Hello, lover.

You captivate me with your translucent, green glow. You lure me with your peppery taste. And now, you amaze me with your versatility.

olive oilI always knew you were a savory workhorse: I use you to saute vegetables for soups and stews. I whisk you into vinegar- and lemon-juice dressings. I pour you over roasting root vegetables; drizzle you over Parmesan-topped casseroles; use you to pop my popcorn.

I know you’re the reason my doctor says I’m the poster child for good cholesterol. You aren’t a diet food (120 calories per tablespoon), but you’re dripping with healthy dietary fat that may lower my risk of heart disease, normalize my blood clotting and help regulate my blood sugar (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-nutrition/AN01037). You’re high in vitamins E and K and praised by all those proponents of Mediterranean eating.

Yes, friends may look askance as I glug you into pestos and slosh you into hummus. They may snicker as I lead the elderly gentleman at Harris Teeter to my favorite version of you. And they may wonder why  — if I love you so much — I hide you in a dark cabinet. (They don’t understand how sensitive you are! That light and heat and air can wipe out your healthy benefits!)

olive oil orangesBut olive oil, I love you. Even more so today. I just used a whole cup of you to bake an orange-scented, egg-rich cake. It will be perfect for tonight’s dessert. Yummy for tomorrow’s breakfast. Luscious as an afternoon snack with tea or coffee.

I found this cake featuring you in Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers At LucquesI pondered it a long time. It sounded delicious, but I couldn’t see you in anything other than savory dress. Finally, I took advantage of a snow day and gave you a baking spin.

You didn’t let me down — although I must say, I was a little worried when I tasted you in my cake batter. You were so pronounced! So peppery and assertive! And — no offense — a little bit oily!

But after tinkering with pan sizes and baking times, you gave my cake a golden, tender crumb that only gets better as the days go by.

Olive oil, you are part of my baking repertoire now. I can’t wait for summer’s herbal bounty so I can make this cake again with bits of basil and thyme. I may grate lemon zest into its batter and pour lemon syrup over its top. I may sub out the brandy and bake it with rum or Kentucky bourbon. I may even cut back on the sugar and add rosemary and pepper for a more savory treat.

And I’ll keep looking for ways to use you in other desserts. I just found an olive oil ice cream recipe from Dorie Greenspan!

Olive Oil Cake (adapted from Sunday Suppers At Lucques)

Whisk together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 cup semolina flour (I get mine from Bob’s Red Mill and keep it in the freezer for freshness) and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup extra virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup brandy. Set aside.

olive oil eggsCrack 3 extra large eggs and 6 extra large egg yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 1 cup granulated sugar. Whisk on high for 7 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and thick.

Slowly mix in the flour and olive oil mixtures, alternating between the two. (Begin and end with the flour mixture.) Grate in the zest of 2 oranges and stir gently to combine.

olive oil cake in panLightly oil (use olive oil, of course!) a 10-inch springform pan. Pour the batter into the pan and rap it against the counter three times to displace any air bubbles. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the top is delightfully golden and a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and unmold it onto a cake stand. Let the cake cool completely before slicing.