Rustic Cauliflower Cake with Pecorino Romano and Sweet Basil

Venture into the savory side of baking with this Rustic Cauliflower Cake, where the mild, nutty flavors of cauliflower meet the sharpness of Pecorino Romano and the aromatic sweetness of basil. This dish reimagines the traditional cake as a hearty, savory treat, perfect for any time of day. Infused with basil olive oil and speckled with sesame seeds, each slice offers a moist, flavorful experience that’s as delightful to the palate as it is to the eyes. Whether you’re looking for a novel brunch option, a sophisticated side, or a vegetarian main course, this cauliflower cake stands ready to surprise and satisfy with its depth of flavor and robust texture.


  • 1 medium cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into florets
  • 1 medium red onion, partly sliced and then diced
  • 5 tablespoons basil olive oil (or regular olive oil, with added chopped basil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sweet basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons melted butter for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the Oven: Begin by preheating your oven to 350°F (180°C). This ensures the cake cooks evenly and rises properly.
  2. Prepare the Cauliflower: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower florets and cook until tender but still firm, about 5-7 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
  3. Sauté the Onion: Heat 2 tablespoons of the basil olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the diced red onion and a pinch of salt, sautéing until soft and slightly caramelized. Stir in the rosemary during the last few minutes of cooking. Set aside to cool.
  4. Mix the Cake Batter: In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the remaining basil olive oil. Add the chopped sweet basil leaves, then gently fold in the sifted flour and baking powder. Season with salt and black pepper. Stir in the grated Pecorino Romano cheese until the mixture is well combined.
  5. Combine Cauliflower and Onion: Gently fold the cooled cauliflower florets and sautéed onion into the egg mixture, ensuring they’re evenly distributed.
  6. Prepare the Cake Pan: Brush a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan with melted butter. Mix the white and black sesame seeds and sprinkle them around the sides and bottom of the pan, tilting and rotating the pan to coat it evenly.
  7. Bake the Cake: Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the cake is set, golden, and a tester comes out clean.
  8. Cool and Serve: Let the cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then release the sides of the springform pan. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with additional sweet basil leaves if desired.

This Cauliflower Cake with Pecorino Romano and Sweet Basil is a testament to the versatility of cauliflower and the rich flavors of Italian cheese and herbs. It’s a perfect dish for those who love to explore the savory side of baking, offering a unique and delicious twist on traditional cakes. Enjoy it as a standalone dish or pair it with a fresh salad for a complete, satisfying meal.