A moist, tender olive oil cake, scented with fresh orange and lemon and full of fresh cranberries.
Every cook needs a good, basic olive oil cake up her/his sleeve. It’s an everyday, simple dessert that doesn’t require anything more than a dusting of powdered sugar, and it seems to magically disappear from the kitchen counter soon after it’s made.
My usual recipe is made without additional fruit, but since fresh citrus is always part of the equation — especially orange — this time I made it with some of the fresh cranberries I’m beginning to stock up on for the holidays because they taste so good together. My otherwise humble-looking cake suddenly looked all dressed up and festive.
Side note: I begin stockpiling bags of cranberries when they start showing up in the market, and before I know it I have more cranberries than I know what to do with. Then I kind of “forget” to use them or stick them in the freezer before they start to turn into compost. Tell me if this happens to you, too.
Remember how you could always count on a loaf or two of cranberry-orange quick bread appearing on the Thanksgiving menu? Someone always made it, or a guest brought one over. There might have even been a recipe for it right there on the bag. For some reason it’s fallen out of my holiday rotation, but this cake made me think of it. Maybe it’s time for an update?
Tips for olive oil cake success:
- Using a good, fruity extra-virgin olive oil is the key to this cake’s delicious flavor and moist texture. California Olive Ranch is an affordable, easy-to-find brand and one of my pantry favorites.
- I stand by my tried-and-true nonstick Nordic Ware bundt pan — it’s heavy duty and releases cakes easily every time.
- You can make this cake in a 9-inch springform pan instead of the fluted tube pan. Lightly oil the pan, and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
- It’s important to let the cake cool in the pan before inverting and unmolding (believe me, my impatience has been rewarded with chunks of cake falling on the counter). If you use a springform, release the pan sides after 30 minutes and continue to cool.
- This cake is lightly sweet on its own, so feel free to skip the glaze — your call.
citrus olive oil cake with cranberries
Yield 8 - 10 servings
- Freshly grated zest from 1 lemon and 1 orange
- 1 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 12-ounce bag cranberries
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk or fresh orange juice
- 1 orange
- Adjust oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
- Spray a nonstick 12-cup fluted cake pan with cooking spray or lightly coat with olive oil.
- Put the citrus zests and the sugar in a large bowl. Use your fingers to gently crush and coat the zest with sugar (your hands will smell amazing). Add the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda and whisk until blended. Stir in the cranberries.
- Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the milk, then whisk in the olive oil in a slow stream until blended. Pour olive oil mixture over the dry ingredients, stirring until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake 55 - 60 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the cake should come out dry.
- Cool the pan on a rack for 2 hours before unmolding.
- To make the glaze, whisk the sugar with the milk until smooth. Drizzle over the cake. Use a fine grater, like a Microplane, to grate orange zest over the cake. Cut into slices and serve.
- You can also make this cake in a 9-inch springform pan. Coat the pan with oil and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Bake time is the same.
- Leave the berries whole, or coarsely chop half of them in a blender or food processor for interesting texture and color.