Dessert First + Alessi: Olive Oil Cake with Roasted Peaches

May 16th, 2014

Olive Oil Cake and Caccia cake server
Olive Oil Cake and Caccia cake server on the Quattro muri e due case tray

When I was asked to pick which Alessi pieces I would like to work with, I faced an overwhelming catalog of riches to choose from. Alessi has over 90 years of history and has objects in every size, in a myriad of materials from steel to porcelain. Although I would have loved to try my hand at some of their most iconic pieces, I focused on some more unique pieces that both reflected the summer theme and also spoke to my personal sensibility.

One of the newest pieces from the Spring/Summer collection that immediately struck me and lingered in my memory was the evocative Quattro muri e due case, which means "four walls and two houses" in Italian. I was struck by the poetry of the name and in the physical object, a sensuous piece of bamboo formed into a tray that indeed looks like a four-walled courtyard with two houses at either end acting as both gateways into the interior space and as handles for the tray.

Quattro Mure e Due Case side
Quattro Muri e Due Case side

It's a beautiful, thoughtful piece that immediately makes me think of the rolling hills of Tuscany with little farms nestled perfectly, picturesquely within their folds. Alessi describes this piece as "a little rustic, a little frugal, a little agricultural, and a little rural." The artist himself, Michele de Lucchi, a well known Italian architect and designer, has stated that, "Landscape has become a very poetic condition and something we’re increasingly worried about damaging. In Italy we destroyed a lot of our wonderful landscapes. So one message of the tray is to present a human being living in the world without fighting against the natural landscape."

While knowing the backstory to this tray has certainly enhanced my appreciation of it, I already knew it spoke to me from first glance. It just makes me happy when I look at it, and I want to use it to display everything I make. It's like a little piece of la dolce vita in my home.

For this lovely piece, I chose a recipe that I felt could best reflect its message of a simple, unaffected connection with the land. This olive oil cake is scented with citrus, and paired with peaches roasted with honey, almonds and Vin santo- all part of Tuscany's bounty. I imagine this is the sort of unassuming cake you might find served at one of these farmhouses.

Olive Oil Cake on Quattro Mure e Due Case
Olive Oil Cake on Quattro Muri e Due Case

You can use any olive oil you like - using extra virgin or a more robustly flavored olive oil will give the cake a more pronounced olive oil flavor, but whatever you use you will get a wonderfully moist cake with a dense, tender crumb. It is delectable on its own or dressed up with the peaches. The sugar and honey help bring out the sweetness of the peaches, and I always love the combination of almonds with peaches. Vin santo is the classic dessert wine of Tuscany - if you can't find any, a white wine will do. I used a mix of white and yellow peaches for the color contrast, although you can also use any ripe fruit, like cherries or apricots. It's a cake made for golden afternoons.

Some of the other pieces in these photos are the Caccia cake server, the very clever Taste-huile olive oil taster (shaped like an olive), and plates from the Tonale collection. Working with such beautiful pieces has certainly been inspiring! 

Olive Oil Cake slice and taster
Olive Oil Cake slice and taster

Olive Oil Cake with Roasted White Peaches

One 9-in round cake

Olive Oil Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups (188 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 3/4 cup (162 g) olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (122 g) whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • confectioners' sugar for dusting

Roasted Peaches

  • 2-3 ripe peaches
  • 3 tablespoons (38 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (170 g) honey
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) Amaretto
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) Vin Santo
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9" round cake pan and set aside.
  • Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Combine eggs and sugar in bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until combined.
  • Add in olive oil and beat until combined. Add in milk and orange and vanilla extracts, and beat until combined.
  • Add in the flour mixture and beat just until combined (do not overbeat). Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-45 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
  • Let cake cool on wire rack before unfolding. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

For the peaches:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Wash peaches and slice in half. Cut each half into 1/4" thick slices.
  • Place peaches in a baking dish. Sprinkle the sugar over them.
  • Combine honey, Amaretto, Vin Santo, and lemon juice and pour over the peaches - it should almost cover them.
  • Bake for about 35 minutes until the juices are bubbling and the peaches are fork-tender.
  • Let peaches cool completely before serving.

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