Portuguese Orange Olive Oil Cake

This Portuguese orange olive oil cake has an unforgettably tender crumb and a citrus smack thanks to fruity olive oil, winter navel oranges, and orange zest.

A Portuguese orange olive oil cake, dusted with confectioners' sugar on a silver cake stand.

It may not look it, but this orange olive oil cake recipe was, without a doubt, the hardest recipe to develop for my first cookbook, The New Portuguese Table. We made 13 versions of it until I knew it was as good as the recipe I got at Papas, the tiny restaurant up the hill from my apartment in Lisbon. The problem was—and I have no idea if this was intentional—but they gave me a recipe for a classic chiffon cake. Yet their mighty bolo de laranja was dense and rich, and just one slice could satisfy even my appetite.

Portuguese Orange-Olive Oil CakeFriend and Portuguese food scholar Janet Boileau was also smitten with Papas’ orange olive oil cake and went to work with me and my recipe tester, Cindi Kruth, trying to figure it out. In the end, it took a call to Lisbon chef Fausto Airioldi to help me get a handle on the dessert. He agreed with me that this was no stinking chiffon cake. It was too full of the bold flavors of Portugal. That’s when Cindi and I started from scratch. Several weeks later, we came up with this cake.–David Leite

Portuguese Orange Olive Oil Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • (68)
  • 20 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Serves 14 to 16
Print RecipeBuy the The New Portuguese Table cookbook

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Special Equipment: 12-cup Bundt or tube pan (Make sure to use a light-colored Bundt pan. A dark one will turn out a cake that sticks and is unpleasantly brown. The pan David uses is Nordic Ware's Anniversary 15-Cup Bundt Pan.)

Ingredients


Directions

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, remove any racks above it, and crank up the heat to 350°F (180°C). Coat a 12-cup Bundt or tube pan with baking spray and set aside.

Finely grate the zest of 3 oranges and then squeeze the juice from 4 of them. You should have 1 1/2 cups orange juice; if not, squeeze the 5th orange.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in the granulated sugar and continue to beat until thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Switch to low speed and alternate adding the flour mixture and the oil, starting and ending with the flour and beating until just a few wisps of flour remain. Pour in the orange juice and zest and whirl for a few seconds to bring the batter together.

Gently scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 1 1/4 hours. Check the cake occasionally and if the top begins to brown a touch too much, loosely cover it with foil. 

When the cake is done, place the pan on a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. (Don’t forget to come back after 15 minutes. Seriously. If the cake remains in the pan too long, the sugars begin to cool and stick to the pan.)

Turn the cake out onto the wire rack and let it cool completely. (We know. Resist the temptation.) Place the cake on a covered cake stand and let it sit overnight. (Seriously. This dense, moist, fruity cake only gets better with age. Don’t even think about taking a bite until the day after you make it—or even the day after that.) Just before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Originally published October 11, 2010.

Print RecipeBuy the The New Portuguese Table cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Recipe Testers' Reviews

This orange olive oil cake is an epiphany. It is literally the most fantastic, wondrous creation to ever grace my kitchen. The smell while it's baking tantalizes, the taste when it’s removed from the oven mesmerizes. Thank you, David, thank you. I cannot wait to make this for everyone I know and let the worshiping begin!

I made the recipe exactly as written. Has anyone tried this with another citrus?

After reading the description of this orange olive oil cake, I couldn't wait to make this recipe. The cake turned out just as wonderfully delightful as I had imagined. I waited the full 2 days before cutting into it and I'm glad that I did. It's moist and decadent.

I made this cake for Easter brunch and I was nervous the cake may be too sweet for a few of my guests who don't eat sweets, so I cut the sugar down to just under 2 1/2 cups with great success. Surprisingly, I could have enjoyed the cake a bit sweeter, and I usually don't like cakes too sweet, so I imagine the 3 cups would make a perfectly sweet and fabulous cake.

The cake was displayed on our counter in a glass-covered cake dome for about 5 days and it remained moist until it finally completely disappeared.

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Comments

  1. 4 stars
    Cake rose more than I expected. Though I followed the recipe, my guess is it’s over beaten. I purchased the suggested pan, used spray, but it didn’t want to come out. Next time I will spray right before I put in the batter. I noticed it had slid down the sides by the time I was ready to fill. This recipe is almost identical to another I use which mixes all wet together, all dry together, then combines. I look forward to trying it tomorrow.

  2. 5 stars
    The famous Rita Erlich in Australia has just made your cake which prompted my search for the recipe! I can’t wait to make it!

  3. David, I am planning to make this for my daughter’s 40th birthday but would like to ice it with some chocolate icing. Any suggestions?

    Cannot wait to make it. Certainly planning on cutting the sugar though.

    Purnima

      1. I am ready to make this cake, decided to forget about the chocolate icing. But I am confused about what olive oil to use since I have never before baked using olive oil. Can you give me a suggestion please? Thanks!

        1. 5 stars
          Purnima, you’re in for a treat — both with this recipe and with others. Baking with olive oil is easy and wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, I love butter, too, but olive oil often fits the bill perfectly. This recipe is a very different example that’s also outstanding, especially if you know and love any vegans!

  4. I just bought special olive oil to make this. David, any suggestions on alcohol to serve with the cake? Surely coffee, but t I plan to serve at a PM happy hour, so an alcoholic drink would be great.

    Thank you!!!

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