I would love to tell you about this cake’s nostalgic and well adapted history, but I can’t. Nigella’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake is perfect. It is the only dessert (apart from Aunt Jeanette’s Chocolate Meringues) that I not only make all year around, but also on Passover. It ticks all the boxes: rich yet still light, moist with a perfect crumb, dairy and gluten free, super quick to throw together and impossible to screw up.
Let me explain. Passover is an eight day Jewish festival that starts next Monday evening. The holiday commemorates the Exodus from Egypt, and during the eight days we eat nothing leavened or fermented, or anything with flour and grains. This is the holiday of matzo, many eggs and creative baking.
Fortunately for everyone, Nigella’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake happens to fit into the Passover category of acceptable baked goods. Made with ground almonds, there is no need to substitute anything to adhere to the dietary requirements of the holiday, and if you want to shake things up a bit you can always substitute ground hazelnuts for a nutella-like feel.
There is one Passover caveat to this cake. It contains bicarbonate of soda, which is technically a leavening agent. However, as it is basically a chemical rather than one derived from fermentation which is forbidden, you can get approved baking soda (and baking powder) for Passover. Big. Sigh. Of relief. While some may argue that it is not in the spirit of the holiday, I think we all deserve well risen baked goods at all times.
So, if you are celebrating next week or if you are just looking for a dairy or gluten free dessert, this is a sure fire winner for any occasion. And it keeps brilliantly when covered for a few days (if it lasts that long). Nigella, you are a true goddess (and lifesaver).
Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
from Nigelissima by Nigella Lawson
150 ml (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) olive oil (plus more for greasing the tin)
50g (1/2 cup) good quality cocoa powder
125ml (1/2 cup) boiling water
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g (1 cup) caster sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
150g (1 1/4 cups) ground almonds
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 170C (325F)
Grease a 22cm (9 inch) springform tin with a little olive oil and line the base with baking parchment.
Measure and sift the cocoa powder into a bowl and whisk in the boiling water, stirring until it is a smooth paste. Stir in the vanilla extract and set aside to cool.
While the chocolate is cooling, combine the olive oil, sugar and eggs in the bowl of a freestanding mixer and beat with a paddle attachment for three minutes until pale and the consistency of thick cream.
While they are beating, mix together the ground almonds, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the egg oil and sugar mixture, and beat until it is combined, and then add the ground almonds. Give it one final mix with a spatula buy hand to make sure it is all combined. It is a runny mixture, do not fret!
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until the sides are set, but the centre still looks slightly damp. A cake tester should still have a few crumbs on it.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes on a rack before releasing the sides of the tin and allowing it to cool completely. This is also delicious still warm with ice cream
NOTE: If you are bicarbonate soda averse on Passover, you can use 3 egg yolks and 6 egg whites instead. Beat the egg yolks with the oil and sugar as above, but beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff. Follow the recipe as stated, but fold in the egg whites carefully at the end once everything is mixed. This will give a fluffier, less dense cake but still delicious.