Orange Olive Oil Cake

Orange Olive Oil Cake

It’s Secret Recipe Club time again!

I have wanted to try making olive oil cake ever since my mother first figured out that she was lactose intolerant. Plus, you know me: I like to throw myself into recipes that sound a little weird.

So this month, when I was perusing A Spoonful of Thyme, this recipe grabbed my attention quickly.

I have to say, I am particularly proud of this cake (and not just because I baked with fruit!). The first time I made it, it was incredibly sunken in the center…almost like a pancake. But guess what? I finally decided to try my hand at using baker’s math!

If you don’t know this, professional bakers are amazing because they are armed with a set of ratios that universally churn out great, balanced cakes. I am not a professionally trained baker, but I do have a great book written for home bakers that really digs into the science and math of baking: BakeWise. In it, Shirley Corriher details the four ratios necessary to make successful and delicious cakes. (If you don’t have the book but are curious, she also wrote an article for Fine Cooking that gives the same information.)

I am not going to get into it in detail, but when my first cake fell, I dug in, did the math, and discovered three things I could change! First, there was too much leavening in the original cake recipe. Too much leavening actually makes flat cakes, because all the bubbles run into each other and pop rather than puffing the batter up. Thus I decided to completely do away with the baking soda, which left me with a slight acidic (therefore moist, according to Corriher) and properly leavened batter. Second (and third), I minorly increased the amount of fat and liquid in the cake, which better fit the eggs:fat and and liquid:sugar ratios.

So maybe you aren’t interested in the geek side of baking, but if you are, I’d be happy to show you the math I did to fix this recipe! And as you can see from my pictures above, my second cake rose beautifully. It was moist and tender and amazing. It went great with a cup of coffee in the middle of the afternoon (and I imagine if you like tea, that would also be delicious!).

This cake is really simple to make! I am imagining myself serving it at tea time, or after dinner (how very Laura Petri of me…). You should whip one up and do both of those things!

SilkyStart by beating the eggs and sugar together until they are pale and silky.

DrizzleDrizzle in the olive oil and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

Orange ZestUsing your handy, dandy microplane zester, zest a large naval orange and add the zest to the batter. Juice the same orange into a measuring cup. You need ¼ cup liquid. If your orange doesn’t produce quite that much juice, then go ahead and add some lemon juice or even water. Mix the liquid into the batter.

Cake BatterIn a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. I added in a few shavings of nutmeg. You could also try adding poppy seeds or even some fresh herbs if you want to be really daring! In my head, rosemary works great, but alas, I didn’t have any in my kitchen when I was baking.

Mix the flour into the batter half at a time. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl well to be sure everything is well incorporated.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured round cake pan.

Beautifully BakedBake for 30 minutes at 350°, or until the cake passes a toothpick test. Don’t do what I did and press your thumb into the cake to see if it is firm after 25 minutes…this will make a dent in your cake. Le sigh.

SugaredWhen your cake is baked, let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then run a knife around the outer edge to release and invert onto a serving dish! Sprinkle lightly with confectioner’s sugar. Mmmm.

Serve with Coffee

Orange Olive Oil Cake

heavily adapted from A Spoonful of Thyme
serves 12

2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
6 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of 1 large orange
juice of 1 large orange (about ¼ cup)
1¼ cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9ʺ round cake pan.
Beat the eggs and sugar together until pale and creamy. Drizzle in the olive oil and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the orange zest and juice and mix well.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add to the batter half at a time. Mix until just incorporated, scraping the bowl as necessary.
Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake 25–30 minutes, or until cake passes a toothpick test.
Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.


  1. One year ago: Butter Buddies
  2. Two years ago: Spring Mix Salad

12 comments to “Orange Olive Oil Cake”

You can leave a reply or Trackback this post.
  1. Bit of Butter (@BitofButter) - April 15, 2013 Reply

    I think the size of the baking pan also makes a difference — when I baked it with the 10 inch baking pan, I didn’t have a problem with the cake falling at all.

  2. Kate - April 15, 2013 Reply

    Sorry that the cake wasn’t a success for you the first time…that can be so disappointing. One consideration may be the size of the pan. The original recipe called for a 10 inch pan. I am happy that you were able to apply your knowledge of baker’s math and create a recipe that worked for you. Thank you for visiting….

    • Melissa - April 15, 2013 Reply

      Yeah, I didn’t have a 10-inch pan, so it might have worked better the first time if I had been able to use that! But over all, I really enjoyed making this (and I admit I ate 3 pieces of the fallen cake, haha!).

  3. Heather @ Join Us, Pull up a Chair - April 15, 2013 Reply

    Oh I’ve been thinking about making an olive oil cake and yours looks delicious. Great SRC choice!

  4. Miz Helen - April 15, 2013 Reply

    Your Orange Olive Oil Cake will be perfect for my afternoon, it looks delicious! Great cooking with you in Group B!
    Miz Helen

  5. colleen @ Secrets from the Cookie Princess - April 15, 2013 Reply

    Your cake is gorgeous! Nice baker’s math!

  6. Shelley C - April 15, 2013 Reply

    Great looking cake, awesome persistence, and I appreciate the baking nerdiness – I love to learn things that will help me in the kitchen! 🙂 Great job.

  7. Gluten Free A-Z - April 15, 2013 Reply

    Your cake looks very inviting and how great that it is made with olive oil

  8. Katrina - April 16, 2013 Reply

    That does look like it turned out beautifully, perfect and smooth. I hate the sinking in the middle of cakes. Since I live in Utah, high altitude is an issue. I recently did a bunch of trial cakes to find what works best. It was similar to what you mentioned–less leavening! It also worked better at a 25 degree higher temperature.
    I might try this with lemon (since I have some lemons but no oranges and it sounds delicious for book group coming up!

  9. angelaskitchen - April 17, 2013 Reply

    This cake is beautiful! I am a baking chemistry/math geek too and love that you took the time to figure out what was off for your situation. Love it! Please share your baking cake math! Awesome SRC pick!

    • Melissa - April 18, 2013 Reply

      Hey Angela! Here’s how I arrived at the changes I made to the original recipe:

      1 cup flour : 1 tsp. baking powder OR ¼ tsp. baking soda
      The original recipe called for 1 tsp. baking powder AND ½ tsp. soda for just over 1 cup flour. Even though the baking soda complements the acidity of the orange juice, I decided to do away with the soda, since Shirley Corriher says ½ tsp. soda is enough to leaven 2 cups of flour. She also comments that acidic batters make moister cakes.

      1¼ cup flour = 5.25 oz.
      ¾ cup sugar = 5.25 oz.
      This was already just right in the original recipe, so I left it alone!

      EGGS ≥ FAT
      2 eggs = 3.5 oz.
      6 tbsp. oil = 3 oz.
      I slightly increased the oil from the original, because the weight of the eggs was a lot greater than the weight of the fat.

      LIQUID (including eggs) ≥ SUGAR
      ¼ cup juice = 2 oz.
      2 eggs = 3.5 oz.
      ¾ cup sugar = 5.25 oz.
      In the original recipe, the liquid weight was slightly less than the sugar weight, so I increased this as well.

      I think leavening is the trickiest thing to figure out…I’ve done many recipes where the ratio was dramatically different, and the recipe still turned out great! I think it can vary depending on what you’re making and what size pan you are using. However, the math I did above did turn out perfectly in this recipe! 🙂

  10. Camilla @ Culinary Adventures - April 17, 2013 Reply

    Visiting from SRC’s Group A. Nice to meet a new blogger! Baking math can be stressful but so rewarding when you get ti right. Good job. I love olive oil cakes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.