Oil Barons

Olive oil adds another dimension to dessert

Compared to some of the other savory ingredients we've found in our desserts recently, olive oil seems rather...innocuous. But adding this pantry staple to cake batter imparts a delicate, fruity nuance that has savvy bakers across the country reaching for their bottles.

Part of its universal appeal: Olive oil cake makes the perfect canvas for an array of add-ons: At Locanda Verde's café in New York, pastry chef Karen DeMasco tops her iteration with a marcona-almond streusel that draws an early-morning crowd. Across the country, in Portland, Oregon, Paley's Place pastry chef Lauren Fortgang crowns her cake (pictured) with cider-poached pears and a scoop of caramel ice cream.

In Los Angeles, two competing versions confirm the versatility of olive oil's pairing capabilities: Mozza serves a rosemary olive oil cake, while Rivera's cake gets a Spanish playmate: Xerez vinegar-based caramel sauce.

Armed with an olive oil semolina cake recipe from Travertine pastry chef Marisa Croce (click here to download), you can give your own flavor combinations an olive oil anchor at home. Croce likes to serve her cake with port-glazed pears and goat's-milk gelato, but with a cake this amiable, your options are endless.

Editor's note: Travertine has closed.