This is an exquisite cake: feather light and springy as a pillow, fragrant with good citrus, extra virgin olive oil, and dessert wine. Developed at Chez Panisse in the 1980s where it was made with Sauternes, this cake is subtle, complex and unexpected: as sweet as you could wish in a cake, but not with a cake’s usual sugar sweetness. It has the magic of alchemy, no single note dominating. It’s a recipe for your best eggs and olive oil, for an orange and lemon that smell and taste of the sun, and a dessert wine you would buy for an occasion — not one to break the bank, but one you enjoy drinking (as there’s the rest of the bottle to finish with the cake).
Using such special ingredients makes this cake an offering of note, and those who taste it pay attention. Double-takes are common. Conversation stops. A Norwegian friend of ours could eat two-thirds of it in an evening, going back again and again for another little slice (I really like this cake he would say every time with a shake of the head that meant I can’t help myself ) — and it slices so cleanly it’s all too easy to keep at it.