Olive Oil Citrus Cake


For the past few years, I’ve noticed a silent but ever-waging war going on between different types of cooks. One group of cooks firmly believes that good food starts with good ingredients. Folks from this camp often justify expensive purchases like $30 tiny bottles of vanilla imported from Tahiti and $20 packs of dairy that come from grass-fed, free-range cows and chickens. It appears that this side is winning — these days, we have entire culinary movements with cute names (ehem, farm-to-table and bean-to-bar) based on this notion alone.

The other half, however, believes firmly the opposite and that good recipes transcend bad ingredients. This explains James Beard-winner and Momofuku Milk Bar pastry chef Christina Tosi using artificial vanilla in her birthday cakes, and famed blogger Deb from Smitten Kitchen shrugging off what kind of cocoa powder to use for her chocolate babka recipe. There’s whole articles contradicting the Good Ingredient Guys, explaining how cooks can easily rescue and save bad ingredients with some recipe tricks.

As for myself, I fall somewhere between the two. Although I mostly use generic pantry staples like flour and sugar, I’ve definitely been known to splurge for fancy ingredients. Because there are some ingredients that, once you’ve had the best version of it, it’s really, really, really hard to go back — stuff like vanilla extract, chocolate and olive oil.

Most recently, Red Ridge Farms sent me a box of olive oils to try from their olive oil milling branch, the Oregon Olive Mill. Their Arbequina extra virgin olive oil was impeccable — nutty and buttery, with rich floral and almost citrusy undertones. It was the perfect olive oil to use in a dessert, like this citrus olive oil cake:


Now, hold the phone. Olive oil? In dessert? Am I crazy? It’s totally a thing, I swear! Although most people associate olive oil with savory foods like bread and salad, it turns out that olive oil pairs very well with sugary fruit and nuts. Most recently, I’ve started noticing olive oil appear more and more in creamy desserts — olive oil flavored ice cream is on the menu at famed ice cream parlors around the country (San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe and Portland’s Salt & Straw have it as a flavor staple), and I’ve had my eye on this particular recipe for olive oil cake for the better part of the year now. Food52 describes the recipe as “genius”, declaring it as “olive oil cake at its best” with a “crackling crust and an aromatic oil-rich middle, which, if it held any more moisture, would be pudding.” I couldn’t agree more. I’ve topped the cake with an extra portion of orange zest and a orange glaze to bring out the citrus notes in Oregon Olive Oil Mill’s extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • Be sure to use an olive oil that has floral and citrusy undertones! Avoid ones that are grassy and taste too much like olives — you don't want your cake tasting like a salad now, right? I recommend using extra virgin olive oil since it has a milder, cleaner flavor than regular olive oil.

  • This recipe contains almost half a bottle's worth of olive oil, which, let's be honest, can add up fast. I know that not everybody can receive boxes of fancy, local olive oil for free, so my budget option is a bottle of Whole Foods' 365 Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It costs $6.99 (give or take a dollar, depending on where you are) for a generous amount (one liter), and is the best generic olive oil I've ever had. I do not recommend Trader Joe's "Trader Giotto's Extra Virgin Olive Oil" — too olivey, grassy, and vinegary, all the flavors you do NOT want for the cake. I know it's cheap (something like $3.99 a liter bottle, which is really quite a deal), but you pay for what you get... no really. I promise I'm not being snotty — check out this olive oil expert's taste test of the olive oils at Trader Joe's! It's a really cool article, and you'll see that some of Trader Joes' generic olive oil bottles are better than others. 

  • This cake contains a lot of batter for a 9-inch pan. Like... a lot. When I baked it, I thought it was in danger of spilling over the pan and on to the bottom of my oven — miraculously, that didn't happen, but I'll be damned if it was pretty close. So feel free to split the batter into two 9-inch pans and shorten the cooking time to 35 to 45 minutes. If you're using a single 9-inch cake pan, be sure to use one that's at least 3-inches tall.

  • In my opinion, the cake is best when served warm from the oven; wait until the cake has cooled for half an hour or so, before pouring the glaze over it and serving immediately. The trick is to get it cool enough so that the glaze won't melt, but still warm and fresh. The cake is still good overnight (its olive oil flavor will get more pronounced!), but it also tends to get greasier and heavier.


