Spongy, light, and delicious, the all-star classic olive oil cake definitely gets less play than it deserves. For some, it’s has a bit of a vintag-y, Old Italy feel that’s so en vogue right now. To us, it’s a wonderful cross between an angel cake and the most incredibly moist sponge cake. It’s rich and dense but still surprisingly airy, with a crisp and crunchy crust that adds interesting textural contrast.
Famously served at iconic NYC eateries Maialino’s (if you want their recipe, the amazing gals at Food52 have a great how-to right here) and Mario Batali’s Babbo Ristorante, olive oil cake is beautifully simple and still amazingly delicious.
Olive oil cake uses of course, olive oil, instead of butter, giving it not only a lighter flavor, but also a lot less saturated fat, calories, more antioxidants from the oil…overall, just much healthier approach to baking. The trick to a fabulous olive oil cake is choosing a mild and subtle olive oil, nothing too strong or too peppery, so that the cake still tastes like, well, cake!
We love how adaptable it is, a great blank slate of sorts, a moist backdrop for all sorts of other flavors, which can vary according to your moods, tastes or just what’s in season at the time. Add lemon or orange zest in the winter, blueberries and raspberries in the summer, and chocolate, well, any time of year is good for chocolate! The end result will always be delicious.
Olive oil cake is great as a dessert, but you can also enjoy it with your cup of morning or afternoon coffee. Make it in a cake or loaf pan for a traditional look, or in a muffin pan for mini olive oil cakes that are modern and more minimalist.
The recipe for Rosemary & Chocolate Olive Oil Cake we’re sharing below combines rosemary and chocolate, a matching that is made in culinary heaven. It’s been adapted from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain. She uses spelt flour, but you can substitute for all-purpose if you want.