On Eating and Loving Food

Let them eat olive oil cake!

... or brioche
Posted:  Wednesday, September 27, 2017 - 8:30am

‘Let them eat cake.” That’s a famous quote, supposedly uttered sometime around 1789 by Marie Antoinette in response to being told that her subjects had no bread. That off-the-cuff remark led to rampant rumors that the Queen of France wasn’t too bright. “How are we supposed to get cake when we can’t even afford bread,” her poor, hungry people probably said, “Duh.”

Later, she was convicted of treason, and beheaded. Ugh. What a way to go. She should have been more careful with her wisecracks. I can relate.

Anyway. After researching the famous quote, I now know that she probably never said those words.

"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche," which translates to “Let them eat brioche,” is allegedly the real phrase spoken by Antoinette, and even that is unsubstantiated. According to a biography about the queen by author Lady Antonia Fraser, the quote wasn’t something Antoinette would have said.

So, whatever. Honestly? I’m just glad cake was invented.

Just the thought of cake cheers me up. I’ve written about a few different cakes in this column.

Most recently I wrote about cardamom cake (my own invention, sort of :-), and before that, chocolate zucchini cake, and I've given you the recipe for my favorite dark chocolate shiny frosting, which is totally ridiculous. If you haven’t tried it, you really need to.

So I recently came upon a recipe for blood orange olive oil cake on the New York Times cooking site. I got pretty excited until it occurred to me that blood oranges aren’t readily available in Maine this time of year.

Then I went to the site to get the recipe and discovered I had to pay for a subscription. Well, that stopped me in my tracks, so I started a Google search, and though most of the recipes I came across called for orange or lemon juice, I found a few for plain old olive oil cake.

All I needed was right there in my kitchen cupboards: Olive oil (duh), flour, sugar, eggs, butter … you know – all the usual ingredients.

And as I've also told you more than once, I’m something of a purist when it comes to food, so I loved the idea of a plain old olive oil cake. Really – how bad could it be?

I started imagining it with a ricotta cheese concoction. Ricotta and olive oil sort of go together, right? Both Italian, both delectable. I took a virtual bite. I imagined the ricotta with sugar and lemon juice, and raspberries thrown on top. Hello.

So once I get something like this in my mind and start taking virtual bites of it it's all over but the weight gain. It’s such a dilemma trying to decide between being svelte, and eating delectable cake. Unfortunately the cake usually wins, as it did in this case.

And you are going to be so happy it did! OMG!

Here ya go, folks: Olive oil cake!

7 tablespoons butter, melted, 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3/4 cup olive oil, 3 tblsp. whole milk (at room temperature), 4 eggs (at room temperature), 1 cup sugar.

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk the melted butter with the olive oil and milk in a separate bowl. Beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Alternately beat in dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the side pulls away from the pan.

That’s it!

Just as an aside, I think that if Marie Antoinette, or whoever uttered that famous quote, had been Italian, she would have said, “Let them eat olive oil cake!” And because olive oil is so readily available and relatively cheap in Italy the poor people could probably have afforded it.

Oh, and I had a piece of the olive oil cake the next morning, plain, warmed up, with ricotta, whipped up with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice and raspberries, and a cup of coffee. It was good.

And by the way, there’s a house right down the road from me in Edgecomb that was allegedly built, or moved here, for Marie Antoinette. I don’t think she ever made it to Edgecomb. Would have been fun to walk down and sit on that porch and drink manhattans, or absinthe, with her.

Poor woman. Riddled with nasty rumors, then got her head chopped off.

And according to most accounts she was, in reality, a humanitarian who adopted several orphaned children, established a home for unwed mothers, and patronized a society for the aged, widowed, and blind. Sometimes life’s not fair.

Anyway. Feel free to email me with questions about cake, Marie Antoinette, manhattans, or my little pooper, Elliot: suzithayer@boothbayregister.com.

P.S. Thanks to Ellen and Larry Cray, I had my first manhattan made with rye, which is really in right now. It was totally awesome.

See ya next week.