A ONE-LAYER LOVE of a cake, this beauty stands tall on the plate with the most tender crumb. I’ve adapted the recipe from The New York Times to include strawberries roasted with thyme and port in the cake, plus a slather of Italian buttercream and drizzle of roast strawberry sauce on top. The savory notes from the thyme and olive oil are delicious! If you like, you can serve the cake plain, with the sauce and roasted strawberries on the side.
FOR THE ROASTED STRAWBERRIES:
• 8 medium strawberries, leaves and stems discarded, sliced to fill a large pie plate in one layer (Note: You will need another 1/2 cup of strawberries to dice fresh for the top of the cake)
• 2 Tbsp tawny port
• 1 Tbsp maple syrup
• 1 tsp vanilla or vanilla paste
• 4 thyme sprigs
FOR THE OLIVE OIL CAKE:
• 1 1/2 cups pure cane sugar
• 3 large eggs at room temperature
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tsp to grease the pan and parchment
• Finely grated zest from 1 large lemon
• Freshly squeezed juice from half of the lemon, to make 2 Tbsp
• 1 1/4 cups whole milk,
• Roasted strawberries (recipe above) syrup strained off and reserved to top cake
• 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries to garnish cake
FOR THE ITALIAN BUTTERCREAM:
• 2 large egg whites
• 3/4 cup pure cane sugar
• 1/8 tsp salt
• 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter
• 1/2 tsp vanilla
MAKE ROASTED STRAWBERRIES: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer pie plate with sliced strawberries. In a small bowl, combine port, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Pour mixture over strawberries in pie dish. Cover with aluminum foil. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove foil. Pour collected strawberry juice into a small jar. Set aside. Continue roasting strawberries 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
MAKE CAKE: Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with 1 tsp of olive oil, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and grease again. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda into a bowl. Set aside
In the bowl of a stand mixer at high speed, beat the sugar, eggs and lemon zest for 5 minutes until thick and fluffy. With the mixer still running, slowly drizzle in the oil and beat until incorporated, another 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add milk and lemon juice. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Transfer two thirds of the batter to the prepared pan and place the reserved roasted strawberry slices over batter. Smooth more batter over the strawberries to fill just below the rim of the pan—NOTE: if you have a bit too much batter for your pan, discard the extra batter. Bake the cake 40 to 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and cool (still in pan) on rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to release the sides of the cake from the pan. Invert the cake back onto rack to fully cool. Remove parchment. Once cooled, flip cake back to right-side-up on serving platter. Reserve.
MAKE BUTTERCREAM: Place the egg whites and 2 1/2 tablespoons of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until the egg whites begin to peak. Turn mixer to medium low speed. Pour the remaining sugar and 2-1/2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat sugar water to the soft-ball stage (240 degrees), without stirring. This should only take a few minutes. Remove hot syrup from heat. Increase mixer speed to medium high. Slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the egg whites, pouring in at the edge of the bowl. Continue beating 10 to 15 minutes until the mixer bowl and meringue are cooled to the touch. You now have an Italian meringue—thick, with firm peaks. Whip in the salt. Continue beating while you add the butter, a few pieces at a time. Continue to whip until smooth. Add vanilla extract. Cover buttercream and set in a cool place.
ASSEMBLE CAKE: Spread buttercream over cake. Sprinkle with finely chopped fresh strawberries. Drizzle with reserved roasted strawberry and thyme syrup. Serve.