My first post of the year is one I promised way back in 2016. I meant to write it up sooner but got busy with the holidays and work and before I knew it the year had disappeared on me. There’s never a wrong time for cake though, and I promise this one is worth the wait! I am by no means an expert baker, but there are a couple desserts I’ve made over and over again, experimenting with temperature and ratios with obsessive attention to detail until they are perfect. This chocolate olive oil cake with rosemary buttercream is one of them. The first time I made it, it was a humble loaf cake with lumpy buttercream slathered on top. As I’ve refined the recipe and learned baking lessons by making mistakes (always sift powdered sugar before dumping it into creamed butter!), it’s matured into a simple but elegant layer cake that’s a family favorite for holidays, birthdays and just because. The one pictured here was my family’s Thanksgiving dessert.
The cake itself has no butter; olive oil and just enough sugar and a splash of apple cider make it rich, moist and not overly sweet. The buttercream is infused with fresh sprigs of rosemary and is an earthy, herbal contrast to the chocolate cake. If you saw last week’s post you already know how fond I am of rosemary, especially in sweet incarnations. I’ve made this cake throughout the year, and no matter when you eat it, it seems perfectly seasonal; maybe it’s because there’s fresh rosemary in the garden all year, or because chocolate never goes out of style. I’ll make it again next month for P’s birthday; he’s requested it for the past few years and I’m happy to oblige. When I bake it, I get to eat it too, after all. Trust me, this is one you want to save for your next occasion.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 1/4 cups sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 2/3 cup olive oil
- 2 1/2 cup milk
- 5 eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup apple cider
- 2 cups butter
- 2-3 cups confectioners sugar
- 2-3 Tbs. milk
- pinch salt
- 5-6 sprigs of rosemary
- Preheat the oven to 325º Fahrenheit.
- Sift together the dry ingredients in one bowl, and mix the wet ingredients in a larger one. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until just blended.
- Divide the batter evenly among three greased, 8" cake pans. Whack the pans on the counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean; start checking around 30 minutes.
- Let cakes stand for 5-10 minutes, then turn onto a rack to cool.
- Melt the butter over medium-low heat along with the rosemary. Bring it to a simmer and remove from heat after a couple minutes, before the butter starts to brown. Let the rosemary sit at least 30 minutes before discarding, or as long as overnight. Place butter in the refrigerator just until opaque, about an hour; it should still be soft enough to mix.
- Cream the infused butter with sifted sugar and milk; start with 2 cups of sugar and 2 Tbs. milk. Add a pinch of salt, and add more sugar and milk to taste.
- Frost away!
I find freezing the cake layers makes them much easier to frost, but this step isn't a necessity. Baking at a slightly lower temperature than other cake recipes call for and whacking the pans on the counter both help produce level cake layers. If yours still come out too "domed", level them with a sharp knife and nosh on the extra bits while you frost.