Recipe courtesy of Odette Williams

Tangy Olive Oil Cake

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 30 min
  • Active: 25 min
  • Yield: Two 8-by-2-inch round cakes
Honestly, this cake is a killer. It's sophisticated, yet good for young and old, day or night. If you're looking for a daytime pick-me-up or a simple dessert for your next dinner party, here it is. The hint of citrus brightens up the cake and accentuates the fruitiness of the extra-virgin olive oil. I remember when I was a kid, I didn't like the texture of rind, so to this day, I grate mine finely using a Microplane. If your olive oil smells too herbaceous and savory, reach for a milder, buttery, extra-virgin olive oil instead. Buttermilk isn't usually found in olive oil cakes, but I find it a welcome addition, adding tang and helping to fluff the rich crumb. This cake can be made by hand using a whisk if you don't have an electric mixer. For a simple dessert, dust a pretty pattern on a cooled cake with confectioners' sugar and serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a glass of chilled sparkling Moscato d'Asti. If you have any leftovers, that's breakfast.



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8-by-2-inch round pans with olive oil or butter, line the bottom and sides of the pans with parchment paper, and grease the paper.
  2. Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and sift.  
  3. Using an electric mixer with beaters or a paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed until pale and aerated, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the oil, milk, buttermilk, juice, and zest. Continue beating on low speed until combined and frothy like a milkshake, about 1 minute.  
  4. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk or beat until just combined and smooth.  
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  
  6. Bake in the center of the oven on the same rack for 30 to 33 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed.  
  7. Remove the cakes from the oven and let them stand for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife around the cakes to gently release. Peel off the parchment paper from the sides. Invert the cakes, peel off the bottom piece of parchment paper, and cool on a wire rack. 
  8. While the cake is cooling, make a stencil from parchment paper. Trace the bottom of the baking pan onto the parchment paper. Using scissors, cut out the perimeter. Fold the paper into four equal sections: half, then quarters, then eighths. Cut out shapes from the paper, leaving the curved outer edge free from cuts. Open out the folded paper. Hold the stencil securely down on the cooled cake and use a fine-mesh sieve to dust confectioners’ sugar over the stencil. When you’ve finished, lift the stencil carefully off the cake. 

Cook’s Note

Avoid using deeper pans that require a longer time to bake. They make it tricky to assess whether the cake is baked through, since the exterior can look golden, and a skewer can even come out clean, but the interior still needs to bake a little longer.