Lemon-Scented Olive Oil Cake with Plumped Figs

Picture this: figs doused in Grand Marnier and orange juice that are folded into a tender cake batter made with whole wheat pastry flour, olive oil and a generous amount of fragrant lemon zest. The result? This beautiful dessert from Maria Speck‘s Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.

This was the dessert for this month’s Cookbook Club, where Jan from Family Bites and Mardi from eat.live.travel.write and I made a dinner filled with recipes from Maria’s beautiful cookbook. Every month, we choose a cookbook to delve into, and this couldn’t have been a better choice. The cookbook is packed with dishes using a variety of grains — the recipes are all wholesome, with great depth of flavour and an absolute delight to cook up. Aside from the obvious nutritious benefits of adding more whole grains to your diet, I share Maria Speck’s view about grains: they’re first and foremost delicious, and add great texture and flavour to recipes. {For more on this, read the interview I conducted with Maria Speck for Style at Home a while back!}


Dinner started with a loaf of Aroma bread with Coriander and Fennel made by Jan, which we enjoyed with good mustard, jam and cheese. Our main dish was Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Radicchio, Caramelized Shallots, and Bacon, which Mardi served with some fresh Parmesan cheese, ready to grate. It was full-flavoured comfort food, and an absolutely stellar menu to help fight a cold winter day.

This cake ended up being a great addition to our menu. It has an immediate wow factor due to the fact that it’s baked in a tart pan, a super easy way to give it a beautifully elegant shape. We enjoyed it as is, but it would definitely be delicious slightly warmed, with a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Here’s how to make it!

Lemon-Scented Olive Olive Cake with Plumped Figs
Serves 10 to 12

8 ounces finely chopped and stemmed dried figs, preferably Turkish or Greek (about 1-1/2 cups)3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tbsp Grand Marnier or other good quality orange-flavoured liqueur, or more orange juice
1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (6 ounces)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine seal salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Position a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Brush a 9-1/2-inch tart pan with removable bottom with olive oil and set on a large rimless baking sheet for easier handling.Combine the figs, orange juice and Grand Marnier in a small bowl to plump for 15 to 20 minutes while you prep the ingredients, stirring once or twice in between.

Whisk together the whole wheat pastry flour,  baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the egg to blend. Gently whisk in the honey until smooth, followed by the olive oil, milk and zest. Pour the egg mixture into the centre of the dry ingredients and stir with a dough whisk or a rubber spatula just until combined. Do not overmix, Drain the figs, if needed, and fold them into the batter. Pour the batter evenly into the pan,

Carefully place the sheet with the tart pan in the oven (it can slide!) and bake until the edges of the cake turn golden-brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, 25 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and carefully slide the tart pan onto a wire rack to cool. When ready to serve, remove the outer ring of the tart pan. Sprinkle cake with confectioners’ sugar and cut into 8 to 12 wedges. The cake can be baked 1 day ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Reprinted with permission from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc



17 Comments on Lemon-Scented Olive Oil Cake with Plumped Figs

    • jennifer
      March 16, 2014 at 8:40 am (4 years ago)

      It was! I’ll definitely be making it again!

  1. sallybr
    March 16, 2014 at 8:35 am (4 years ago)

    What a great cake, I can only imagine the taste, with the plumped figs – I don’t use figs that much, which is a shame, I should follow your footsteps and make this cake to share with my co-workers… they would love me 😉

    • jennifer
      March 16, 2014 at 8:38 am (4 years ago)

      It’s a delicious way to use figs — especially with the Grand Marnier. Let me know what you think of the cake!

  2. Kristi @ Inspiration Kitchen
    March 16, 2014 at 10:24 pm (4 years ago)

    This cake looks AMAZING! When I read this: (Picture this: figs doused in Grand Marnier and orange juice that are folded into a tender cake batter made with whole wheat pastry flour, olive oil and a generous amount of fragrant lemon zest.), I thought YES, I can imagine that, and it sounds DIVINE! I wish I was eating it right now!!!

    • jennifer
      March 17, 2014 at 7:59 pm (4 years ago)

      It is really quite amazing! A great combination of ingredients –both subtle, refined yet full of flavour all at once. Definitely my kind of dessert!

  3. Milana - The Jottings
    March 17, 2014 at 2:37 am (4 years ago)

    This both sounds and looks delicious – I could so go for a piece right now 😉

    So glad I came across your blog – looking forward to following it and trying out some of your delicious recipes 🙂

    xx Milana

    • jennifer
      March 17, 2014 at 7:57 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you — and let me know which recipes you end up trying!

  4. Katie
    March 17, 2014 at 4:29 pm (4 years ago)

    This looks absolutely lovely! Olive oil cake has been on my list of things to make, and this looks like just the recipe! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • jennifer
      March 17, 2014 at 7:56 pm (4 years ago)

      Let me know what you think!

    • jennifer
      March 17, 2014 at 7:56 pm (4 years ago)

      It’s a really delicious, full-flavoured cake. I love it!

  5. ananda
    April 30, 2014 at 9:37 am (4 years ago)

    ohhh olive oil desserts are my favorites, and with those figs, drool! thank you jennifer for sharing! =)

    • jennifer
      May 3, 2014 at 7:27 am (4 years ago)

      This is definitely a treat if you love olive oil in baked goods!

  6. Avinash
    December 16, 2016 at 12:19 pm (1 year ago)

    I dont have a tart pan..can i bake it in a normal round cake pan?

    • Jennifer Bartoli
      December 21, 2016 at 12:44 pm (1 year ago)

      You can, but the look of the cake will be different and you may have to adjust the timing. Enjoy!


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