Who knew that olive oil could make such a delicious and beautiful cake? Probably most experienced bakers out there. But not me! Not until I made this cake. But it turns out that olive oil gives a cake just the right amount of savory flavor to pair off of the sugar, and helps highlight whatever flavors you decide to add. In this case I went with tart lemon and earthy sage, and the result is an impossibly moist bundt cake bursting with bright and savory notes. And with the right pan, it looks as spectacular as it tastes and is ready and waiting for your Mother’s Day table.
I’m sure I’ve seen many a lovely olive oil cake slide past as I scroll through my Instagram feed, but for some reason it never occurred to me to try it myself. Never, that is, until I decided that I needed to make a spectacular bundt cake perfect for Mother’s Day, and didn’t want to fall back on my tried and true lemon-poppyseed-raspberry number. So I did what I usually do when I’m low on baking inspiration, and started randomly pulling cookbooks off my shelf and paging through them. After a while I hit a the cake section of Mark Bittman’s How To Bake Everything and saw his description of olive oil cake. A cake that blends the savory and sweet? That stays moist for days? That you can whisk together by hand? I was in.
I played with the ratios in that original recipe, and decided to play up the lemon flavor and add savory, almost spicy sage to the batter. Then, because I’m usually extra when it comes to baking for others (if it’s just for me, you’d better believe I’m not even going to bother slicing it let alone garnishing it), I whisked up a quick lemon juice and cream glaze, and made some sugared lemon and sage to sprinkle on the top for even more of a savory-sweet flavor punch. When the cake was this easy, I could spare the time to make it look spectacular. I will definitely be making an olive oil cake again (I’m thinking a grapefruit and rosemary combination will be next), and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you try it.
- 1 ½ cups good quality olive oil
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
- ¾ cup milk
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
- ¼ cup water
- ¾ cup sugar, divided
- 1 lemon, sliced into circles and then quartered
- 10 sage leaves
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 10 cup bundt pan with olive oil and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and milk until well combined. With a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet.
- Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting and letting cool to room temperature on a cooling rack.
- Add the lemon juice to a measuring cup with a pouring spout. Add enough heavy cream to form a pourable glaze. Pour over the cooled bundt cake.
- In a small saucepan, bring the water and ½ cup of the sugar to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes then remove from the heat.
- Put the remaining ¼ cup of sugar in a small bowl.
- Brush the lemon slices and sage leaves with the sugar syrup, then place them in the bowl of sugar, turning them so they are completely coated. Set aside and repeat, then use them to garnish the cake.