The 2018 Saint Demetrios Greek Festival is upon us and I couldn’t be more excited. I am one of the thousands who love this church’s festival because of it’s authenticity…baked goods and Greek dishes prepared from old family recipes which over the years have been converted to feed the hordes of festival goers. Whether in Crete, the mainland or the islands, these festival dishes are the foods you find in the Greek home. The Greek table is a marvel regardless of lean times or times of ease and plenty. Every time I’ve been to Greece, I’ve discovered new foods or a completely new spin on an old dish. Of course, we all know feta cheese; briny and tangy sitting atop a Greek salad wearing a green and gold crown of locally grown oregano or still salty but now creamy tucked between several buttery sheets of shatteringly crisp filo dough married with spinach and sliced spring onion having been baked to perfection. How surprised I was when I was introduced to a typical appetizer, Feta Psiti, which is baked feta cheese topped with a good shower of hot pepper flakes and local oregano then doused with a liberal splash of fruity Greek olive oil! I had never had anything like that here in the States. My husband’s Greek family looked on with amusement as I dove in with abandon scooping up the melted cheese with torn off chunks of hot, crunchy bread. At another family gathering around the table, I thought I had found my new favorite food when my husband’s cousin served me Koukia, a gorgeous, creamy dish made from yellow split peas which have cooked down to a smooth, firm dip. Considered a salad, this dish is topped with Greek olive oil, chopped red onion, and a good dusting of oregano and I’m more than happy to call this dinner. My husband’s cousin was thrilled to have presented me with this humble yet unexpected treasure. The Greek table is like that. Always gathering one in, never shutting one out. “Come! Have coffee at my house and we’ll talk. I baked a cake”, is heard so often all through Greece. When you hear that, you ought to take them up on the offer for Greek coffee and baked goods are beyond delicious and the Greek table is where you’ll hear all the good village gossip. The following Greek olive oil cake is a recipe found throughout the country of Greece. Each recipe is slightly different…some add Greek yoghurt, liquors, orange or lemon but all are lovely and will bring you to the Greek table.
Dense, moist and velvety, this cake is an unlikely wonder touched with tones of orange, lemon, almond, and of course, green, fruity olive oil. Olive oil cake is a classic throughout Greece and once you have a taste you’ll know why. Somehow it works…all the flavors sing in perfect harmony. It’s a rather substantial cake so don’t be alarmed at the large amount of olive oil called for nor the fact that the batter will be rather runny. It will be gorgeous. And it’s a great do-ahead as the flavor improves the following day. Kali orexi!
Greek Olive Oil Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups extra virgin Greek olive oil, Trader Joe’s makes a decent one
- 1 1/4 cups milk, I’ve used almond milk and the cake turned out fabulous
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup orange liquor
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 3/4 cup finely, finely chopped sliced almonds. I use a mini-processor and pulse the nuts until they are small bits.
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin Greek olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of one lemon
- zest of one lime
- Pre-heat oven to 350°. Butter an 11-inch cake pan and set aside.
- Into a medium-sized bowl sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl mix well the eggs, sugar, olive oil, milk, lemon juice, liquor, lemon and orange zest and almond bits. Mix well until there are no lumps of sugar and the olive oil is completely incorporated.
- Mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture until well blended, pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes.
- Allow to cool on a cooling rack.
- Run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert onto a plate.
- Allow to cool completely prior to icing the cake. If the cake is to be served the following day, prepare and drizzle the glaze right before serving.
- Combine all ingredients except the lemon and lime zest in a small bowl and whisk until smooth
- Drizzle glaze over the cooled cake.
- Sprinkle with lemon and lime zest and serve.