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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Olive Oil Cake

I was watching Kitchen Nightmares the other night (yes, it's a guilty pleasure) and Chef Ramsey presented an Olive Oil Cake as part of his revamped menu for a little Italian restaurant. It looked very interesting - sort of like a pound cake but without all the butter and excess sugar. I admit I was a little intrigued so decided to look around for recipes for Olive Oil Cake or as it is known in Italian - Pissota con l'Oio.

There are lots of versions out there and it appears the main component is simply the substitution of olive oil for butter or shortening and the reduction of sugar. The flavors range from very simple to very complex but most trade on the fact that the olive is a fruit. Thus, fruit and citrus notes play big parts. Since I didn't want to go out shopping in the middle of the night, I decided to adapt the classic Pissota con l'Oio using what I had in the kitchen. What I ended up with is a cake with notes of lemon and coconut that has a dense texture but is, at the same time, rather light.

I chose to glaze my cake with a cross between a lemon glaze and a lemon frosting. Then I sprinkled it with some colored sugar for a little sparkle. If you want something more suited to a formal dinner you can skip the frosting and serve the cake slices slightly warm with a lemon sauce or topped with a dollop of fresh lemon curd.

Instead of the coconut rum, you can use any fruity liqueur such as Grand Marnier, Limoncello, Amabilli (banana liqueur), Kirsch, or Cointreau. This is a great cake to experiment with flavors simply because the flavor notes are so delicate and you aren't competing with tons of butter and sugar to get a flavor across.

Give the Pissota con l'Oio a try. I think you'll be really pleased with the great flavor and texture of this Italian gem!

Recipe: Olive Oil Cake

Summary: A dense cake flavored with the lovely fruity flavors of olive oil, lemon, and coconut


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup top quality olive oil
  • 2/3 cup milk or cream
  • 3 tbs. coconut rum or citrus flavored liqueur
  • 1 tbs. baking powder

For Glaze:

  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2-4 tbs. fresh lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Grease an 11 cup Bundt pan with butter and dust with flour (or use a non-stick spray with flour included such as Baker's Secret). Set cake pan aside.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment beat together eggs and sugar until pale yellow and the mixture forms the ribbon. Add flour and mix just until combined. Add olive oil, milk, lemon zest, and liqueur and stir at low speed until well combined. Add baking powder and stir until well mixed and smooth.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan evenly. Use spatula to smooth top of batter. Bake until cake is a deep golden brown and cake tester inserted into center comes out clean - about 40-50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow cake to cool completely in pan. When cooled remove from pan and glaze with lemon glaze.

    Lemon Glaze: Combine all ingredients in bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium high speed until smooth. Add more lemon juice if necessary to get desired consistency.

Quick Notes

I made my lemon glaze a bit thick - more of a loose frosting. However, you can make a very thin glaze if you wish or even skip the glaze completely and use a lemon sauce on the individual pieces when sliced.
This is also great served slightly warm with a spoonful of lemon curd on top.

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 50 min
Total time: 1 hour
Number of servings (yield): 12
Meal type: dessert
Culinary tradition: Italian
Copyright © Buck Bannister and Sugar Pies.
Recipe adapted by Buck Bannister.

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