Why Olive Oil Cake Is the Ideal Summer Bake

Try this recipe from Fausto’s Erin Shambura and pair it with citrusy limoncello.

olive oil cake
Photo by Austa Somvichian-Clausen for Thrillist

During most of the year, you could tempt me with a slice of pretty much any cake. When it comes to the height of summer, though, baking and eating a dense chocolate cake isn’t really the vibe. It’s a time when our palettes are craving something a little lighter, a little more fresh, to cut through the heat of the season.

That is precisely why olive oil cake makes for the perfect summer bake. A tasty, savory, Mediterranean treat, the olive oil cake proves itself time and time again as one of the most versatile (and approachable) bakes you should always have at the ready.

Amazingly, olive oil cake just continues to get better over time, which is otherwise virtually unheard of in the baking world. A cake that stays moist and whose texture continues to improve while sitting on your counter for days? Some people might not believe it—but they’ll just have to try it for themselves.

“What I love about olive oil cakes is that the oil contributes a really pleasant fruity flavor to the cake, and helps it to stay moist for longer than butter would,” says Erin Shambura, the chef and owner at beloved Brooklyn restaurant Fausto. “The olive oil also makes it taste really fresh and delicious, so I really like making it, especially at the restaurant, because it’s super versatile.”

For those who appreciate a dessert that isn’t cloyingly sweet, olive oil cake is a good bet, too. Its versatility also comes from how many flavors it goes well with, whether you’d prefer to enjoy it with fresh espresso for breakfast, top it with whipped cream and seasonal fruit for after dinner, or play around with the liqueur choice in the actual bake.

Shambura says the key is to not overmix the batter, adding that the process can be done by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer. Her recipe also calls for the addition of sherry—a golden-hued fortified wine liqueur that Shambuya says adds a really nice nuttiness and toastiness to the cake.

Another good choice, though, is citrusy limoncello. Just like olive oil cake, the beauty of limoncello is in both its simplicity and its texture—smooth, sip-worthy and perfect to enjoy at any time of the day. It’s easy enough to find pre-made in the store, but you can also make limoncello on your own in a matter of weeks, either to add to your olive oil bakes or to simply enjoy a small glass—chilled alongside dessert.

Many olive oil cake recipes will ask for citrus in some way, whether in the form of fresh lemon or orange juice, grated rinds for a zestier flavor, or Grand Marnier. The addition of limoncello to your olive oil cake will give it a sweet, summery and light citrus flavor that you won’t be able to live without.

olive oil cake with limoncello
Photo by Austa Somvichian-Clausen for Thrillist

Fausto’s Olive Oil Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup sherry (or limoncello)
  • 1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray again.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat sugar and eggs on medium speed until just combined. With the mixer still running, gradually add the olive oil, milk and sherry. Turn the mixer down to slow and gradually add the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth, being careful not to over mix.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan.
 

Homemade Limoncello Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 (750 ml) bottle vodka
  • 6-10 lemons
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar

Directions:
1. Pour vodka into an airtight container.
2. Peel the rinds off of lemons, paying close attention to leave off as much of the white part of the rind as possible. You only want the yellow, outermost rind.
3. Add peels to the alcohol, seal it off, and keep it out of the sun for a few weeks—at least two weeks and up to one month.
4. Fine strain the lemon-infused vodka into a new container and prepare simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water) on your stovetop.
5. Add your cooled simple into the vodka, starting with a smaller amount of sweetener and playing around with the proportions until you’re happy with the taste.
6. Allow your limoncello to mellow if you want, putting it away for an additional week or two to fully develop its final flavor.
7. If you plan on sipping it rather than baking with it, pop the bottle into the freezer a day before enjoying it.

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Austa Somvichian-Clausen is a freelance food and travel writer, who lives in Brooklyn with her girlfriend and two fur babies. Follow her on Instagram.