Last year, I made Dorie Greenspan's Simple Almond Cake for the first time. I chose to make it for several reasons: number one, I'm a sucker for cake and if it's plain and simple, then I'm really all over it, and number two, the recipe is naturally gluten- and dairy-free. While I don't have any food allergies or intolerances, I'm always appreciative of gluten- and dairy-free desserts that don't call for obscure ingredients, because my mom does have to watch what she eats. Dorie's cake is made with just almonds, sugar, eggs, and a touch of vanilla, and it's incredible. It's become a household favorite, and it never fails to make an appearance on the dessert table at family gatherings and holidays. I've made it so many times now, that I've actually grown a bit restless by it. I love it, but I don't really want to make it again and again anymore, you know?
So this year, I set out to find a new gluten and dairy-free dessert that my mom and I would love enough to make over and over again–at least until next year!–and I think I found it. I came across a recipe for a Lemon Polenta Cake from the lovely Nigella Lawson, and the second I saw that it was made with just almonds and polenta, I knew it was almost perfect. She uses butter in her recipe, and while my mom does ok with dairy in baked goods, I really wanted to make her something that was completely delicious and also had no chance of causing any unwanted reactions. I decided to experiment and made the recipe with olive oil instead of butter. If you've never baked with olive oil before (I agree, it sounds a little strange at first!), I definitely recommend it. Olive oil has a wonderful fruity taste to it that complements baked treats so nicely, and even better, it keeps everything you bake moist for days. And that was exactly what I wanted in this cake recipe. I wanted it to be the type of cake my mom could place on her kitchen counter and periodically come back to and snack on over the course of a few days, without the cake becoming dry in the process.