I have always had an affinity for mixing, matching, and making mad science of classic, cult-favorite, reliable recipes. Such were the instructions for Food52's 'Recipe Off-roading' series, and Maialino's Olive Oil cake was my muse. A beautiful cake to begin with, the texture and core flavors were where I honed my hare-brained ideas, switching size and form from cake to muffin (single serve seems superior in my household, anyway), and eliminating the Grand Marnier completely (we're dry, too). In my first take, I infused the olive oil and introduced a quick plum compote to play on the fruitiness of the oil and sweetness of the cake itself; in the second, buckwheat flour and honey added a syrupy, warm caramel undertone that reduced the rise but compensated with flavor; and lastly in the third version, I added chocolate and sea salt, because you can never go wrong with those two.
I tweaked the original recipes with regard to amounts of flour (adding more to address moisture, sogginess, and the balance of sweet flavors (respectively) from the other changes). Overall, the recipe played well with other additions and subtractions, proving to be a deliciously durable and a favorite for a very clear reason.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (for buckwheat version, reduce to 1 1/4 cups)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons grated citrus zest (and/or 1/4 teaspoon extract of your choice)
1/2 cup flavored liquid (my adaptations employed fruit syrup, honey, and chocolate sauce. Get creative! Coffee or tea would be interesting, too)
4 medium plums, sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 1/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
Step 1Prepare a standard 12-well cupcake pan with liners, or grease the wells with butter or oil. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Step 2Combine all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and soda) in one bowl and all wet (olive oil, milk, egg, flavored liquid, zests and/or extracts) in another. Add wet to dry and mix, taking care not to over-beat. The batter should be a little thinner than a cake batter but thicker than crepe batter, still coating the back of a spoon in an appreciable layer of goop.
Step 3Fill the cupcake liners almost to the top and bake for approximately 15 minutes before testing for doneness (a clean toothpick/knife inserted in the center) and removing from the oven. Let cool for 20 minutes before finishing (see notes below) and devouring.
Step 4My adaptations:\r\n\r\nTake one - Rosemary and Ginger-Black Pepper Plum: Replace plain olive oil with rosemary-infused olive oil (recipe follows) and use 1/2 cup plum syrup for flavored liquid (recipe follows; supplement with a little bit of water if necessary), 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Serve with remaining plum compote and vanilla ice cream/yogurt (because YOLO.)\r\n\r\nTake Two: Rose, Honey, and Buckwheat: Reduce all-purpose flour to 2 1/4 cups and add 1/3 cup buckwheat flour. For flavored liquid, replace with 1/3 cup honey and 1 1/2 tablespoons rosewater (or to skip the rose, go with 1/2 cup honey and 2 tablespoons water or juice/tea). Add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, and when baking, keep a close eye, as these bake fastest of the three and can burn easily around muffin edges. Finish with an additional drizzle of honey and crushed rose petals (if you have'em). \r\n\r\nTake Three: Chocolate Sea Salt: Melt 6 ounces of milk or bittersweet chocolate ( I used 64%) with a little bit of olive oil (to keep chocolate sauce loose), and when melted, stir in 1 tablespoon of orange juice. (Alternatively, a 1/3-cup glug of Hershey's Chocolate Sauce would be a-okay in my book!). Use the 1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest, and finish muffins with a drizzle of more chocolate sauce and generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt. \r\n\r\nTo really go all-out, leave any of these variations - or even the original- out overnight to stale and dry out a bit. Slice the muffins in half the next morning, and griddle, cut-size down in a small frying pan in butter until golden brown. Eat out of the pan with a sip of strong coffee while the rest of the morning madness swirls around you.
Step 5For the plum compote: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepot and cook over low flame until the plums are soft and syrupy. Do this before starting the batter and allow to cool slightly before using.
Step 6For the infused olive oil: Bring 1 1/3 cups olive oil to a low simmer over medium-low flame, crush rosemary, and add to the oil. Cook for two minutes, allowing to sizzle slightly, before removing from heat and letting steep (I let mine sit overnight). When using for muffins, I did not strain the rosemary sprigs out, but it is an option that I leave up to you!