When I was first married and living in Nashville, I planted an elaborate flower garden in our front yard. I’d never really maintained a garden before, and didn’t know the first thing about what went into tending such a thing. I suppose I was trying to emulate the fantastic beauty that my mother displayed on her land. My first efforts were successful and the garden flourished. The neighbors commented on how beautiful my garden was (and I appreciated that) but as months progressed I felt bound to it. The watering, grooming, weeding, – it was constant. I worried about looming frosts in spring and summer drought. When we moved into a new house, I decided to be content with the low-maintenance boxwoods and holly that came with the property. Looking back, that first garden taught me a lot about myself; mostly that I am a wildflower kind of gal.
In early spring my husband started talking about planting a vegetable garden. I cringed at the thought of all that work, but true to form I began researching garden designs and placing orders from seed catalogs. That’s why I was so surprised when he came home with a single whiskey barrel planter. Our entire garden would be planted on our patio, and consist of a range of pepper plants varying from mild to hot. I’ve enjoyed watching this small, manageable garden grow. I found our first jalapenos especially exciting, and considering the small crop I decided to use them as mindfully as possible.
This cornmeal cake seemed a perfect fit for our peppers. The flavors hark back to Mexican cornbread, but there’s no mistaking it for its savory inspiration. It is doused with sweet lemon-honey syrup and has a delicate cake crumb. I candied some lemon and jalapeno slices for a pretty garnish, but there’s no better accompaniment than a big scoop of vanilla ice cream (like eating cornbread in ice cold milk – something we southern folk love!).
This gorgeous bottle of olive oil arrived at my doorstep last week, and the timing could not have been more perfect. It is the secret ingredient in this cake! I usually prefer a light tasting olive oil for confections, but the flavors in this cake harmonize well with a with a fruitier, more pronounced olive oil flavor.
Bertolli is celebrating their 150th Anniversary, and to help celebrate you can join me in entering their Taste of Tradition recipe contest. Just submit a recipe using Bertolli Olive Oils (and other Bertolli products) to BertolliOliveOil.Tumblr.com for a chance to win an amazing prize: a KitchenAid Stand mixer, a year’s supply of olive oil, or a grand prize culinary trip for 2 to Tuscany!
A few final notes on this cake – I’ve found that using just one fresh jalapeno in this recipe is the perfect amount to complement the cake without overpowering it. The batter baked up perfectly in my fancy square bundt pan, but any 10-cup bundt pan will work.
This cake is great when you’re craving something a little different – it’s truly delicious and unexpected!
Olive Oil Jalapeno Cornmeal Cake
- bundt pan
- 2 cups vanilla Greek yogurt sweetened
- 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar packed
- 3/4 cup Bertolli extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and finely minced
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- Pinch of salt
Candied Lemon and Jalapeno Slices
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 lemon sliced thinly
- 1 jalapeno pepper sliced
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Make the cake: Spray a 10 cup capacity bundt pan with flour-based baking spray (I use Baker’s Joy brand). In a large bowl, combine the vanilla yogurt, brown sugar, olive oil and eggs. Whisk together until well combined. In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add the minced jalapeno pepper; scrape down the mixing bowl and mix again briefly.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack after the pan is cool enough to handle (about 10 minutes). After the cake cools completely, return it to the bundt pan and level the bottom of the cake with a serrated knife.
- Make the syrup: Place the butter, water, lemon juice and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is steaming. Remove from heat and stir in the honey and pinch of salt. Pour about half of the mixture over the bottoms and sides of the cake. Let stand until the moisture is absorbed. Turn cake upright on a serving plate or cake stand with a lip and brush remaining syrup over the top of the cake until well saturated (you may not have to use all of the syrup). Garnish with candied lemon and jalapeno slices.
- Candied jalapeno: Stir together sugar, lemon juice, and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add lemon and pepper slices, and simmer gently, keeping slices in a single layer and turning occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly translucent and rinds are softened. Remove from heat. Place slices in a single layer in a wax paper-lined jelly-roll pan, using tongs. Cool completely (about 1 hour). Use as a garnish.
- Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream on the side.