Olive Oil Citrus Cake
(Adapted from Food52)

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Ingredients

For the Olive Oil Cake:
(makes one BIG 9-inch cake)
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • zest from 1 medium-large orange
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/3 cups extra virgin olive oil (see baker's notes)
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier

For the Citrus Grand Marnier Glaze:
(makes enough for one 9-inch cake)
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
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Recipe

For the Olive Oil Citrus Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 (F). Spray the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan generously with cooking spray, before lining with a parchment paper round. Spray the parchment paper, and spray the sides of the pan generously. Set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar and the freshly grated zest from 1 medium-large orange. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar — doing so will release oils from the orange zest and infuse your sugar to become more flavorful and aromatic. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, whisking until all the ingredients are fully incorporated.

  3. In a large bowl, combine 1 1/3 cups extra virgin olive oil, 1 1/4 cups whole milk, 3 large eggs, 1/4 cup fresh orange juice and 1/4 cup Grand Marnier. Whisk together until well combined, and the mixture is a uniform color. 

  4. Sprinkle the dry ingredients (from the 2nd step) over the surface of the wet ingredients (from the 3rd step). Use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, until the batter is smooth and one uniform color. 

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until the top of the cake is golden and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and allow to cool for 20 minutes, until running a knife around the edge of the pan and inverting the cake onto the wire rack to cool completely.

For the Citrus Grand Marnier Glaze:
  1. In a medium bowl, use a rubber spatula mix together 2 cups confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice and 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier until the ingredients turn into a pourable glaze. Depending on how dry your confectioners' sugar is, you might need to give or take a teaspoon or two of the liquid. Use immediately by pouring over the cake.
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64 comments

  1. yummmmmmm i love olive oil cake so very much!!!

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  2. I have to agree with you - I am not on either extreme end of this debate but in the middle as well. When one ingredient really needs to shine, then it's good to get a really good quality. For Olive oil, it's def. the case, especially when it's the only real flavor on a grilled veggies recipe. I have never had olive oil cake, so I am not sure how important using good olive oil is, but needing half a bottle means I probably would have to buy the cheaper variant!

    rae of love from berlin

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    1. For sure! In my baker's notes, I've included some cheaper olive oil options you can buy, but only for the US unfortunately. I'm not sure Berlin has a Whole Foods lol.

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  3. I have seen a lot of desserts that call for olive oil, remember Molly's Upside down plum and olive oil cake? Nevertheless, I still haven't tested any recipe that involves olive oil. Shame on me)) Your cake is great, !!

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    1. Oh boy, I do indeed remember Molly's plum cake. That recipe is on my to-bake list for next summer!

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  4. I loooove this so so so much, Michelle!! And love your commentary on when to buy good ingredients -- I'm with you, I think olive oil is one of those times. I'm a huge fan of olive oil in sweets too (omg olive oil ice cream! so unexpected, so delicious!) and this citrus incarnation looks like perfection.

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    1. Yes, olive oil ice cream for life!!! Also, I think more desserts should have olive oil in general :-)

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  5. i have seen some recipes with chocolate + olive oil cake but with citrus, i think it pairs better...about the ingredients, there are some i use generic but things like butter, vanilla extract, good chocolate - you really get what you pay for.

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    1. Yeah, to be honest, I was initially going to pair this with a dark chocolate ganache glaze, but I was worried that the dark chocolate would overwhelm the cake. I'm glad I went with the citrus glaze instead — it was lighter, and it really lets the olive oil flavor shine.

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  6. I looooove olive oil cake (especially when it's an olive oil + booze cake!)

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    1. Kathryn, you have so many olive oil pastry recipes on your blog that have been on my to-bake list for so long now. In particular, I've got my eye on your olive oil cupcakes with strawberry buttercream — one day, some day, I'm finally gonna make those!

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  7. I earn $500 a day working from home with this one easy trick! Click here to see ->

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  8. Gorgeous. Can't wait to try this recipe!

