Savoury Sur­prises



Olive oil cakes seem to be all the rage and this one goes the ex­tra step with a rib­bon of basil pesto run­ning through­out. A top­ping of slowroasted colour­ful toma­toes, along with their cook­ing oil, makes this ex­tra flavour­ful and pic­ture-per­fect. You will have a bit of pesto left over, so use some on the top of the cake when serv­ing, or save it for your next pasta dish. In my books, you can never have too much pesto!


4 cups (1 L) red and yel­low grape or cherry toma­toes

½ cup (125 mL) olive oil

½ tsp (2 mL) salt

6 sprigs thyme

4 gar­lic cloves, smashed


2 cups (500 mL) packed basil leaves 1 clove gar­lic

¼ tsp (1 mL) salt

2 tbsp (30 mL) pine nuts

¼ cup (60 mL) olive oil

¼ cup (60 mL) grated Parme­san cheese


1½ cups (375 mL) all-pur­pose flour 1½ tsp (7 mL) bak­ing pow­der

¼ tsp (1 mL) salt

Pinch of ground pep­per

3 eggs, room tem­per­a­ture

½ cup (125 mL) ex­tra vir­gin olive oil ½ cup (125 mL) milk, room tem­per­a­ture 3 tbsp (45 mL) pine nuts, lightly toasted Coarse or kosher salt for sprin­kling

Fresh basil leaves for gar­nish

1 For the toma­toes, pre­heat the oven to 250°F (120°C). Com­bine all of the in­gre­di­ents in a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33-cm), or equiv­a­lent size, shal­low bak­ing dish. Bake for 2 to 2½ hours un­til the toma­toes are soft, slightly wrin­kled, but not fall­ing apart. Re­serve at room tem­per­a­ture if us­ing the same day. Other­wise, re­frig­er­ate the whole mix­ture, and bring to room tem­per­a­ture be­fore serv­ing.

2 For the pesto, place the basil leaves, gar­lic, salt, pine nuts and olive oil in a food pro­ces­sor and process un­til smooth. Add the grated Parme­san cheese and process to com­bine. Set aside.

3 For the cake, pre­heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line the bot­tom of a round 8-inch (20-cm) cake pan with parch­ment pa­per.

4 In a medium bowl, com­bine the flour, bak­ing pow­der, salt and pep­per and set aside. In the bowl of an elec­tric mixer fit­ted with the whisk at­tach­ment, beat the eggs on high speed for 3 to 4 min­utes un­til very light in colour and tripled in vol­ume. On medium speed, driz­zle in the olive oil fol­lowed by the milk. On low speed, add the dry in­gre­di­ents and mix just un­til com­bined.

5 Spread half the bat­ter in the pan. Spoon 6 tbsp (90 mL) of the pesto around the bat­ter and spread to within an inch of the edge of the pan. Top with the re­main­ing bat­ter, spread­ing it care­fully to the edge of the pan. Scat­ter the pine nuts over­top, gently press­ing them into the bat­ter, and sprin­kle with a pinch of coarse or kosher salt.

6 Bake un­til the cake has risen and just be­gins to pull away from the sides of the pan, 25 to 30 min­utes. Trans­fer to a wire rack.

7 Re­move the cake from the pan. Serve warm or at room tem­per­a­ture, top­ping each por­tion with the slow-roasted toma­toes, in­clud­ing some of the cook­ing oil. Add a small spoon­ful of pesto, if de­sired, and a basil leaf. The cake is best the day it is baked but can be wrapped and stored at room tem­per­a­ture overnight. Wrap in foil and re-warm in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 10 to 15 min­utes.

Serves 8 to 10

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