Yes, I know. Artichoke does not come to mind when you think of cake. It likely sounds weird and unappealing at first. But hear me out on this Artichoke Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting recipe.
I’ll start by jogging Zucchini Bread or Carrot Cake in your food memory bank. Think of how moist and tender the crumb of those cakes can be. Then I’ll gently remind you how delightful olive oil cake is. Finally, I'll nudge you over the edge of skepticism with a creamy, dreamy, bright, zesty, light and airy layer of lemony cream cheese frosting.
This Artichoke Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting is all those things. It's indulgent yet not too sweet. It's an earthy, slightly spiced, lemony cake with an almost custardy texture. Sounds delightful, right?
This very California cake was inspired by a recent Agritour in Monterey, CA with California Grown
In early May of 2022, I traveled down to California's stunning Monterey coastline with a group of food industry friends from all over the country. In just a day and a half, our California Grown-led tour took us to a mushroom farm, the largest organic farm in the US, and a coastal artichoke farm. That 36 hours was an educational bounty of agricultural information. I left feeling 10 times smarter and 10 times hungrier.
The artichoke is California's official state vegetable
The tour took us to Ocean Mist Farms, the largest grower of fresh artichokes in North America. Aside from a few hobbyist gardeners with a plant or two, I'd never seen artichokes growing up close. It is a sight to be seen. The lush green rows seemed to go on forever with big, beautiful artichoke buds popping up in a green and purple haze.
California produces 100% of the commercial U.S. artichoke crop
- The artichoke is actually the bud of a plant from the thistle family.
- Artichoke plants grow to a width of about six feet and an average height of three to four feet. But we saw some plants that grew up over 6 feet tall!
- Ocean Mist harvesters are highly skilled at their craft, with a keen eye for harvesting the chokes at optimal picking time.
- Every artichoke plant is hand-harvested up to 30 times per season.
- The 4 hour cut to cool policy ensures that the artichokes are as fresh as possible.
We had the honor of watching the Harvesters deftly navigate the rough rows and quickly spy the best artichokes for picking. The process was beyond impressive. In one quick swoop, they slice off the golden globes and toss them over their shoulder into a backpack called a canasta. They fill the canastas, empty them at the boxing truck, then hit the rows again.
When full of artichokes, canastas can weigh up to 100 lbs
We also visited Far West Fungi. I could go on and on about how cool it was to see the entire mushroom growing process. We saw the substrate (sawdust) base and the inoculation, incubation, and final bloom! Check out Far West Fungi to learn more about the cool, dark, and fascinating world of mushroom cultivation.
The tour also stopped at Lakeside Organic Gardens, the largest family-owned and operated solely organic vegetable grower/shipper in the USA. They produce over 45 different commodities year-round, all proudly 100% organically grown. Lakeside uses everything from ladybugs to sweet alyssum and even a giant bug vacuum tractor to ward off pests and keep their produce pesticide-free.
Each of the farms we visited is committed to sustainably growing and distributing their crops. I was beyond impressed by all 3 farms. But, walking the artichoke fields was particularly awe-inspiring and educational.
The anatomy of an Artichoke
- The bud contains the heart, the buttery and meaty core of the artichoke.
- The heart is topped by a fuzzy center known as the choke. The choke is indeed a choking hazard and must be removed before enjoying.
- Rows of soft inner petals and tougher outer leaves (bracts) surround and protect the artichoke heart.
- The outer bracts have tiny thorns that protect the inner heart. The thorns can be snipped off before preparing.
For this Artichoke Olive Oil Cake, I used fresh Ocean Mist Farms Artichokes found here at my local market in Oregon. Once I steamed up the artichokes, I was able to break them down and snack on the leaves with a little melted garlic butter and lemon. So good!
I found this helpful video on how to steam artichokes on the Ocean Mist website. Meg from This Mess Is Ours has written a super helpful post where she breaks down how to break down a choke.
The artichoke hearts are the heart of this Artichoke Olive Oil Cake
Artichoke hearts give the cake an earthy, buttery depth. The hearts are roughly chopped, then pureed in a blender with olive oil and lemon juice, imbuing the cake with its decadent moist crumb.
This Artichoke Olive Oil Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting was inspired by farms & friends
On the Agritour, my sweet friend Meg from This Mess Is Ours brought me an artichoke cupcake from Pezzini Farms. I ceremoniously devoured that cupcake during a blissful moment alone along a beautiful stretch of beach in Carmel.
It tasted like a spiced zucchini cake and was so much better than I imagined. At that moment, I knew I needed to make my own version of an artichoke cake.
I was also inspired by a new friend I met on tour, Kyle of Urban Farmstead. He shared a striking image of his artichoke flowers blooming in his garden. It was so stunning, it stuck with me. I just had to recreate that image in cake form. The seed for this Artichoke Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting recipe was planted!
Artichokes, olive oil and lemon; does it get any more California than that?
This trifecta of California grown flavors work so well together. The cake has a hint of warm ginger, a bit of sweetness, and the creamiest, dreamiest lemon cream cheese frosting adorning the top in a beautiful blooming artichoke design.
You can easily simplify this cake with a couple of time-saving moves
- Instead of steaming and breaking down fresh artichokes, use canned artichoke hearts. Just be sure to use the hearts in a basic brine, not the flavorful marinated version.
- If you're short on time, skip the design! No need to pipe on the fancy artsy design, just use an offset spatula to swoop and swirl that frosting on top!
One of the best things about olive oil cakes is their simplicity. And if you use those two time-saving moves, this Artichoke Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting is a breeze. So go ahead, give this artichoke cake a go! The recipe is uniquely California and pure gold.
This Agritour was an educational smorgasbord and the inspiration I needed to boost my creative kitchen juices again. I never would have thought to use artichoke in a cake had I not been given this opportunity. It's possible we are all a little better for this Artichoke Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting recipe existing. Without a doubt, we are absolutely better for knowing where our food comes from, how it grows, and the process to get it from the farms to our tables.
A huge thank you to California Grown for the insightful tour. Thanks to all of the friendly and informative folks at Ocean Mist Farms, Far West Fungi, and Lakeside Organic Gardens. Much love to all of the hardworking farmers, growers, and harvesters throughout California who work tirelessly to provide nourishment and sustenance.
This post was proudly made in partnership with California Grown. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting me and the brands that I love. Follow @cagrownofficial on Instagram to learn more about the foods grown in California, farm practices, and discover new recipes!Print