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Olive Oil Cake

photography & words by Madelene Farin & Recipe by Joe Ona



“Love is like a good cake; you never know when it's coming, but you'd better eat it when it does!” 

                        ― C. JoyBell

I fell in love with this cake last summer. Shortly before a dinner party, my friend Joe arrived at my flat with beautiful golden layers of cake, fresh out of the oven. The amazing olive oil and lemon scent filled the room. I’ve had olive oil cake before, but never one as fluffy as this one, and certainly never one adorned with pistachios.

Joe assembled the cake in front of me, and finished it with a dusting of the pistachios and a vine of green muscat grapes. For me, this cake was heaven — the perfect marriage of flavors and ingredients local to this region of California.

Olive Oil Cake

Makes approximately 8 servings.


  •  1⁄2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  •   1⁄4 Cup Butter (melted)

  •   1 Cup Sugar

  •   3Eggs

  •   1⁄4 Cup Whole Milk

  •   1 tsp Vanilla

  •   1 tsp Lemon Zest

  •   1 tsp Salt

  •   1 Cup All-purpose Flour

  •   1⁄2 Cup Cake Flour

  •   1⁄2 TBS Baking Powder


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and line one 8” cake pan or two 6” cake pans with parchment.

  2. Combine extra virgin olive oil and melted butter and set aside.

  3. In a small bowl,whisk together both flour and baking powder and set aside.

  4. In a medium bowl (or use a standing mixer on medium speed) beat eggs, sugar, salt, lemon zest and vanilla until until double in volume (ribbon stage).

  5. While mixer is on slow,drizzle extra virgin olive oil and butter until fully incorporated. Slowly add milk until combined.

  6. Fold in flour and baking powder.

  7. Pour into cake pan(s) and bake until edges are golden and pulling away from the sides (about 25 minutes).

  8. Cool on cooling rack before trimming and frosting.

Pistachio Cream Cheese Frosting


  •   1⁄2 Cup Pistachios (shelled, toasted, and chopped)

  •   1⁄4 Cup Butter

  •   1 Cup Cream Cheese

  •   1 1⁄2 Cup Powdered Sugar

  •   1⁄4 tsp Salt

  •   1⁄2 tsp Vanilla


  1. Whisk butter and cream cheese until fluffy.

  2. Whisk in powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, and pistachios.

  3. Let frosting set in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using.

Assembling the Cake

  1. Trim cakes so each layer is level.If you used two 6” cake pans, you can make up to six layers.

  2. Put a little dollop of frosting in the center of the cake stand to hold the first layer in place.

  3. Place one layer (a bottom layer) of olive oil cake in the center of the cake stand. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting just beyond the edge of the cake layer.

  4. Alternate between the cake and frosting until the final layer.

  5. Use extra frosting and pistachios to decorate.