Food

A Simple, Delicious Olive Oil Cake

Orange and Rosemary Olive Oil Cake from Hetty McKinnon's Family

Have you ever made an olive oil cake? They’re moist, easy to bake, and totally delicious — basically, everything you want a cake to be. Here, Hetty McKinnon, author of the new cookbook Family, shares her rosemary orange version…

Orange and Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

Rosemary Orange Olive Oil Cake
From the cookbook Family by Hetty McKinnon

If you are a lazy baker like me, olive oil cakes are an essential weapon to have in your repertoire. Oil is much more forgiving than butter, and helps keep cakes moist. I adore the richness of this cake — the delicate savory undertones move so elegantly with the herbaceous rosemary and zesty citrus. Feel free to omit the rosemary if you want a plainer finish. A simple yet impressive cake for all occasions.

Recipe: Rosemary Orange Olive Oil Cake
Serves 6 to 8

You’ll need:
1 cup superfine sugar (or regular sugar)
zest and juice of 2 small oranges
2 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups self-rising flour (If you only have plain flour in your pantry, just add the “rising” agent by incorporating 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp of salt for every 1 cup of plain flour.)
icing sugar, to dust

Substitutes:
Instead of orange, try lemon or mandarin
Instead of extra-virgin olive oil, try light olive oil, macadamia oil or coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a springform tin with parchment paper. Add the sugar, orange zest and rosemary in a bowl and, using your fingertips, rub everything together until the sugar is fragrant and damp. Add the eggs and whisk until pale and thick. Beat in the yogurt and orange juice, then gradually whisk in the olive oil.

Sift the flour into a large bowl so it’s lovely and aerated. Slowly pour in the wet ingredients and, using a large spoon or spatula, gently fold everything together until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 45–50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack to cool completely. When cool and ready to eat, dust with icing sugar.

Thank you so much, Hetty! Your new book is beautiful.

P.S. More dessert recipes, including double vanilla butter cake and four-ingredient apple crisp.

(Photos courtesy of Hetty McKinnon.)

  1. Carol Wayne says...

    I made this cake twice this weekend for a get together and book club…so delicious…I even got a thumbs up from the woman in our group who always looks perfect and cooks perfect! I added an extra egg…skipped the rosemary and did the cream cheese frosting for ceremony! Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

  2. Eleanor says...

    This looks gorgeous! I’m thinking of making this for a dinner party but want to turn it into a layer cake, thoughts? Should I double the recipe or simply divide this amount batter into two pans, how thick would it be?

  3. I had the pleasure of interviewing Hetty on The Food Podcast and honestly, she is as wonderful as this cake! There are recipes, yes, but it’s her approach to life, her ‘unapologetic love of nostalgia’ and ability to build a flavourful, multicultural world where people want to sit and eat cake together… that’s her magic. And to all those bicycle lovers, did you know her first business was delivering salads … on her bicycle? Hetty is the best.
    https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-food-podcast/id1020743099?i=1000437178350

  4. I made this Friday with cream cheese icing and brought it to a race on Sunday. It was a perfect, not too sweet morning treat that my fellow running friends really enjoyed. I’ll make it again for sure.

  5. Abbey says...

    Are you ready for the greatest recipe endorsement ever? I made this over the weekend and just gave a chunk to my Italian tutor. She said it was delicious and reminded her of a cake her nonna used to make for her as a child in Calabria. BOOM.
    No higher food compliment. Thank you for sharing, Hetty!!

  6. Sarah says...

    I made this last night and it was EXCELLENT! I decided to leave out the rosemary. It turned out perfectly even though I’m sure added way too much orange juice! I put cream cheese frosting on top for “ceremony” (haha!) and it was kind of like a creamcicle. Next time I think I’ll go with fresh whipped cream and berries. Thanks to Hetty for a wonderful recipe!!

  7. Alyssa says...

    My choice for my birthday cake last week was an olive oil cake! My son and I made the NYT recipe with homemade whipped cream, and it was scrumptious. Most everyone who heard “olive oil” and “cake” turned up their noses, but I’d take that over their canola oil box mix cakes any day!

  8. Alyssa says...

    I made it today! I used meyer lemon juice and zest, and honey whole milk greek yogurt, since that’s what I had on hand. Came out great! Super moist.

    • rach says...

      yum!!

  9. Pru says...

    This is a beautiful cake. I was a little concerned that the batter was lumpy but it all worked out. Next time I’ll do a little more zest and maybe a glaze but I’m eating it now and already imagining it for breakfast tomorrow. Thank you so much!

