The brilliant butcher and my dear friend Dario Cecchini serves this at his restaurants in the town of Panzano, in Tuscany. After a seven-course fixed menu of meat dishes, Dario brings out this cake, cut into squares and stacked high on a plate. As he sets it down, he explains to guests that the reason he makes this cake after the animal-heavy feast is that it is the rare dessert that doesn’t contain any dairy products—so it’s a sort of nod to those who don’t like to mix meat with dairy.
The olive oil cake I’d been making for years is made with equal parts olive and milk, so I was intrigued when I learned that Dario’s cake doesn’t contain milk. Dario’s lovely wife, Kim Wicks, shared the recipe with me, and my pastry chefs worked to replicate the cake back in Los Angeles, which is always a challenge because of the difference in flours and leavenings used in Italy and here. After further experimentation by my friend Ruth Reichl, we determined what, deep down, I already knew: there is no substitute for Italian leavening. Alternatively, you can use equal parts baking powder and baking soda, and the cake will be delicious. But if you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating this cake in Dario’s restaurant, perched as it is over the mountainside in his little village south of Chianti, you might notice that Dario’s cake is ever-so-slightly airier.
As I said, I’ve made my own version of an olive oil cake for years, but where mine has a pretty straightforward, sponge cake–like texture, Dario’s contains a lot of “goodies,” including chopped oranges (including the peel), wine-soaked raisins, and pine nuts. But my favorite thing about Dario’s cake is that it’s so moist it lasts for days. Put it on a plate with a knife and leave it on the kitchen counter and I guarantee not a single individual will be able to walk by without taking a sliver.
You will need a 10-inch angel food cake pan to make this. Use a good extra-virgin olive oil, but not a drizzling quality oil, to make this ideally Italian.
Excerpted from Mozza at Home by Nancy Silverton with Carolynn Carreño Copyright © 2016 by Nancy Silverton with Carolynn Carreño. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.