One of the most attractive aspects of making a cake with oil rather than butter is the way it expedites the mixing process: There’s no waiting for butter to come to room temperature and then beating it with sugar before you even start to add the rest of the ingredients. The batter is ready to go into the oven in 5 minutes flat, and the cake comes out just 40 minutes later.
With many oil-based cakes, you simply whisk the dry ingredients in one bowl, whisk the wet ingredients in another, and then combine the contents of the two bowls. The dry ingredients were all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt, and the wet ingredients were eggs, milk, and olive oil. Also on the list: sugar and lemon zest.
We wanted our olive oil cake to have a light, fine-textured and plush crumb, with a subtle but noticeable olive oil flavor. Whipping the sugar with the whole eggs, rather than just the whites, produced a fine texture that was airy but sturdy enough to support the olive oil-rich batter. To emphasize the defining flavor, we opted for a good-quality extra-virgin olive oil and supplemented its fruitiness with a tiny bit of lemon zest.
A bit of advice: Don’t panic when it puffs. The cake will puff up during baking, but don’t worry. This is just air released by the cake batter getting trapped beneath the layer of melted sugar, which adds a crackly-sweet crust for a touch of sweetness and sophistication. The cake will settle once it cools.
Olive Oil Cake
Serves 8 to 10
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup milk
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip eggs on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Add 1 1/4 cups sugar and lemon zest, increase speed to high, and whip until mixture is fluffy and pale yellow, about 3 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium and, with the mixer running, slowly pour in oil. Mix until oil is fully incorporated, about 1 minute. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Add milk and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until just incorporated, about 1 minute, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Transfer batter to a prepared pan; sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over the entire surface. Bake until cake is a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with few crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes.
Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove the side of the pan and let cake cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.
For the best flavor, use a fresh, high-quality extra-virgin olive oil. Our favorite supermarket option is California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
If your springform pan is prone to leaking, place a rimmed baking sheet on the oven floor to catch any drips.
Leftover cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to three days.
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