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  9. Love citrus and olive oil together!

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  10. For sure! In my baker's notes, I've included some cheaper olive oil options you can buy, but only for the US unfortunately. I'm not sure Berlin has a Whole Foods lol.

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  11. Oh boy, I do indeed remember Molly's plum cake. That recipe is on my to-bake list for next summer!

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  12. Yes, olive oil ice cream for life!!! Also, I think more desserts should have olive oil in general :-)

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  13. Yeah, to be honest, I was initially going to pair this with a dark chocolate ganache glaze, but I was worried that the dark chocolate would overwhelm the cake. I'm glad I went with the citrus glaze instead — it was lighter, and it really lets the olive oil flavor shine.

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  14. Kathryn, you have so many olive oil pastry recipes on your blog that have been on my to-bake list for so long now. In particular, I've got my eye on your olive oil cupcakes with strawberry buttercream — one day, some day, I'm finally gonna make those!

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  15. I love, love, love the Everlane bag. And I've been coveting some of those Falcon coffee mugs!!!

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  16. Thanks! I loved your gift guide too. Also, looks like we have the same taste in Le Creuset colors, yessssss

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  17. No problem!!! Also, like I said before, I seriously wear those lounge pants every day. I just got a third pair coz I'm insane.

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  18. Dude, the grater is awesome. I'll get it for you for your birthday, you wait.

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  19. Yesss I seriously wear those lounge pants every day.

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  20. Hahaha, lifestyle FOMO is such a great term. Thanks for the additional baker's note!

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  21. Well, a big part of why I love your blog so much is that it seems like I can relate pretty well — you're one of the only bloggers I know who also works a particularly stressful job in addition to blogging. I love blogs like Mimi's, but I also think there's a space for us guys too!!!

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  22. Yes! That advice is so well said, and incredibly important for anybody on the blogging journey! Thank you for sharing!

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  23. Ahhh, so glad you liked it!!! You can double the recipe pretty easily and make 2 galettes for a bigger crowd.

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  24. Not at all, sometimes it takes me longer to style the shoot than to bake. No, really. So I sincerely appreciate the compliment!

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  25. Wow, I met your high standards! I'm impressed with myself :-)

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  26. Yesss, the more weddings this pie is in, the merrier!

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  27. Back in college I made a mistake and used olive oil instead of vegetable oil with my cake mix. Unfortunately it was one of those super sweet Duncan Hines Strawberry cakes, so it didn't really work out. Your on purpose olive oil cake sounds much better.

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  28. this sounds soo goooood. i have been meaning to try olive oil cake for a while now!!


    i definitely agree with you on the good quality/bad quality thing; good olive oil can go a long way!


    out of curiosity, is there anything you lose by using olive oil instead of butter? not necessarily specific to this cake, but in general? i am just hearirng about using olive oil instead of butter in desserts and am curious as to your opinion on it!

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  29. Ah, sucks that didn't work out. I feel like strawberries + olive oil could actually be a pretty good combination, especially if the strawberries have been roasted in balsamic vinegar beforehand. And yes, that's totally a thing.

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  30. It really depends on what texture and flavor you're going for with your cake. The Cake Blog has a great article on swapping out different fats in your baked goods and their resulting textures/flavors: http://thecakeblog.com/2012/05/is-butter-better.html

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  31. I also love olive oil cake. It's such a great base for one or two outstanding flavours. And something special, like this cake, definitely calls for a fancy olive oil!


    I don't think I totally agree with the examples for fancy vs. "bad" ingredients, though. It's true that there are organic/grass-fed ingredient snobs, but farm-to-table could just as well be the tomatoes from mom's backyard. I thought Christina Tosi was using artificial vanilla was specifically for the flavour it imparts, rather than because it's inexpensive, so I would put that in the category of a recipe that demands a particular ingredient rather than a generic one. Sorry to be pedantic :p, this is otherwise a great discussion!

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  32. That's actually a good point! Farm to table can encompass a lot of things, but usually people refer to it in the locavore/good ingredients definition. And indeed, Tosi does use fake vanilla for its flavor rather than price, and in her cookbook, she also uses other ingredients like cheap grapefruit juice. I guess I was trying to say that she's okay with using cheaper stuff, because it actually helps her (really good) recipes in the end?

