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What Is Olive Oil Cake?

By Angie Bates
Updated May 16, 2024
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A signature dessert in some parts of Italy, olive oil cake is any cake which uses olive oil to replace all or some of a cake's butter or vegetable oil requirements. These cakes are often citrus cakes, like lemon, but can be any flavor, including chocolate. Generally, olive oil cakes have simple ingredients because the oil adds a distinctive citrus-like flavor to the cake. They may be made in any type of cake pan and generally are not iced.

Usually made with all-purpose flour, some cakes may be made with cake flour. Baking soda, and sometimes baking powder, is also added, as well as eggs, sugar, and salt. Frequently, one fewer egg white than yolk is included.

Lemon or other fruit, zest, and juice is often added as well. In Italy, a citrus liqueur is frequently included. Recipes that use fruit other than lemon, like oranges, may include pieces of the fruit in the cake batter as well as zest and juice. Rosemary is a popular herb to include if not making a citrus cake.

Butter or milk may be completely eliminated in this type of cake or, more often, they may simply be reduced. Plain yogurt may be substitute for any remaining milk requirements in some recipes. Baking pans are usually greased with butter, but olive oil may be used for that purpose as well.

The ingredient that makes this type of cake an olive oil cake, however, is of course, olive oil. Regular cooking olive oil may be used, but usually the extra virgin variety is suggested because of its stronger, sweeter taste. Although as few as several tablespoons of oil may be added to the cake, an olive oil cake usually has close to a cup of oil included. Replacing the vegetable oil with olive oil in a pre-made cake mix recipe is also a quick way to create an olive oil cake. In Italy, a locally made olive oil is often used.

As with most cakes, the wet ingredients are mixed separately from the dry before the two mixtures are combined. If fruit pieces are included, they are folded into the mixture after the rest of the ingredients are mixed. Then, the batter is poured into a cake pan and baked, on average, for almost an hour. This cake may be eaten alone or topped with whipped cream or a fruit compote. Sugar may also be sprinkled over the top of the cake either before or after cooking.

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Discussion Comments
By Talentryto — On Aug 17, 2014

When shopping for virgin olive oil to use in a olive oil cake, look for the kind that comes from organically-grown olives. I don't know why, but I have found that it typically has a nice flavor that isn't harsh or bitter like some olive oils can be. It is also produced without chemicals, so this may be why it has such a good flavor.

By Heavanet — On Aug 16, 2014

I have been using olive oil in cakes and other baked recipes for many years. My motivation was health reasons, because this is a very good oil for you to eat. I have found that it actually enhances the flavors of many recipes, though cakes sometimes do not turn out as fluffy as they do with traditional fats.

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