A good olive oil cake

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve baked anything with intention. I’ve been going back and forth between a speculoos babka or lying on my ass reading random pages from my Kindle. For a good two weeks, it’s been the latter all day every day, save for when I’m actually working. Yes, I have a job. But last Sunday, I dragged my ass to the kitchen and cooked from scratch. I thought, it’s Sunday. It’s supposed to be a delicious-meal day. Sundays are for homecooking, or at least that’s what I was used to growing up.

So I roasted a chicken, inspired by Chrissy Teigen’s recipe, which calls for an inordinate amount of butter and garlic. I piled on huge chunks of carrots and potatoes and onions. I love love the taste of roasted vegetables, especially those that are dripping in butter and chicken fat. While the chicken was roasting, I baked this olive oil cake.

This cake is technically a Rosemary Orange Olive Oil Cake. You guessed that right! It’s rosemary, oranges, and olive oil in this cake. I have a medium sized rosemary plant in my backyard, which I seldom use, but after last Sunday’s cookery, this rosemary plant looks like a baby plant now. I used a lot of fresh rosemarys for the chicken and this cake.

I love the smell of fresh rosemary. I don’t have any childhood memory attached to it, but it smells comforting like a more herbal sister for lavender. Back home lemongrass is the choice, mostly the only, herb readily available for roasted chicken and suckling pig. So using rosemary is not a norm for me but I definitely welcome and love this herb. It goes without saying I was very much excited how the oranges would pair with the rosemary and, of course, the olive oil.

Also this is one of the easiest cakes I’ve made by far. You don’t need any fancy equipment, just a whisk and a bowl. It’s a pretty straightforward process of preparing the dry and wet ingredients separately and melding them into one delicious-smelling cake batter. If you have a lot of rosemary in your garden, boy you should make this cake on the daily and give it to your neighbors. It’s so easy to make!

By the time it came out, I noticed right away that the cake looked extremely moist. The crumb looks wet and I can see immediately the speckles of rosemary bits in the cake. The house, of course, smelled like a sweet auntie’s summer house. With the rainy weather and this cake, you will surely want to curl up on the couch and eat it with a not-too-sweet coffee.

The taste is very interesting. It’s soft and crumbly, so plus points for the olive oil. It’s not too-sweet and it’s herb-y, there’s no mistaking for the taste of rosemary and orange. They are pronounced and leaves an aftertaste that’s a cross between muffins and focaccia. It’s not a showy cake but its simplicity and unique flavor combination makes it quite a sophisticated kind of cake. You know the quiet and elegant kind? It’s this cake.

From Hetty McKinnon’s recipe via Cup of Jo:

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 9-inch 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.

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