Olive Oil Cake with Champagne Grapes

I love Trader Joe’s. Andy and I end up going there probably two or three times a week because we’re not very good at meal planning, and because I have an obsession with wine that is pretty good, but also dirt cheap. So after I picked him up from Bart last night, we stopped by so that I could pick up some wine and maybe peruse the cheese section for something new to try. I ended up with three bottles, no cheese, and champagne grapes. The grapes were a pleasant surprise, and I couldn’t have been happier to see them.

Now, I’ve had these little grapes before, but I haven’t ever really done anything with them other then pop them into my mouth while mindlessly binging Grey’s, and somehow convincing myself that eating an entire pound of them is healthy because it’s fruit. It falls right in line with the way I justify drinking an entire bottle of wine, and also why I consider a dirty martini to be a “salad”. That’s neither here nor there.

These little suckers pack a big punch of flavor for their size, and are much more friendly for baking because of their thin skin and bright color. They are kind of like the little popping boba things that you can get in your bubble tea or that they have at a frozen yogurt place, but it’s literally just a miniature grape. I personally like to think of them as fruit caviar, which makes me feel fancy and indulgent for having them. It’s truly a win-win.

Even though I have had them quite a few times, and they make a perfect addition to a cheese place, I haven’t ever heard of anyone using them in a recipe. So I did a little google search and was bombarded by a million ways that people have come up with to use them! There are cakes, cocktails, juice, frozen on ice cream, used in Greek yogurt parfaits, chicken salad… the list is damn near endless. I decided to attempt to bake something (against my horrible track record) and try a cute little olive oil cake with them mixed in. Let me tell you, this little cake couldn’t be much easier, and it’s an absolute show stopper.

The best thing about this cake though, is that you can eat it to begin or end your day. Have it with a side of Greek yogurt and an extra serving of fruit, or as dessert with a simple red wine syrup and top it with fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla. It’s dealer’s choice, really – this thing is delicious no matter what you decide to do with it.

Olive Oil Cake with Champagne Grapes

  • 2 large eggs , at room temperature
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter , melted
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 10 oz. fresh champagne grapes; rinsed, de-stemmed, and patted dry

Preheat oven to 350°F

  1. Generously butter a 10″ cast iron skillet. If using a cake pan or springform, generously butter and then dust with flour, tapping to remove any excess.
  2. Add eggs and sugar to a mixing bowl, and whisk vigorously until thick and lightened in color, about 3 minutes. Using a hand or stand mixer really is the best idea.
  3. Add the butter, oil, milk, and vanilla, mixing to combine thoroughly. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add the lemon zest and stir to coat.
  5. Spoon the flour mixture into the egg mixture and whisk until combined. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.
  6. Stir roughly 3/4 of the grapes into the batter, and pour into prepared cast iron skillet or cake pan. Smooth out the top with a spatula and tap on the counter to remove air bubbles.
  7. Place the skillet or pan in the center of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the rest of the grapes over the top, and return to the oven for an additional 30-35 minutes. The top should be a deep golden brown, and quite firm when pressed with a finger.
  8. Remove skillet or pan and place on a cooling rack. after 10 minutes, move a knife along the edge to loosen. Slide out from skillet, or remove the sides from the springform and leave cake on the base.
  9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve at room temperature. You can also top it with a simple syrup made of equal parts red wine and sugar, brought to a boil, simmered until reduced by half, and then drizzle over the top of the cake while still warm.

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