To some unfamiliar with it, the sound of olive oil cake may seem unappealing. Olive oil is great for dipping a crust of bread in or topping a salad, but many may not think to make it the star of a cake. As it were, olive oil cake is a delicious, light treat. It is less sweet than red velvet or typical chocolate cakes.
Olive oil cake tastes subtly sweet with a prominent olive oil flavor, playing well with an airy hint of lemon. Vanilla, amaretto, and almond extract open up a burst of rich nuttiness. Typically topped with a dusting of powdered sugar, olive oil cake is moist, fluffy, and perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea.
What Does Olive Oil Cake Taste Like?
Olive oil cake has been seeing a new wave of popularity recently. While it is had to trace the origins of olive oil cake, it is a household staple in Mediterranean cooking. It is simple to make and can be topped with berries for a bright, sweet punch.
The most prominent taste in olive oil cake is, of course, olive oil. The type of olive oil you use will make subtle changes to the flavor. It is best to choose a high-quality brand and then taste test it to get an idea. Different olive oils have nuanced tastes; they can be bitter, fruity, or more earthy depending on the olives it was made with.
Because it is so enriched with olive oil, you do not get the buttery taste you’d find in a cake made with, well, butter. Instead of that milkiness, there is a savory undertone in each moist, tender morsel.
Olive oil itself is fruity, bitter, and pungent. While other notes in the cake will blend and breed complexity in each taste, that is the primary profile in olive oil cake. It makes for a delicious, robust flavor.
Lemon zest and lemon juice cut through the richness of olive oil, making it sit lighter on the palette. Granted, it is important in baking to not use too much lemon so that it becomes a lemon cake. The flavor should be noticeable but still subtle; there is no need to overdo it.
Along with the olive oil, the lemon pairs delightfully with some of the optional toppings for olive oil cake, like rosemary or berries. With the herbaceousness of rosemary, lemon pairs along to make the final taste very clean and natural. If topped with berries, the lemon in olive oil cake will add sharpness, brightening the flavor of sweet fruit.
Vanilla, Almond, and Amaretto
For the sake of depth, vanilla extract, almond extract, and amaretto are included in the simple recipe for olive oil cake. Vanilla and almond are nutty, almost marshmallowy, while being comforting and familiar. Amaretto, already boosting that vanilla and almond, also brings the most subtle notes of bitterness. These ingredients combined are warm, rich, and balancing.
There are plenty of ways to top an olive oil cake, each method adding a new burst of flavor and dimension. You can top it with powdered sugar, berries, or rosemary. The most common topping is a covering of powdered sugar.
Naturally, powdered sugar will bring keen sweetness to your olive oil cake. If you’re a fan of sugary things and find olive oil cake to be too savory to you, powdered sugar will sweeten the deal. Olive oil cake is not usually iced like a cake, but a sugary dusting is a perfect pairing.
Berries, served either hot or cold, will add a kick of tart sweetness to an olive oil cake. Strawberries used while they’re in season will be sweet, with just a hint of tartness, that will compliment the sweet and savory combo of olive oil cake. Mixed berries made into a compote will increase the moisture in an already moist cake, so go sparingly with them.
Rosemary can be put dainty atop an olive oil cake as a decoration. Or you may find it generously dabbled over the whole surface so that every bite is complimented with the flavor.
Rosemary is slightly minty, just a bit peppery, with a balsamic and woody aftertaste. Combined with the fruity, tanginess of olive oil cake, this makes for a sophisticated, balanced, savory experience.
The surface of olive oil cake is firm. It shouldn’t be rock hard, you should feel a bit of give when you press down on it. It is not as soft as chiffon or even a birthday cake- think somewhere between that and the texture of pumpkin or banana bread.
Olive oil cake has a tender, moist crumb, that isn’t crumbly or grainy. You will notice how moist the cake is, since olive oil is such a prominent component in the cake. However, it will not be stodgy or greasy at all. The cake is almost fluffy when chewed.
The scent of olive oil cake is sweet and comforting. The vanilla and almond stand out in the fragrance, especially when fresh vanilla beans are used. The olive oil will peek through, however, letting the natural olive scent mingle with the vanilla aroma.
This smell will be most present when the cake is baking, and might not stick around as much once it is done and cooled. However, taking a whiff will still give you a sampling of the complex flavors in your olive oil cake.
Ricotta Olive Oil Cake
A certain way that you may find olive oil prepared is with ricotta cheese added to the batter. Ricotta acts as an additional fat in the mix, and it brings sweetness with it. This makes for a richer, sweeter cake.
With Orange Blossom Water
Orange blossom water is sometimes added in place of amaretto. The flavor of it is faintly citrusy, but what it will really do is bring out the grassy undernotes of vanilla and almond. It is an excellent addition if you do not have alcohol on hand.
For a unique twist, avocado can act much as ricotta does; it will act like a fat in your recipe while upping the richness factor. The cake will be tinged with the mild flavor of avocado, and make it extra incredibly moist.
Olive oil cake is a delicious, elegant pasty that can please any palette. It can be served on the more herbed and savory side with rosemary, or made sweet with berries or ricotta cheese. It’s simple to make, and pairs well with coffee, tea, or even a glass of milk.
The flavor is subtle, with a grassy punch from the olive oil itself that is brightened with tart lemon. Vanilla and almond add warmth and further depth to an already appetizing slice. Topped with powdered sugar, it’s a fantastic sweet treat for any occasion.