  10. Thanks for the tip on the flour/baking power ratio. I don’t use self rising flour often enough to warrant having it on hand, but I do have everything else to make this delicious looking cake.

  11. Cheryl says...

    We just moved and ditched a broken springform pan. Can you use a regular pan that’s been greased or line with tin foil or something? I’m less worried about its presentation than being baked well! (Ugly but tasty baked goods are sadly one of my calling cards.)

  12. Heather says...

    I just love when you include a photo of the author/subject at the end of a post like this (or the house tours). It’s such a nice surprise to scroll down and see whose voice you’ve been reading. And what a cute photo of Hetty’s family!

  13. Lulu says...

    How thrilling to see Hetty on COJ : ) I have her cookbooks and my family and friends are regularly treated to her recipes.

    One of the best things about cooking a cake like this is that it makes your kitchen (and whole home) smell amazing.

    Living in Australia, I’m luck enough to have this book already – my current favourites are the Roasted cauliflower with peas and minted yoghurt and also the Cacio e pepe broccolini with crispy white beans (quick and delish).

    Family is such a beautiful book – it marries food photos and typography so stylishly ( and you just check out the index!).

    Cheers from Lulu in Perth.

  14. Carmen says...

    That looks so dreamy

  15. Kirsten says...

    Hetty is simply spectacular… as a talented chef, author and person. Love to see so many enjoy your beautiful, inspiring creations!

  16. Rose says...

    This post came at the perfect time – we just made this for my mother in law’s birthday this evening! It got rave reviews :)

  17. Angela says...

    So many great recipe posts lately! Thank you CoJ ❤️

  18. Dan says...

    There’s nothing better than cake with rosemary – I add it to lemon cakes and apple cakes as well! Can’t wait to try Hetty’s recipe once (working through her new book now after loving her other ones to pieces!) Please do a Hetty post :)

  19. Savannah says...

    For our first anniversary my husband and I went to San Francisco and ate at Rich Table as our splurge. When we got there we realized he’d made the reservation for the right day, but the next month! Luckily we snagged the last two seats at the bar and had olive oil cake with peaches and chatted with the bartender and had the best dinner. Olive oil cake brings all that back every time! TLDR: I love it.

  20. Emily says...

    Can’t wait to make this for Mother’s Day! However, my mom isn’t a huge rosemary fan, is it a strong rosemary flavor or more mild? Could you scale it back or maybe sub a different herb (sage?). I’ve never made an olive oil cake so I appreciate any insight!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a sweet mother’s day idea! yes, hetty says you can leave out the rosemary completely, if you’d prefer! it’s delicious as a simple orange olive oil cake xo

    • Emma says...

      I just made it for lunch (the whole lunch!) and would leave it out… it gives it a focaccia vibe, which personally I’m digging.

  21. I use olive oil for nearly all the cakes I bake. It just is much healthier and gives the cake a fluffy texture. My favourite is carrot cake with olive oil but I will give this one a try too!

  22. So I attempted an olive oil cake – does it require an acquired taste? I made one previously and It tasted a little funny and my family weren’t fans. But this cake looks gorgeous and yummy!

    • Emma says...

      I have made one before (I want to say it was smitten kitchen but can’t remember) and wasn’t a fan. I just made this one and it’s great… but not super sweet and maybe leave out the rosemary if you aren’t adventurous.

  23. Sarah says...

    Haha all of Hetty’s responses to your questions are so sweet and charming!

  24. Megan says...

    Olive oil cake is the best! It has this air of sophistication but it is SO good and SO easy! My go to has been a recipe you shared as a Friday link moons ago but I can’t wait to try this one! Second that it makes a great breakfast treat toasted, with greek yogurt on top.

  25. Claire says...

    We have a few simple cake recipes in our repertoire that are reliable winners. I am looking forward to giving this one a whirl!

  26. Corinne says...

    We had an olive oil cake at my wedding! (Along with sweet potato mochi donuts and black sesame cream puffs. ) I’d never had one before our tasting, but my family is Italian and my husband is Korean, so we asked our caterer to take inspiration from our respective cultures and she nailed it!

  27. Danielle says...

    I make a recipe similar to this quite often. I read that a traditional version in France uses the yogurt container to measure the remaining ingredients. So simple and really delicious.

  28. I love baking these types of cakes on Sundays! They are a nice substitute for toast on Monday morning! :)

  29. Lauren E. says...

    I loooove olive oil cake. It’s one of those desserts I can make while prepping dinner and it doesn’t seem like a hassle.

