• Yield: Makes 12 servings

  • Time: 25 minutes prep, 45 minutes cooking, 90 minutes total

Baking with olive oil has been a way of life for Mediterranean cooks, and it is gaining steam in America now. In California, where olive oil is produced and citrus grown, this cake is as common as a yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting. Natalie Haughton, the retired food writer from Los Angeles, says this cake speaks California, and we can thank pastry chef Emily Luchetti of San Francisco and chocolate maven Alice Medrich of Berkeley, as well as authors of Italian cookbooks such as Lynne Rosetto Kasper for sharing olive oil cakes and introducing Americans to the benefit of baking with olive oil. For one, it is healthier to bake with olive oil, which contains monounsaturated fat, compared with butter’s saturated fat. And because olive oil is a natural emulsifier, it improves the moisture and texture of a cake. A cake baked with olive oil will bake higher than one baked with butter. Franciscan monks from Spain brought the first olive trees to the San Diego area in 1769, and while olive oil production didn’t take off at first, today the California olive oil industry has experienced huge growth. Use a light olive oil in this recipe, and save your more flavorful extra virgin oil for dressing a salad.


  • Light olive oil and flour for prepping the pan

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup orange juice (see Cake Notes)

  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest

  • 2/3 cup light olive oil

  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

American Cake American Cake

CAKE NOTES: If you have 2 or 3 fresh oranges, you should be able to juice them and obtain enough juice to measure 2⁄3 cup. Grate enough of the zest from 1 or 2 oranges to make 2 teaspoons.

OLIVE OIL TIP: How to substitute olive oil for butter in your favorite cake recipe? The rule of thumb for swapping a liquid fat for a solid fat like butter is to use 75 percent of the amount of butter. So if the recipe
calls for 8 ounces butter, you would use 6 ounces (3⁄4 cup) oil. But unlike butter, which may be creamed with sugar to aerate and produce little gas bubbles that will expand in baking and help the cake rise, oil won’t help the cake rise through beating. There must be a chemical leavening present—baking powder or soda.


1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease and flour a 9" springform pan with the olive oil and flour. Shake out the excess flour, and set the pan aside.

2. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Crack the eggs into the bowl and stir to break the yolks, then add the orange juice, zest, and olive oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until well combined, 60 to 70 strokes, or mix with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and combined, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Turn the batter into the prepared pan, and place the pan on a sheet pan or baking sheet to protect your oven from batter leaking from the bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the oven, and bake until the cake is well browned and the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, 38 to 42 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the oven. Let it rest on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, unsnap the collar rim, and let it rest on the rack until cool, 30 minutes more. To serve, run a sharp knife underneath the cake to remove the bottom of the pan. Place the cake on a plate, dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired, and slice and serve.

Reprinted from American Cake by Anne Byrn. Copyright (c) 2016 by Anne Byrn. By permission of Rodale Books.