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  33. I don't read alot of blogs, I just don't have the time. But, when I do I really appreciate ones that are honest about their lives, their time and the help that they have gotten from others to assist them along the way in their efforts. Ms Thorisson's book and life look like a fairy tale. And they probably are. We don't know what life is really like in that household but I'll bet that when her kids are adults they will have a very different story to tell from that being portrayed to the public (a la Martha Stewart). Also, they have money, not everyone can just up and move to a place like that because 'we needed extra space'. And I'm sure there is a housekeeper somewhere and possibly a nanny. A home that houses that many people doesn't clean itself and keeping it clean is probably a full time job. Being a single mom I think about these sorts of things.
    Your mean little voice isn't being mean Michelle, it's just being very honest. After all, someone has to pick up garbage for a living or work at the sewage treatment plant and no one dreams of doing these jobs as a kid. (I always try to give my garbage man a christmas gift of some sort).

    Ok , there's my dose of bitters for the week (I'm actually a buddhist....trying anyway). I had to get this recipe! It looks wonderful and I think it would be perfect for christmas day breakfast. Thanks for posting it and happy baking!

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  34. Renee Ranjani ShumanDecember 15, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    Ah! I never commented on this! I love this post. I just want you to know how beautiful I think this clafoutis (or, rather, flaugnarde) is. you're wonderful. inspiring me to make more clafoutis!

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  35. your food photography is so gorgeous!

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  36. I am so thankful you posted this. I have a red velvet recipe that I absolutely love but the tops don't come out perfectly at my high altitude. I was just about to alter the recipe again with less vinegar. I am so glad I read this first. Thanks for saving me. Did you ever try altering the recipe again?

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  37. Omgg you are a goddess as usual!!! I had so much fun reading through your excellent links (that olive oil blog? love!) and gawking at these gorgeous photos!! Such a fan of olive oil cake and the citrus pairing sounds oh so delicious! ALSO I've been meaning to email you about Houston, but finals have been kicking my butt. I have not forgotten!!!!!!

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  38. No worries -- just shoot me an email whenever you have the chance! I'm heading there for MLK weekend, so we have plenty of time for scheming until then. Good luck with finals!

    (also yeah that olive oil blog is baller, so glad things like this exist on the internet!)

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  39. Totally, I understand/relate to all of this. I feel like I have several blogs I read for different purposes — some I read because they are definitely aspirational and all about me vicariously living through others, while others I read because I relate to them and I feel like we'd be friends in real life. It's important to remember this and keep things in perspective. Thanks for stopping by!

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  40. YOU'RE wonderful. Will you make a gluten free version? I've been trying for a while now for a friend, but I just can't get it right! I feel like you have the expertise for doing exactly this...

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  41. ah! just saw this reply! i so want to do a GF version of this! I'm gonna go tinker with this now... :)

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  42. I've made this cake before many times from Food52 as well and my friends LOVE it. This cake makes me look like I can actually bake! ha! I am looking forward to making it again but with the glaze!

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  43. éva-mona aprilfourteenthMarch 12, 2015 at 1:24 PM

    Hi there! First off, your blog is amzingly beautiful! I love your photographs and your recipes are so inspiring. Second, I'm French, I'm used to baking clafoutis and I have to say I've never heard of flaugnarde before -which I suspect is some sort of regional name? Truth is, I bake clafoutis with any sort of fruits (pears are particularly good) and I still call them calfoutis... I don't think people here would understand if I were to call them "flaugnarde". Also, I can tell you from experience that the "puff" aspect of your clafoutis mainly depends on the tin you use. Use a stoneware baking dish and it wouldn't puff! ;-)

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  44. Interesting! I'll definitely try this recipe again, this time using a stoneware pan. Thank you for the tip! I'll let you know how it turns out.


    And of course, thanks for the kind words about my blog!

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  45. éva-mona aprilfourteenthMarch 12, 2015 at 6:08 PM

    At least it worked for me, so let me know how it turns out! :-)

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