Saturday 29 January 2011

Ottolenghi's Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Layer cakes are like wow.  Like double decker buses, cakes are just plain cooler with more levels.

Layer cakes are really not my strong point.  Not. At. All.

Layer cakes are my nemesis.

If the middle frosting isn't squishing out all over the show, it's the cake layers that slide all over each other refusing to line up.  Like when you put the wrong ends of two magnets together.  Utter cake fail.

But then I see the beautiful pictures of other bakers' majestic multi-layered marvels on foodbuzz, tastespotting and foodgawker; and over time the anguish and heartache of previous cake fails is forgotten and that urge to attempt the impossible creeps in again: the irrepressible urge to make a layered cake.

So when it was my mother-in-law-to-be's birthday, the layer cake fairy once again whispered in my ear and I found myself trawling the web for choc-free layer cake recipes.

Enter Ottolenghi's Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Even just reading the name of the cake makes you drool just a little.  And once I saw these pics of the cake at From Donuts to Delirium, Saffron & Blueberry, and Eat the right stuff, it was a done deal: make this cake or die.

Baking the layers was easy enough.  Dump everything in the two pans and bake side by side.  No sweat.  Let it cool in the tin - yip can do.  Leave it overnight - so far so good.

I've made cream cheese frosting before so that wasn't an issue either.  Although, may I note that this maple cream cheese frosting is seriously out of this world.  Who would have thought that maple syrup would go so well with cream cheese.  Oh you clever wee chickens at Ottolenghi!

Then it came to assembling the cake.

I put the bottom layer on the plate.  Slathered a generous dollop of frosting on top and spread it out leaving a 2 cm rim at the edge of the cake.  Then with shaking hands, I slowly, carefully, delicately placed the top layer on top of the bottom layer and.......KERSPLAT!  The frosting squishes out the sides and oozes down the cake.  What went wrong?????

Then because the bumpy tops of the cake are together in the middle, there is a humongous cavernous gap in between the layers which I try to stuff with more icing.  When that didn't work, I tried to cover it up with a layer of frosting camouflage all over the cake but I just can't get the icing to go smooth.  Urgh!!!

Layer cake: 1.  Me: 0.

Despite my utter lack of cake decorating nous, the cake itself was delicious.  And kinda felt healthy...apples, olive oil, walnuts - heck it was basically a salad!   The frosting would also go amazingly with carrot cake.  A definite keeper.

In the meantime, I'm going to nurse my wounded layer cake confidence and go back to gazing longingly at other bakers' successes.

Until the next time the layer cake fairy strikes....

Ottolenghi's Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Tweaked from Ottolenghi - The Cookbook

2 cups (280g) flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (120ml) olive oil
3/4 cup (160g) caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, separated
4 granny smith apples, peeled and cut into 1 cm dice
zest of 1 lemon
2 egg whites

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
100g unsalted butter
100g light brown sugar (get rid of as many lumps as you can)
100ml maple syrup (the good stuff, not the phoney maple flavoured stuff, you hear?)
250g cream cheese (***make sure you use full fat cream cheese and not spreadable or low fat. I recommend using Philadelphia brand, have had some bad batches with other brands!***)
Optional: Walnut pieces and silver cachous to decorate.

1. Preheat the oven to 170oC.  Prepare two springform 20cm diameter cake tins by spraying with cooking spray and lining with baking paper.

2. Sift flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl (or just on to a piece of baking paper).

3. Whisk olive oil, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy.  Then whisk in the egg yolks one at a time (not the egg whites!).

4. Stir in the apples, lemon zest and the flour mixture.

5.  Beat the egg whites until stiff then fold into the cake batter.  You'll know it's stiff when the egg white stays in the bowl even when you tip it upside down!  Go on, I dare ya!

6. Pour equal amounts into your two prepared tins and baking for 45 mins or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.  Cool completely in the tins before turning out. When completely cool you can wrap the cake halves in glad wrap and leave it overnight in the refrigerator (and up to 3 days).  The flavours develop better when you leave it for a day.

