poured the Pinot Noir over them.

Instead of a cork, this bottle had a "zork" - a delightful portmanteau of "zipper" and "cork" - that peels off and then pops out like a cork. My mind was blown.
The moobuzz zork!
I let the strawberries chill out in the wine (or "macerate," as you might call it if you were classy) while the cake finished baking. Meanwhile, I mixed together the Moscato/powdered sugar glaze in a small bowl.

After 50 minutes, the wine cake was done! I took it out of the oven and poured the glaze on top immediately, so it soaked right into the still-warm cake:
Hooray! The craft paper didn't catch on fire!
After letting it cool for about ten minutes, I sliced it up and spooned the strawberry topping over it. It was so moist and delicious! The wine soaked into the cake, which I loved, but it was too much for David. He preferred his wine cake without the extra wine on top.

Pshaw. I'll take my wine cake with wine on top and a glass of wine, please! The next evening, I took the rest of the cake over to my friend Jasmine's house and we finished it off while drinking more wine (obviously) and watching Magic Mike. Then I made up this song:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm, woolen mittens,
Olive oil, wine cake, and a glass of more wine...
Channing Tatum. Boom.

1 comment:

  1. Meghan,

    Your cake looked wonderful. Thank you for the kind words. I also have the same issue of "edible Santa Barbara" with a page corner turned down on the Wine Cake recipe. I liked your revisions so I will be making your version. I'm with you on the stand mixer, too much trouble.

    We actually just returned from the annual COOC meeting. A brief explanation of what it takes to get COOC certified. First it must pass USDA chemistry standards (free fatty acidity, peroxide value, and ultraviolet absorbance.) Most of our oils also go through two additional tests set forth by the Australian Olive Association (AOA), PPP and DAG's. Once the oil passes all of these chemical tests it is eligible for "Sensory Assessment." The olive oil is tasted by a highly trained panel of judges for Negative Attributes or Defects. The oil is judged on a sliding 1 to 10 scale in six categories. If the panel picks up any defects the oil will not receive COOC certification.

    Pretty amazing huh? While the oil is tasted for defects the tasters are also evaluating Positive Attributes. While an oil may meet with general approval, if not "Balanced" it will never go on to becoming an "Award Winning" oil.

    I would love to provide a mini "Sensory Assessment" class for you if you would care to learn more. We often conduct "How to Taste" classes, our customers have a lot of fun with the whole process.

    Please give me a call and we can set up a time.

    Thank you again for using our products and your wonderful compliments.

    Laura Kirkley
    Founder, il Fustino, oils & vinegars