As I was looking through the many delicious recipes on Saveur the other day, I found one for Quatre Quarts, a French fruit filled pound cake. It’s cherry season in the Sierra foothills, and I thought this would be a good way to put my fresh fruit to use. It was also an interesting study in cooking science, as it was from start to finish rather different than the typical cake recipe.
The first part of the instructions that was different than I am used to reading in recipes was that everything was measured by relative weight. Instead of calling for so many cups of flour, sugar, etc, it was all based on the weight of the eggs. Fortunately I have a kitchen scale! All the main ingredients had to be the same weight as the 3 eggs, so there was no math involved except when remembering to adjust the scale to account for the weight of measuring cups. I am not sure, but I expect the name Quatre Quarts refers to the four equal parts by weight of eggs, sugar, flour and olive oil.
The next unusual part was that instead of butter, the recipe called for olive oil. As I later learned, the use of olive oil in place of butter is common in many olive producing regions of the world. Apart from its many health benefits, olive oil gives cakes a lighter flavor than does butter.
But it’s essential that you use the correct olive oil! Not all olive oils are created equal. You probably already know about using extra virgin olive oil, which is the highest grade oil. However, like wine, coffee beans, and so many other foods, the flavor of the olive oil can vary drastically depending on which variety and where the olives are grown. A Greek oil tastes different than an Italian oil from the same cultivar of trees, and oil from the Mission olive tastes different than the oil from the Manzanillo olive.
When it comes to baking cakes, it is important to select a high quality oil with a mild, fruity flavor. For my cake, I stopped by Olive Vitality, where you can select from a large variety of olive oils, vinegars, and specialty oils. After tasting a few of their sweeter olive oils, I settled on “Aria,” a mild flavored Greek olive oil with a lovely green color pressed from Koroneiki olives.
Because of the way the olive oil behaves compared to butter, such as being liquid at room temperature, it is important to mix it very well with the other ingredients or else it will puddle instead of being absorbed by the dry ingredients. For this recipe, the instructions called for blending in a mixer on high for several minutes with the sugar to make sure they became well incorporated. Even at that, it started to separate later when I took too long with a later step.
The end result? Yummy! Though slightly more work than a regular cake, it was fun trying out a traditional French recipe and finding another good way to use the summer fruit harvest!
Want to win a tasting party at Olive Vitality? This will be one of the many great prizes at the Hike to End Breast Cancer in Chicago Park of Grass Valley this Sunday May 31st! Raffle tickets are also available in advance for only $1 each, and you don’t have to attend to win! For more information, visit the event website here.