7. To make the frosting: beat the butter till light and fluffy then beat in cream cheese until just mixed in (be careful not to overbeat!).  Beat in maple syrup and brown sugar.

8.  To assemble the cake: put the bottom layer on a plate.  Spread a layer of frosting on top of the bottom layer and spread out, adding enough frosting to get about a 1 cm layer of frosting.  Place the second layer on top of the bottom layer.  You can either just cover the top in a layer of frosting or you can cover the whole cake.  I found using a pallet knife to make the whole process easier but even then it was pretty fiddly getting it smooth and you had to eat a lot of the frosting in the process to steel yourself for the task ahead. Sprinkle with silver cachous and walnut pieces to make it look purrrrty.


  1. Two words: crumb layer. (Then refrigerate.)

    I know your pain.

    Also I find that using a hot knife helps heaps.

  2. Hi,
    Layered cakes are my nemesis too! (Bad if you are an untrained pastry chef). I tend to stir away as much as I could, but haunts me back over and over.

    Hey yours looks great, rustic. The frosting too, seems to be not-too-sweet. Hahaha, a salad ;P

  3. I think it looks amazing! Slather enough icing on a most cakes looks good. People will be so mesmerized with the pretty silver balls any hoo! Great job. Might try this recipe!

  4. I don't own 2 round cake tins but I'm so keen to make this cake coz despite your hiccups it looks so good and the recipe sounds delicious! I've made a blackforest cake in one tin then sliced it into layers and it worked surprisingly well (for an amateur like me) so might have to give it a go that way. Though I did break out in a sweat trying to slice the layers evenly. Nail biting stuff. :P

    Btw I'm off to Canada in July and I'll be stocking up on tins of maple syrup, I can't get enough of it. Yet I've never used it in frosting, I must be crazy. Thanks for the inspiration!


  5. Layer cakes can turn evil on you. ;) This looks delicious though. The maple frosting....heaven!

  6. I'm glad Im not the only one who has been wanting to attempt the imposing layer cake in my own kitchen because of all the beauties on the food sites. And you are correct, just the title alone make me want to take a bite. I think your cake looks and sounds wonderful. What a nice gift for your MiL. :)

  7. When icing your middle layer, don't push it out fully to the edges - leave maybe a cm gap. When you put the top layer on it will ooze into the gap you left instead of down the sides :)

  8. Lol! I have had some pretty bad experiences with layer cakes... they're so hard to get even (the frosting too... how do they do it so perfect?)

    You said the bumpy tops in the middle were making big gaps? I always even out the tops of the cakes with a serrated knife... and then for cutting the actual thin layers the best thing I've found so far has been dental floss. (strange, yes...)

    I like your site name btw! Cute!

  9. teresa: Thanks for the tips! I've wondered whether refrigerating would help....think I need a bigger fridge!

    PFx: Hehe "rustic" - brilliant! I am so going to call all my baking that now! I've using "abstract" - Yea it's supposed to look like that, it's impressionist baking :P

    Jacksta: That was totally my thought process - just shove a whole heap of silver balls on to dazzle so no one notices the icing!

    Linno: Hehe Linno I love your rambles! I can't believe I've never used maple in frosting either - it's soooo good. Exciting about Canada!!! May you get to eat lots of delicious food and may your flight be screaming baby free flight.

    briarrose: Thanks! I so think that layer cakes are ganging up on me. I think next time I just need to show them whos boss.

    Kita: Thanks lovely! I know, I just don't understand how people make them look so perfect. Maybe there's a secret club that they are part of with secret tricks.

    Anonymous: Thanks for the tip anonymous!

    Brittany Trei: Thanks for the tips! I was lazy this time but next time I am so trying your cut the tops off tip! Dental Floss - how intriging...could even lend a nice subtle minty flavour yea?? :)

  10. This cake looks simply amazing, I will give it a try soon, very, very soon :). I am already dreaming about the rich flavours of apple and cinnamon perfectly married with the maple syrup.

  11. labonnebouche: Thanks heaps Emilia!! The icing is truely to die for!! Yotam Ottolenghi is a genius!



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