An Italian classic, this olive oil rosemary cake is perfect for breakfast, with coffee, or if you’re like me and don’t like overly sweet things, it makes a wonderful dessert. I added some pine nuts for crunch, too.
Olive oil cakes are a thing in Italy, where the oil takes the place of butter. They happen to be lower in saturated fat, if that matters to you, and one cool thing is that you can vary the flavor of the cake depending on what sort of olive oil you use. More on that in a bit.
This is, essentially, a sweet, cakey quick bread. It’s similar to, but lighter than, my recipes for persimmon nut bread and fig bread, which are other great options for not-so-sweet desserts or breakfasts.
Rosemary is traditional and an olive oil rosemary bread is a thing in Italy, but you could skip the rosemary and use another herb or another flavor element altogether. Other options:
- Summer savory, lemon verbena, mint, fresh marjoram or bee balm
- Citrus zest, especially lemon zest
- Candied citrus peel
- Pine nuts, chopped almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans or butternuts
Easiest Cake Ever
If you follow this site, you know I am not a professional baker. I like easy baking projects, and this is almost as easy as beer bread.
Basically you beat eggs with sugar, then beat in the remaining ingredients one by one until you get a batter. Pour batter into a loaf pan and pop it in the oven. Remove, let cool a bit, pop it out of the pan to cool some more, dust with powdered sugar and you’re done.
You can make an olive oil rosemary cake in less than an hour, start to finish.
Olive Oil in the Cake
The oil matters in an olive oil rosemary cake. First and foremost you want extra virgin. This is where you want to use the good stuff.
Next level is to use a late season olive oil, one made from very ripe olives in winter. These will be buttery, smooth and golden; you can see this in the cake pictures.
If you use an early season oil, one that’s peppery, strong and slightly bitter, it won’t ruin your cake, but it’s not ideal.
Can you use other oils? Absolutely. But use good ones, as the oil is the soul of this cake. Extra virgin canola oil would be good, as would unrefined nut or seed oils.
Duck fat? Yep, you can use duck or goose fat for this cake if you want. I’ve done it and it’s great.
What to Serve with Olive Oil Rosemary Cake
My preference is just a nice cup of coffee during the day, or a glass of sherry in the evening. For a dessert, preserved fruit would be nice, as would cheese.
Candied or chocolate covered nuts are another good choice, as is vanilla ice cream. If you are using pine nuts, as I do, you could do worse than serve an olive oil rosemary cake with pine nut ice cream.
Once made, the cake will keep, covered at room temperature, for a few days. It also freezes reasonably well.
If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.
Olive Oil Rosemary Cake
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (see above for options)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
- 1/2 cup toasted, chopped pine nuts (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour, or all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- Preheat your oven to 325°F. See below for an optional step that makes the cake pop out of the pan easier; it's not 100% necessary, but it does help.
- In a large bowl, mix the eggs with the sugar and salt and beat well. Keep beating the mixture with one hand while you drizzle the olive oil in with the other. Mix until well combined.
- Stir in the rosemary, pine nuts (if using), then the flour. Once that is mostly incorporated, add the baking powder. Mix until you have a smooth batter. Pour this into your loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes. It's done when a needle or cake testing wire inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before popping it out of the pan and letting it rest on a cooling rack.
- Once the cake is cool, put it on a cutting board and dust it all over with powdered sugar. Slice and enjoy!
Carla Paganelli says
Hello there Hank,
I did make this and it is wonderful. Thank you for sharing it. But I do have a question about the baking pan you’d use. I have a basic loaf pan that is glass (meatloaf dimensions) and 2 kind of narrow French tin bread pans. I chose to pour the batter into one of the tin pans. It baked fine but needed a bit extra time for the tester to come out clean. Also, there remains a bit of a “raw” or “Oil” spot that runs through the loaf near the top. It doesn’t taste odd at all, just wondering what size/type of loaf pan YOU use for this. I know I’ll make it again, maybe without pine nuts.
Hank Shaw says
Carla: I use a typical loaf pan you’d get in a supermarket, so I am pretty sure it’s the meatloaf dimensions one.
Thanks for the reply. I’ll try that next time.
Eric Lichtenberger says
I used candied lemon peel that I had on hand from another recipe as the rosemary substitute. It turned out great. I’ll try it again with fresh rosemary when I have some on hand.
Paul stilgrove says
loved it easy no messing around serves 6 ? no did not last long my wife loved it. going to be on the menu regularly
Douglas Kitchel says
Fresh Rosemary is out of season up here in the Upper Peninsula. Have you used dried Rosemary with this recipe and if so what would you recommend for a measurement?
Rev John Lindner says
This really looks great! Can’t wait to try it!
Catherine Guelbert says
Hank, Thank kyou again for a superb recipe – easy and delicious.