When it comes to blogging there are two things that interest me most: unexpected flavor combinations and wordplay. I’m constantly looking for blog inspiration from these two muses. My favorite blog posts are born when both these lovely ladies show their faces at the same time. So when I saw an olive oil cake on Food52 that included an unlikely splash of golden balsamic vinegar in the ingredient list I took notice. It didn’t take long for the phrase “oil and vinegar cake” to pop into my head. Once it did I knew a blog post was in the making.
Oil and Vinegar Cake?
Oil and vinegar is a classic flavor combination. It’s typically drizzled onto leafy greens – but oil and vinegar cake – that’s new territory! It’s not, however, unprecedented.
Sure vinegar seems like an odd ingredient for dessert. Puckery flavors tend to be appetite stimulators. This cake may contain vinegar, but it is not puckery. In fact, it’s quite rich and moist. That’s because it’s an olive oil and vinegar cake. Though I’d be willing to bet you could hardly guess that vinegar was the secret ingredient in this cake.
So why add it all?
Well, I’m no chemist but I do know that cakes (etc) with strongly acidic ingredients such as applesauce, buttermilk, honey, brown sugar, molasses, cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar can sometimes fail to rise properly when baking powder alone is used as leavening. I’m sure you’ve made cakes in the past that inexplicably dipped in the center– we all have. It could be that the pan was overfilled. Cakes that rise too far and too fast above the rim often cave in on themselves before they’ve finished baking. However, the more likely culprit is improper leavening. Too much leavening and your cake dips in the center. Too little and the cake domes dramatically. I realize that’s counterintuitive, but I promise I wrote that correctly (like I said, cakes that rise too fast often cave in on themselves).
Butter and eggs can be beaten full of air to act as natural (non-chemical) leaveners, which add an assist to the baking powder. Or you can use baking soda. If you’ve ever built a grade school volcano I’m sure you understand the exchange between the vinegar and baking soda. It’s a baking technique used by Depression-era cooks when ingredients like butter were hard to come by.
So there you have it. Oil and Vinegar Cake. It’s certainly a fun play on words. But I have to ask, is it such an unexpected combination after all? GREG