Out of My Cake Comfort Zone: Olive Oil and Red Grape Cake

I came across this striking and unusual cake on a lovely blog called Cooking-Spree, looking lovely and deliciously tempting. As it turns out, Spree adapted the recipe from Laura Calder’s book French Taste, which I have and love! Funny how the recipe didn’t jump out at me in the book … maybe because there’s not a photograph of the cake, or more likely because I was leery of the olive oil.

I’ve been seeing more and more recipes for baked sweets that use olive oil and I’ve been intrigued, but until now not brave enough to try one. It was hard for me to imagine the taste of olive oil, which I associate with savoury dishes, in a sweet dessert. Seeing Spree’s lovely photos inspired me to try this cake myself, and I’m glad I did.

It has a beautiful soft texture, and the citrus zest and juice imparts a bright tang, offset by the juicy sweetness of the grapes. The olive oil is very subdued, adding a delicate flavour but not one that anyone who tasted this cake identified or questioned. It’s not a very sweet cake, but it’s so flavourful. This is what I call a healthy dessert (much cheering). It’s a lovely light cake, one that makes a fine dessert that won’t weigh you down after dinner, or a good afternoon nibble. I picture myself sitting on the back deck, with a slice of this and a cup of tea.  Mmmmm…

I’m still getting used to my new oven, as I haven’t done a lot of baking in it yet. So, in some of the photos you may notice what appear to be empty craters on top of the cake. That’s where some of the grapes I scattered on top after about 20 minutes of baking sank, because the batter was still too wet to support them. Next time I’ll use better judgment. On the other hand, I think this makes the cake more topographically interesting (proving once again that I can rationalize pretty much anything; those who find this trait annoying will just have to make their own cake!).

We ate three slices of the cake the night I baked it, and the Culinary Enthusiast took the rest to his workplace the next day (as you might imagine, all this cooking and blogging leads to far too much temptation, so it’s best not to leave all these treats around the house). Lest there be anyone who would be put off by “olive oil” in the name, he called it Citrus and Red Grape Cake, and it went down a treat! As reported to me, the guys there loved it and it didn’t last long.  It seems they think a gal who can bake like this is pretty swell. Ahhh, shucks!

Anyway, in conclusion, let me say that stepping out of your cake comfort zone can be a pretty smart move. You never know what new desserts you’ll find that please your palate!

Olive Oil and Red Grape Cake

From Laura’s Calder’s French Taste, via Cooking-Spree

Pre-heat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Rub a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan with a little olive oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup (155g) sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) extra virgin olive oil, more for brushing
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup (125 g) cake flour*
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
  • 9 ounces (250 g) seedless red grapes
*I didn’t have cake (pastry) flour, so I used this substitution: 3/4 cup (100 g) all-purpose flour plus 2 tbsp (20 g) cornstarch.
Folding in the egg whites. Such a light batter!

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick, pale and ribbony. Mix in the olive oil, lemon juice and the lemon and orange zests. Add the flour and stir to combine. Beat the egg whites with the salt to stiff peaks, then gently fold in the batter. Gently stir in half the grapes. These will sink to the bottom during baking.

Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for 45 minutes*, opening the oven quickly after about 20 minutes to scatter the remaining grapes over the top. When a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, it’s ready to remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Brush the top with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle over more sugar (I used a couple of teaspoons). Once the cake is cool, unmold and serve.

*My cake took closer to an hour to be done, but that could be because I had the oven door open too long to take pictures when I added the grapes on top. I realize normal people don’t cook that way!


  1. I thought this cake looked good when Spree first blogged about it. Now, with your recommendation as well, how can I go wrong? I can’t wait to give this cake a try and I’ve a feeling I won’t be the last.
    By the way, I’ll be taking another stab at pizzocchieri this week. Fingers crossed!

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