Aperol is a bitter Italian aperitif that is meant to stimulate the appetite. It is primarily used to make a variety of light and refreshing cocktails, since it actually has a very mellow sweetness to it, along with its signature bitter orange flavor. I enjoy making Aperol spritzes – mixing the aperitif (2 parts) with prosecco (3 parts) and a splash of soda water (1 part) over ice – at home during the hot summer months, but it is one of the most popular drinks going in Italy.
This Aperol and Olive Oil Pound Cake is a very Italy-inspired dessert. The dense, tender pound cake is made with aromatic olive oil instead of butter and is flavored with Aperol, giving it a sweet start and a very complex finish as the flavors of the aperitif and the olive oil blend together. The cake is easy to make and the batter will come together in just a few minutes. Unlike a traditional pound cake, you don’t even need to wait for the butter to soften, since there is no butter in this recipe!
The cake has a delicate, dense crumb that almost melts in your mouth when you take a bite. It has a really nice sweetness on the first bite, but that sweetness mellows into a bright citrus acidity from the olive oil and finishes with a hint of bitter orange similar to what you mine find in marmalade, thanks to the Aperol. I added some fresh orange zest to amp up the orange flavor a bit, too. The cake tastes like Italy and, surprisingly, that slightly bitter flavor of the Aperol keeps you coming back for bite after bite. It’s unexpected and very delicious.
This cake keeps extremely well, as the olive oil helps the loaf to remain nice and moist even a few days after baking. The flavors of the cake will actually deepen as it rests, so I tend to think that this is best the day after baking, even though you can eat it as soon as it has cooled!
Pound cakes aren’t typically topped with frosting and this one is no exception. I pair it with lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit. The whipped cream is a nice contrast to the bitter orange notes in the cake, as is just about any kind of berry.
Aperol and Olive Oil Pound Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbsp orange zest
3/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Aperol
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×5-inch baking pan and line the base with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs and orange zest, then whisk in olive oil and Aperol until smooth. Whisk in the flour mixture until batter is smooth and no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed.
Allow cake to cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 1 cake; serves 10-12.