Me and olive oil, we go way back.
It was the first oil I learned to cook with, passed down from parents who made the switch sometime in the early 2000s when health claims about various fats forced a trend away from butter and margarine and toward omega-rich oils.
It remains the first thing I reach for to make almost any recipe, from a pan of scrambled eggs to seared chicken breasts to raw vegetables ready for roasting.
It is also a reliable baking companion, a versatile and, when deployed correctly, exquisite addition to a number of sweets. Like this simple olive oil cake, one of the great underutilized culinary pleasures.
The first time I made this olive oil cake, it was merely a vessel for some overripe nectarines that were about to go bad. I was tasked with bringing dessert to a dinner party, and I wanted one that would showcase the soft stone fruit. I came across this cake, a really simple collection of ingredients boosted by olive oil and another crucial ingredient: pureed fruit.
Pureed nectarines were worked into the batter and sliced and served atop the cake. The result? A soft, dense but still pillowy, perfectly sweetened dessert.
This recipe seemed quite malleable, the olive oil cake base just plain enough to act as a blank canvas. So with stone fruit season on the way out, I got to work seeing if different fruits would work as well.
The answer is yes.
Allowing stone fruits to ripen before working them into this cake is a natural way to ensure a smooth fruit puree. With other fruits, you need to do a little more work. But the resulting cake is just as irresistible.
I started with apples, because we are heading right into apple season. I’d recommend a sweeter red apple here, like a Gala or Honeycrisp or McIntosh. First step: Peel and roughly chop half the amount of required apples for the puree. The other half you’ll leave with the red skin on for a textured topping. This cake also happens to be effortlessly stunning.
Second step: Cook those peeled and chopped apples. This is what makes them soft and sweet enough to turn into a puree worthy of mixing with your cake base. The introduction of warm spices and vanilla helps take this cake in a more autumnal direction.
I also plan to try this cake with pears, following the same apple instructions. The fruit will work much the same way apples do, with a slightly milder flavor.
Whatever you do, definitely serve this dessert with a generous drizzle of olive oil over each serving, a plop of fresh whipped cream on the side and that gorgeous sliced fruit of your choice.
Olive Oil Cake With Fruit
4 ripe nectarines (or apples or pears)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup olive oil, divided, plus more for pan and drizzling
Powdered sugar, for serving
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
Whipped cream, for serving
If using nectarines: Pit and roughly chop 2 nectarines. Puree in a blender or food processor with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice until smooth. Set mixture aside.
If using apples or pears: Peel and roughly chop 2 apples or pears. Add to a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the apples or pears have started to soften. They should be fork tender, but not mushy. When ready, remove from the heat, let cool for a couple of minutes, then puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch round cake pan with oil.
Whisk flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
Whisk granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisking constantly, gradually add ½ cup oil. Add flour mixture in 2 batches, whisking until evenly incorporated. (Batter will be thick.) Fold in fruit puree and pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake until cake is golden and pulls away from sides of pan, 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and transfer to a rack to cool completely. (Cake can be made up to 2 days in advance. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature.)
To serve, dust cake with powdered sugar. Slice remaining 2 pieces of fruit and toss with flaky salt and remaining ¼ cup oil. Serve cake with a drizzle of oil, whipped cream if you desire, and fruit.
Source: Adapted from Real Simple