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Apple Olive Oil Cake

October 17, 2022
looking down on an apple olive oil cake surrounded by apples.

This Apple Olive Oil Cake, of all the rustic cakes I swoon over, is my very most favorite. It can be called rustic merely because it is not adorned in buttercream, an accessory that would only complicate its simplicity. Fragrant olive oil in the batter marries beautifully with orange zest, cracked cardamom seed, and pure vanilla. I am delighted the lack of cinnamon normally found in apple desserts. Am I the only one who tires of overwhelming the pure taste of apple with cinnamon?

What Varieties of Apples are Best for This Cake?

Tom Murray, my friend and orchardist who specializes in apples at his SLO Farm (seasonal, local, organic), suggested that I try his Liberty variety. He said that its sharp flavor would balance the sweet cake, and he was right. Other varieties that are tart and hold up to baking are Pink Lady, Jonathan, Mutsu, and good old Granny Smith. Any of these will be perfect in this apple cake.

Tom sells his apples at the Lane County Farmers Market in Eugene, Oregon. Please look for him there, and try all of his lovely apple varieties.

Looking at a piece of apple olive oil cake studded with apples.
Extra apples in the batter make it extra moist and extra delicious.

About This Apple Olive Oil Cake

This recipe originated with Rachel Coyle, published by Food & Wine Magazine. I've made it so many times that I've added some of my own riffs. I've found that the batter can easily old 50% more apples than in the original recipe. So in goes 1½ pounds, weighed before peeling and coring, for more appley goodness.

Cakes made with olive oil have become popular for good reason. The texture becomes more like a sponge cake, very moist and tender, but with structure. If you've yet to try the taste phenomenon of the olive oil/sugar combo, you are in for a real treat. A fruity olive oil is great for this, of course. Stonehouse Olive Oil's house blend, my house olive oil, works wonderfully in this recipe. I buy it in 9-liter quantities a few times a year.

looking down on an applie olive oil cake surrounded by apples.

Choosing a Pan for this Cake

Rachel Coyle's original recipe says to use a 14-cup Bundt-style pan, and I've learned there are more great pan options for the apple olive-oil cake. A 9" springform pan creates a gorgeously tall round cake; a tube pan makes an even taller cake with a hole in the center that I really like; and I often divvy up the batter between three 6" round cake pans that serve six people each. This is perfect for our smaller household, as the cakes freeze perfectly. So handy! Please note that as of this publication date, Sur La Table is offering a 20% off sale on each of these pans, and on all of their bakeware! Just in time for holiday baking. Sur La Table only sells high-quality products that I always trust.

Other Rustic Cakes I Think You'll Love

Flourless Walnut Cake, plain, coffee, or spice versions: Recipe here.
Zingy Lemon Ginger Zucchini Cake: Recipe here.

This post contains affiliate links. When you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission at no cost to you. Product affiliation helps me to keep this site ad-free while providing you with the content you enjoy. I only promote items that I use, like, and trust, or would invest in myself.

Ingredients needed to make apple olive oil cake.

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looking down on an applie olive oil cake surrounded by apples.

Apple Olive Oil Cake

Course: Breakfast + Brunch, Dessert
Season: Bounty (August - October), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Nut-Free, Vegetarian
Preparation: Baking
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Cooling Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 12 to16
Author: Adapted from Rachel Coyle of Food & Wine Magazine
This apple olive oil cake is moist and light, studded with chunks of apple, and fragrant with cardamom, orange, vanilla, and, of course, the olive oil itself. This recipe will have you tossing all others aside, forever and ever. It's that special.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter for greasing the pan
  • 1⅔ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cardamom seeds, crushed in a mortal and pestle or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2⅓ cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • pounds tart firm apples Granny Smith, Jonagold, Liberty, Pink Lady, Mutsu are all very good for this
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Generously grease and flour a 9" springform pan, a 14-cup Bundt-style pan or tube pan, or three 6" round cake pans**. Crush cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle until finely crushed, if using, and set aside.
  • Place the granulated sugar, eggs, egg yolks, and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the cardamom, orange zest, and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • With mixer running on medium speed, gradually add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, slowly pour as necessary to ensure oil is fully incorporated. If the oil is pooling, simple stop the flow and continue whipping until it is incorporated, and then continue adding the rest. At this stage, you will have an emulsion that is a bit fluffy, but somewhat thin.
  • Remove the mixing bowl from the stand. Using a course-mesh strainer or a sifter, sift the flour and baking powder over the egg mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold the flour mixture in until almost completely incorporated. Add the apples, and fold just until combined. Gently pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown and a long wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour, turning the pan in the oven about halfway through. Allow the cake to sit 10-15 minutes, then the invert it onto a wire cooking rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, then sift the powdered sugar over the top. Serve with vanilla ice cream, in a puddle of Creme Anglaise, or whipped cream.

Notes

** Bear in mind that the smaller the pan, the shorter the cooking time. If you decide to use the 6" cake pans, start checking for doneness at the 25-minute point. 

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