Can I just say how currently obsessed I am with olive oil cakes? When my husband and I were in Italy earlier in the year, we loved the simplicity of the dessert after a heavier meal— slightly sweet, almost floral, dense and almost cornbread-like in texture, caramelized and crispy on the edges, softer in the centers… they are so good and come in so many variations. I made quite a few this summer topped with concentric circles of paper thin cuts of plums (when the trees around here were breaking from the weight of Italian plums and neighbors hand you 5 gallon buckets full of them), sprinkled with rosemary sugar. I thought they were delicious, but my hubby wasn’t into the "cooked fruit" layer on top as much as the cake itself, so I thought…. what if I make the cake into cupcakes, and the plums could be in the frosting instead? Now we are getting somewhere.
So with Italian plums and Italian olive oil cake, I thought it would be fun to keep that Italian theme rolling by incorporating both Ricotta and Mascarpone cheeses. They add a richness and tanginess that seals the deal. These are the perfect goodbye-to-Summer, transitioning-to-Fall dessert in my opinion, and (bonus) I got to use up some of the jam I made last month with the last of the 5 gallon bucket of plums + Earl grey lavender tea. I thought the plum jam in the frosting would go well with the hint of orange in the cupcake, but quite honestly you could use whatever jam you have on hand. I think blackberry or apricot would be really nice too. These cupcakes are not overly sweet, so even people who don’t profess to “love” sweets may end up actually enjoying them.
The cupcakes are honestly enjoyable just on their own, if you want to skip the frosting, or instead of making cupcakes you could bake this as a layer cake too. Lots of options. The recipe makes 24 cupcakes, and they freeze well if you don’t need them all at once. There will also be ample frosting, and that is coming from someone who named her blog MORE ICING THAN CAKE. It keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.. The frosting solidifies in the cold, so just let sit out at room temp for an hour or so if you need to use it again. It holds its shape on the cupcakes for a couple hours at room temp, but try to frost and serve soon after.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
FOR THE CUPCAKES:
2/3 cup olive oil
1 15oz container full-fat (whole milk) ricotta
2 cups sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 tsp pure orange extract *
Zest from one orange plus 1 tbs of the juice
2.5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
*if you don’t have orange extract or want to buy it, you can just use almond extract or just double the vanilla in its place, but try to use it! Its really a great thing to have, I use it a LOT in baking or even savory dishes. I personally love Neilsen-Massey products, but any brand will do.
FOR THE FROSTING:
8 oz mascarpone, room temp
8 oz (1 stick) butter, softened at room temp (not melted)
1/4 cup jam of choice
3-4 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
WHAT YOU'LL DO
FOR THE CUPCAKES:
Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare two 12-cup muffin tins with liners
In a large bowl or mixer, combine the ricotta, olive oil, sugar, extracts, zest and juice. Then add the eggs in one by one, whisking well between each addition, so that the batter lightens in color and looks almost frothy. Then sift the remaining dry ingredients together and add them in until just combined. (Don’t overmix, some lumps are okay. Over mixing means chewy cupcakes and you want delicate crumb).
Fill each muffin liner about 3/4 of the way full and bake for roughly 19-20 mins. I would check for doneness at 18. They are done when a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs on it. Allow to cool, then transfer from the pans to a cooling rack. They should be completely cool before you frost them.
FOR THE FROSTING:
Beat the mascarpone and butter together until creamy and consistent in color and texture, in other words, until you can't tell them apart from one another. Add in the jam and pinch of salt, and beat again. This will make the consistency look grainy and separated perhaps, but it will come together with the powdered sugar. Add in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. I found that after 3 cups it started to take shape, but my jam was on the thinner side and I wanted my icing a little firmer, like a buttercream, so I added a 4th cup. You may decide you want to stop at 3 cups. I would chill it in the fridge for 30 mins or so before icing so its a little more malleable. Frost with an icing spatula or pipe it on if you desire. I tried both ways and found that the icing spatula worked better for me with this thicker, cream cheese style icing. Then it's important that you immediately eat one. Whole. If possible. Enjoy!
Cupcake recipe adapted from this one by Carrot or Cake.