Limoncello Olive Oil Cake + Blog Birthday

My oh my how time flies -- believe it or not, Pancakes & Biscotti turned 4 last week (!!!) Between starting a new job that keeps me very busy, my dad's visit to Rome, and taking some time to get today's cake recipe just right, it's now a belated birthday, but it's never too late for cake, right?!

In the roughly 1,460 days in which I've had this blog, a lot has changed. In terms of the blog itself, there are the more obvious things: the photos have improved with every year, slowly but still surely; my writing style has developed as I've become more comfortable writing posts; I've started sharing more more travel based, non-recipe posts. Behind the scenes, I've also tapped in to the wonderful resource that is Instagram (better late than never) which has connected me with other bloggers, food writers, and cookbook authors, who have all given me new ideas and inspired me with their own work (Posie Harwood, Erin McDowell, and Anne Byrne, to name just a few). 


Having said this -- there are also the things you can't see, which are a little less tangible, but perhaps more important. Four years in, I've been able to take a step back and actually feel pretty proud of this blog -- not in a patting-myself-on the back sort of way, but in a more subtle, humble way where I can fully appreciate what it has become and what it's taught me. I've built up a solid recipe index in these past few years (280 recipes and posts, to be precise) and have become a far more skillful, informed, and creative cook and baker along the way. I've learned how to develop my own recipes, perfectly swirl frosting (see photos in this post!) deep-fry chicken, make perfect pizza dough from scratch, and prep fava beans, among many, many other things. In all this, this blog has become a lot more than just a hobby, but also a part of my identity (twin, American, expat, and food blogger, etc) and you can bet that within at least half an hour of meeting me, I'll mention that I have a blog called Pancakes & Biscotti. I can hardly remember a time where I didn't have what has become my weekly ritual -- cooking, photographing, writing -- and even though at times it's all a lot of work, I wouldn't have it any other way. Here's to another year of blogging, and stay tuned: some major transformations and changes are planned up ahead later this year.

But to this cake! It's become a sort of unofficial tradition to have a P&B birthday cake that is a proper birthday cake, by American standards -- fluffy, moist cake with frosting -- but that still includes a little nod to Italy. There was last year's Cappuccino Cake, and Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes the year before that, and now this year I have a Limoncello Olive Oil Cake for you -- a frosted, festive birthday cake made with two decidedly Italian ingredients (three if you count the mascarpone in the icing).

It wasn't exactly smooth sailing, getting to this recipe -- the cake that resulted on the first try needed more flavor, and the quantities of the frosting ingredients were off, while the second attempt produced a cake that was more vanilla-y than lemon-y. Then, right when I thought I'd probably have to go out and buy more limoncello for a few more trials, I baked another, third cake that was just what I had been hoping for the whole time. Cake #3 was just right, Goldilocks-style, heavenly, lemon-y and vanilla-y in just the right measures, with an incredible texture and crumb thanks to the combination of olive oil and yogurt, perfect topped off with a thick and swirl-y and barely sweet mascarpone icing, beautiful adorned with a little extra lemon zest and fresh berries.  Needless to say, it was well worth the wait, and the many taste testers that so graciously offered their assistance on all three tries seemed to agree with me -- nearly half (half!!!) this cake was devoured by three colleagues "on a diet," another whole test cake was polished off by a family of four, and another slab of it disappeared within minutes of reaching the office of four of my friends at FAO, who sent their feedback via Skype, declaring it "SOOOOO good!!!" (a direct quote). I couldn't ask for a more delicious birthday cake for my blog as it turns four, but what do I know?! I suggest you give this cake a try yourself and see if you agree.

A couple of notes: The lemon flavor in this cake was much more pronounced on the second day (it keeps very well in the fridge, frosting and all). The tiniest piece that was left over the third day was even more lemony. If you want this extra lemony, feel free to bake it a day in advance. If you don't have cake flour, all regular all-purpose flour will do fine. Feel free to bake this cake in a round, square or rectangular pan -- while I was testing it, I baked it in an 11x7 inch rectangular pan which seemed to work best. In the photos above, I baked the cake in a 9-inch round pan which worked fine, but produced a super tall cake (I preferred the shorter ones). If you do use a round pan, a 10 or 11 inch one would be preferable. Raspberries or blackberries in place of the blueberries here would also be nice. One of the best things I've learned from my culinary idol Deb Perelman: how to swirl frosting. If you want the frosting to be extra swirl-y, use an offset spatula (see in the photos below -- worth paying a few dollars/euros for) and starting towards the center and working your way out, make sort of S shapes in the frosting with the spatula. Don't overdo this or you'll lose the swirl affect. 

Looking for more blog birthday cake recipes? I've got this Cappuccino Cake and these Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes. Looking for other citrus-y desserts? I've got this Orange Prosecco Cake, this Lemon Poppy seed Loaf cake, this Lemon Olive Oil Ricotta Cake, this Lemon Tart, and these Lemon Squares. Looking for other cakes with some alcohol in them? I've got this Prosecco Orange (Mimosa) cake.

LIMONCELLO OLIVE OIL CAKE

Ingredients for the cake:
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (120 grams) cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 grams or 8 ounces) plain full-fat yogurt (not Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup (118 mL or 8 tablespoons) olive oil
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
3 eggs
6 tablespoons limoncello
2 tablespoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice 
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for the frosting:
1 heaping cup (250 grams) mascarpone cheese
2/3 cup (158ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup (63 grams) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Extra lemon zest and blueberries to decorate 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius). Grease and flour an 11-inch round cake pan (or see notes above about cake pans). In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside. In a large bowl, using electric beaters, mix the eggs, sugar, olive oil, limoncello, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla until well combined.
Next, whisk in the one cup of yogurt. Whisk in the dry ingredients, blending everything until just combined.

Pour the batter in to the prepared cake pan and cake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, make the frosting. Beat together the mascarpone with the heavy cream until thickened, then add the powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until fluffy and spreadable. 
Swirl this frosting on top of the cooled cake (see my notes above about swirling) and top with blueberries and a little extra lemon zest. Serves 10-12. 










































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