Just in time for Valentine's Day, a simple but incredibly delicious chocolate chip cake that can be dressed up or dressed down, depending on the occasion. When I tell you that my three EXTREMELY PICKY boys love, love, love this cake, no further testimonial is needed. They have no idea that it is actually a fairly healthy dessert, which makes this mom extremely happy (I know I've shared in the past about my somewhat twisted compulsion about sneaking healthy things into their food). It's made with more than half whole wheat flour, and the only fat in the cake is olive oil! What could be more appropriate for the official day of love than a decadent dessert to feel great about making for your loved ones?
I have seen and tried many olive oil cake recipes, but this one is the best by far. I started with the basic recipe from Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain cookbook and made a few adjustments (to up the health factor just a wee bit ). The final version has been made time and time again at my house, for special occasions and for no occasion at all. It is the most requested birthday cake amongst the kiddos too. It's great plain, or can be made extra special with the addition of some whipped cream (my favorite) or taken over the top with a chocolate or fruit glaze.
I whipped up some raspberry glaze with a touch of orange juice and Chambord to top a slightly sweetened mascarpone cream for this special Valentine's post, but this cake is very delicious all on its own.
I've been baking with olive oil in my desserts for years. Normally, the olive oil flavor disappears completely. However, be aware that an overly assertive olive oil may not be a good choice for this recipe, unless you want to celebrate that aspect of the cake. The original recipe calls for rosemary too, which I think I would like, but I knew the kids wouldn't, so I left that out, and opted for a mild olive oil. I cut the amount of oil in the original recipe as I felt the crumb was a little too greasy, and swapped in some plain yogurt, which reduces the total fat in the cake and results in a more traditional cake-like crumb.
Whole wheat flours have had pride of place in many of my desserts recipes. Finding the right balance, I think, is key. Too much whole wheat results in a dry, overly dense crumb in cakes. The balance here is perfect. I've used spelt flour, but a whole wheat pasty flour or barley flour works nicely too. As with most of my desserts, I tend to favor less sweet recipes, and this cake is no exception. Taste the batter before baking and adjust the sugar level to your personal preference.
More chocolate was added too (actually more than doubled) to make chocolate the star. Kim calls for all bittersweet chocolate in the original recipe--I've swapped in some semi-sweet morsels. I prefer all bittersweet as well, and have made it a time or two that way, but the hands-high favorite around here seems to be the modified version, with a mix of both. Let your preferences in chocolate be your guide. The heart-healthy aspects go up the more bittersweet chocolate that is used, and I find that the sharper notes of the darker chocolates are usually softened quite a bit by baking, so don't be afraid to dabble with the bittersweet.
Whichever way you decide to make this, I'm sure you'll be amazed that such a simple cake, made with olive oil instead of butter, could be so decadent and so satisfying. The healthy aspects of this cake take a back seat to the flavors, and are just a happy plus to the overall wonderfulness of this cake. If kept covered, the cake will stay moist for at least a week, which is just one more reason to love it. The basic recipe is amenable to any number of flavor additions...orange zest, nuts, Kahlua or other liquors come readily to mind.
Bake up some love for that special someone soon, knowing that it will not only warm their heart and dazzle their tastebuds, but will be good for them too! Seems especially appropriate for Valentine's Day.
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a large Bundt pan, or six small Bundt pans with some extra batter for cupcakes (don't skip the flour step...the chocolate chips want to stick to the pan, making removal of the cake very dicey...I speak from tragic experience here).
3/4 cup olive oil (I used a mild tasting version)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup natural sugar
1 1/4 cup spelt, barley or whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, whole
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips, whole (chop slightly smaller if on the large size)
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips, chopped (small, to the same size as the semi-sweet)
In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the wet mix ingredients. On a piece of wax paper or in another bowl sift together the dry ingredients (flours, baking powder and salt). With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Then stir in the chocolate pieces. The batter will be very wet and liquid. Pour into the prepared pan (you can also make 24 muffins or cupcakes); do not fill more than 2/3 full. Bake for approximately 50 minutes for a large Bundt pan, approximately 22 to 25 minutes for small Bundt pans, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with only small, moist crumbs and the cake is lightly browned. Let cool in the cake pan on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove gently from the pan. If making cupcakes, let cool in the pan for five minutes, then remove to a rack to finish cooling. Cool cakes completely on a rack, then transfer to a plate. A dusting of powdered sugar, chocolate glaze or whipped cream can be added once the cake is completely cool (I prefer this cake plain), or you can dress it up with a fruit glaze and sweetened mascarpone cream as I did here.