  30. One of my old boyfriends told me that in high school his mom ran out of vegetable oil and had to use olive oil in his birthday cake. She wasn’t a great cook, but his family loved last-minute substitution, which resulted in an olive-oil birthday cake family tradition.
    This post reminded me of that sweet memory :)

  31. Dominique says...

    Can I use something to substitute for the yogurt? I would love to make this for a friend who is dairy and soy free.

    • I have made this with a nut yoghurt in the past – I think it was an almond based yoghurt – and it turned out great! Feel free to experiment!

    • Louisa says...

      There are pretty great non-dairy yogurts (coconut or soy) that I would think should work. (I have done this in other yogurt cakes without problems.) You would probably want to find a “Greek” version (strained) so it’s not too runny.

    • TC says...

      I’m hoping for this too! Maybe DF greek yogurt? Kite Hill makes a great one!

    • Dominique says...

      Thanks for all the suggestions!

  32. Becky says...

    So excited to make this! I’ve been baking with light olive oil lately but also love avocado oil. I used to love to make Jewish apple cake. I’m wondering if I could add apple to this, worth trying, but I think I’ll try the orange zest first!

  33. Loren says...

    Would it be possible to include weight measurements in the baking recipes? And for those of you who don’t yet have a kitchen scale, I can’t recommend them highly enough. Not only will your measurements be exact, ensuring success when you bake cakes and pastries, you will dirty so many less measuring cups and spoons. I have an OXO and it’s great.
    Thank you so much!

  34. Julie says...

    Does regular or superfine sugar make a big difference? I know a lot of home bakers don’t keep superfine sugar around.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      asking now!

    • emily says...

      Could you just toss your granulated sugar into a food processor? I’ve done it in a pinch!

  35. Ellie says...

    Any recommendations of what else can go on the cake besides powdered sugar? A specific fruit, maybe?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      such a good question! i’ll ask hetty :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      her answer: “I have topped it with cream cheese frosting before which is lovely and adds a sense of ceremony. ” :)

    • Ellie says...

      Thank you! :)

    • Jenna Brown says...

      “A sense of ceremony” I think this sounds like a great life motto too!

    • Lulu says...

      Hey Jenna, I loved your comment that: “A sense of ceremony” sounds like a great life motto!

      I wholeheartedly agree (and might just adopt it too).

      Cheers from Lulu : )

    • Chamila says...

      I have just adopted these words ‘a sense of ceremony’ to my dictionary. I’m this type of person. Whenever i bake, I overdo a little on everything and i like it to feel like there’s a ceremony. That cake am baking for mothers day or my bday. I want to dare those 2 new ingredients aka Olive oil & rosemary. Another person said it adds an air of sophistication.. New words again to adopt!

  36. I’ve always wondered about superfine sugar… is it between granulated and powdered? I don’t think I’ve seen it in United States grocery stores (?).

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      also, from hetty: “any type of white sugar works. Fine sugar is best but I often just use normal white sugar. All about what’s easy.”

    • Maureen says...

      Also for the icing sugar, if you only have regular sugar, use a coffee or spice grinder to make it a powder.

    • Ellie says...

      It’s often called Baker’s Sugar in the US, and Safeway sells it. It looks like a carton of milk.

  37. Sara says...

    How small should the oranges be? Clementine size or are normal navel oranges ok? It looks incredible!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hetty says: “small oranges are best. Clementine size, is a great description”

  38. Sara says...

    Olive oil cake is one of my favorites. Dense, moist, and deliciously crunchy around the edges; always best when loaded with citrus and zest, I threw a big handful of dried sour cherries in my last one and it was amazing!

  39. Helen says...

    This would be a perfect cake to bake for my mom for Mother’s Day! What size springform pan does the recipe call for?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ll ask hetty!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      here’s her answer! “So perfect for mom! 9 inch (23cm) springform pan!”

  40. sounds great and heart healthy.

  41. lisa says...

    olive oil cake sounds less dramatically exciting than other cakes but it has always been my favorite, especially with a cup of tea. thank you, hetty!

  42. Abo says...

    Self rising flour? Adding yeast ok?

    • Hi Abo, chiming in here! ‘self-rising’ flour is easy to make at home – just add 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp of salt for every 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Hope you enjoy the cake, Hetty

    • loren says...

      No, yeast wouldn’t work. She includes the instructions for the leavening agent in the recipe, but here it is again: 1.5 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt per cup of flour.