Zucchini Olive Oil Cake

While working on the Lucero family’s olive farm in Corning, California, I wanted to create a dessert that would make Dewey Lucero and his family proud. This family has been growing olives for three generations. This olive oil cake is incredibly moist and delicious, dressed with a sweet orange glaze and garnished with a salty-sweet olive brittle.

Serves 8 to 10

For the Walnut Olive Brittle

  • 1 cup (250 mL) sugar
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) water
  • ½ cup (125 mL) finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped pitted black olives

For the Zucchini Olive Oil Cake

  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) baking soda
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground ginger
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) nutmeg
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups (425 mL) sugar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups (625 mL) grated zucchini
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chopped walnuts

For the Mandarin Orange Glaze

  • ½ cup (125 mL) sugar
  • 6 mandarin oranges, segmented and crushed
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) heavy cream

To make the brittle, line a baking sheet with nonstick liner or with an oiled sheet of foil. In a deep, heavy saucepan over low heat, heat the sugar with the water. Stir slowly with a fork until sugar is melted and pale gold. Gently swirl the pan and stir in the walnuts and black olives, then immediately pour the mixture onto the baking sheet, tilting the sheet to spread the caramel as thinly as possible. Cool the brittle completely at room temperature. Break into small pieces with a spoon. This can be done ahead and kept in an airtight container.

To make the zucchini cake, preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray a Bundt cake pan with cooking spray, then dust with flour to coat it completely, tapping out the excess flour.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and olive oil on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, add the flour on low speed until combined, then beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and stir in the zucchini and the walnuts until they are completely incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean and the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan. Turn the cake out onto a rack and cool completely.

To make the glaze, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the sugar and ¼ cup (60 mL) of water to a boil. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar syrup is a medium golden brown. Add the mandarin orange juice. Whisk in the butter and heavy cream. Stir in the mandarin orange segments.

To serve, cut the cake into slices. Pour some of the glaze over the cake. Top with sweet vanilla whipped cream and walnut olive brittle.