Olive Oil Cake

Cakes made with vegetable oil are not a new concept.  I’m sure most bakers have a favorite recipe for a cake or quick bread made with oil.  Carrot cake comes to mind as the most common example.  But how does olive oil, with its distinctive flavor, perform in a cake recipe?  Very well, I am happy to say.  But, there are a few tricks involved to ensure the texture of your cake is perfect.

This amazing recipe is from our friends at Cook’s Illustrated, who work tirelessly in their test kitchen to bring us the best results in our baking and cooking adventures.  The genius of their method is what makes the cake a rich, but light-textured beauty.  Usually this type of cake is mixed together quickly by combining wet ingredients with dry and blending minimally before baking.  Sometimes oil-based cakes suffer from a wet and heavy texture, with an oily crumb.  To avoid that result, this cake starts with the chiffon cake-method of whipping the eggs and sugar to a lofty volume before streaming in the oil.  The dry ingredients are mixed in quickly and the cake is set in the oven, after a little sugar is sprinkled atop the batter.  The result is a beautiful, light-textured cake, flavorful,moist, and not too sweet.  The modest sugar coating makes for a crunchy crust, a very delicious addition to an already perfect cake.

I chose to garnish my cake with sliced fresh peaches and a good dollop of whipped mascarpone.  I can assure you that the cake is every bit as wonderful with no additional toppings.  Someone in this house has pronounced it perfect for breakfast.  Try this cake soon, and you’ll see why I’m a convert to olive oil in baked goods.  Enjoy!

Olive Oil Cake

A light, but rich and fine-textured olive oil cake.  Scented with orange zest and vanilla, it's the perfect dessert to pair with late summer fruit.

Course Cake, Dessert, Snack, Sweets
Cuisine American, Italian-Inspired
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 10 servings
Author Adapted from Cook's Illustrated (see link in recipe notes)


  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling atop the batter
  • Finely grated zest of 1 medium orange
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I use California Olive Ranch olive oil)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

  2. Using a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on medium speed until foamy.  Add 1 1/4 cups sugar and the orange zest and whip the mixture, on high speed, until fluffy and pale yellow.  This will take about 3 minutes.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium and stream in the olive oil.  Mix until the oil is fully incorporated, about 1 minute.  Add half the flour mixture and blend in on low speed just until incorporated.  Add the milk and vanilla paste and mix until combined.  Scrape down the bowl and add the remaining flour mixture, blending again for about 1 minute.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and give a final sweep around with a spatula to blend any remaining dry ingredients. 

  3. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smooth the surface, and sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons sugar.  Bake until the cake is golden brown and a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  This will take 40 to 45 minutes.  If the cake is becoming very brown before the end of the baking time, tent it loosely with foil. 

  4. Transfer the baked cake to a rack to cool.  Remove the side of the springform pan after 15 minutes or so, and allow the cake to cool completely before serving.  Serve with your favorite fresh fruit, whipped cream or mascarpone, or simply as is.  It's a delicious cake either way you present it.  Leftovers can be stored, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for 3 days. 

Recipe Notes

You can see the original recipe here, courtesy of KCET Weekend Recipe.