This past weekend I went to the Eat Real Festival in Oakland. It was a showcase of all things food. There was a place to check your canvas bags in case you wanted to check out music and not be holding your recently purchased jars of local cinnamon plum jam or sauerkraut. There were hundreds of vendors and food trucks selling everything from local sustainably harvested oysters to gluten free cupcakes. Beer sold in mason jars, grass fed and pickled everything. Top Chef alums doing demonstrations of DIY sausage, sourdough demos, and of course the brightest and best small batch coffee and popsicle vendors. Apricot curry popsicle anyone? Thousands and thousands of people patiently waited in long, long lines to get the city's most local food offerings. No plate of food was over $5 either. The affordability keep a great momentum going to sample lots of different foods. I kept thinking that food is what might bring this country together in our diversity of politics, social policy and religion. We all have to eat, right? It was quite a sight. I felt completely at home.
So, I came home from my food filled weekend to cooler temperatures and crisp air. Gingerbread kept coming to mind. Salted caramel kept coming to mind as well. That was a leftover thought of the weekend, because at the festival, the only thing missing for me was Bi-Rite Creamery and their salted caramel ice cream. I would climb a mountain for that ice cream. So, salted caramel it was. On gingerbread. I changed a basic gingerbread recipe around and added olive oil instead of butter. Molasses is dense and strong. I wondered if the grassy flavor of extra virgin olive oil and the addition of cardamom would make it more mysterious. I opted for buttermilk to keep the cake lively, springy and moist. Really, the cake only took about 10 minutes to put together. The caramel took a little over ten minutes and the butter cream another 10. Then, I stood in my kitchen and started forking out pieces of cake, slathering on the caramel buttercream, because I absolutely could not wait until everything was room temperature or say, on a plate. I managed to eat three pieces standing in my kitchen and I realized this cake was not safe in my house. Or really, I was not safe in my house with this cake in it! I proceeded to gift out the rest of the pieces to friends doorsteps to celebrate the arrival of fall.
This cake is as easy as making cornbread. Heavy on molasses, rich on flavor, but light and moist. Powdered cardamom might not be in your spice pantry, but is easy to find. It makes the gingerbread cake a bit more exotic. It is also lovely for making your own chai at home this winter. Or putting in shortbread cookies or in rice pudding. I purposely made a small cake here because gingerbread burnout happens quick. A little goes a long way. Plus, I wanted to make sure there was enough frosting to cover the whole cake.
Olive Oil Gingerbread Cake
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. powdered cardamon
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
In a bowl, add flour, spices, salt and baking powder. Stir with fork.
In another bowl, whisk egg with fork and add sugar. Add olive oil and molasses and lightly whisk with fork. Add to dry ingredients.
In a cup, mix buttermilk and baking soda. Add to rest of the ingredients. Pour into a buttered dish. This will make 6 cupcakes or a 9x9 pan. I used a slightly larger pan than 9x9 (an oval casserole dish) so that the cake would be thinner for more frosting.!
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes depending on thickness. Use a toothpick coming out clean to test for doneness.
Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
(makes about 2 cups)
1 1/2 sticks butter room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbls. water
1/4 cup heavy cream1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. salt
in saucepan, add sugar. Pour water on top of sugar. In a separate bowl mix vanilla extract and cream. Heat on med-high heat without stirring until mixture starts to turn a dark amber color. Remove from heat. Remove from heat and slowly add cream mixture with wooden spoon into hot sugar. Stir constantly until fully incorporated. Set aside to completely cool (about 25 min)
With an electric beater or stand mixer with paddle attachment, whip room temperature butter and salt until light and fluffy (2-3 min). Add powdered sugar and beat a minute more. Add room temperature caramel and beat another 2 minutes. Let cool in fridge for about 20 min. before using.