Olive Oil Cake

As much as I love butter, I prefer olive oil in my cake batter. It’s a flavorful and interesting fat that’s a vehicle for either savory or sweet seasonings. Plus, it keeps this fine-crumbed cake fresh and moist even after sitting out for days. Just be sure to start with a high-quality olive oil that isn’t too bitter or aggressively bold. Anyone intimidated by baking will appreciate this no-fail batter that’s mixed by hand, and everyone will enjoy the complex flavors that come from such a simple technique. Slices are excellent on their own and taste especially good when toasted and served with fresh butter or honey. I use this technique to make sweet-spiced loafs, savory goat cheese bread, a zucchini loaf, and even a dried fruit Bundt cake — all without having to break out the electric mixer. In this master recipe, the sweet olive oil cake batter benefits from the warming heat of ginger and the piquant heat of black pepper. Both are tempered by the licorice pop of fennel seeds, which are toasted with the peppercorns to draw out an even bolder and more pronounced flavor.
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