Olive Oil Cake

For the third time in as many weeks, I find myself writing about olive oil. Make that  – extra virgin – olive oil.

It’s something I always have in my kitchen and not just for taste – it is one of the healthiest oils out there. We DO need some fat in our diet… it’s what helps transport vitamins A,D, E and K through our bodies. THAT I remember as the answer to an exam question… back in culinary school.

Add to that my fondness for Italian food… whether shopping for, reading about, cooking with and especially eating… I suppose it would make sense.

I recently got my hands on David Rocco’s second cookbook, “Made in Italy” which of course made me want to not walk, but run into the kitchen and start cooking. Part cookbook, part travelogue and part charming life stories, I forced myself to slow down. Savor it. I’ve been a fan of David, from what I believe was his first TV series: Avventura, Journeys in Italian Cuisine. He’s the proud papa of twin baby girls… who he refers to as the Roccettes. How sweet is that???


Of all the recipes I wanted to try, in the Dolce/Dessert section – was the one for Olive Oil Cake. Sooooo up my alley. Sooooo timely. I was in! Considering Signore Rocco is always going on about not being a Chef and especially not fond of the exactness of baking – I found myself surprised at this recipe. Not exactly a mix in one bowl affair. But, well worth the effort.

Olive Oil Cake

The bit of sugar sprinkled on top just before baking makes a nice little crunchy layer for this moist and delicious cake. A bit of icing sugar sifted over the top gives it a pretty finish. In the book, it says you’ll find this cake served at all times of the day in Tuscany. I can certainly see why.

1 large orange
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil,  plus extra for greasing the pan
1 cup flour, sifted
4 egg whites
pinch salt
1/2 cup pine nuts (can be made without)
icing sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350º, line a 9″ springform pan with parchment paper, and grease with olive oil.
Finely zest the orange rind, and squeeze half the orange, reserving the juice.
Put the eggs yolks and sugar in a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer on high speed for about 2 minutes – until creamy and pale.
Lower the speed and add the olive oil, orange juice and zest, beating until everything is combined.
With a spatula slowly fold in the flour until fully incorporated.
In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks.
Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture a bit at a time, until everything is combined. Do not over mix.
Pour the batter into the springform pan – pick up the pan and gently knock if on the counter a few times, to burst any air bubbles.
Sprinkle the top with sugar (and pine nuts if using) and bake until the top is golden, about 45 minutes.