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Olive oil cake with orange zest, rum & pistachios.

June 6, 2014

Yeah, I know. I know. It’s the beginning of June, and “who wants to be baking in a hot house?” I get it. I really do, no one knows better than I do about how horrid it is to bake a big complicated cake or bread in 90° weather.

But… this is OLIVE OIL CAKE. It’s easy. It’s refreshing, citrus-y, it travels well and it has rum in it. It’s like the perfect summer cake.

Believe me.

Olive oil cake with orange, rum & pistachios.

The citrus flavor & olive oil are very Mediterranean in taste, the rum adds a kind of pirate-y note and the pistachios add a mildly salty crunch. All in all it’s the best cake to serve at a summer party or picnic- and you can make it into muffins, a two-layer cake with mascarpone or ricotta frosting, or leave it as is.

Olive oil cake!

It bakes up very easy, and this recipe can be double to make a layer cake if desired. It can also be turned into muffins or cupcakes.

The smell while it’s baking is worth it alone.

Easy olive oil cake with orange juice, orange zest, rum & a pistachio topping.

OLIVE OIL CAKE WITH ORANGE, RUM & PISTACHIOS (adapted from the recipe at Maialino’s)


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (or white whole wheat flour for a heartier cake)
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum or Grand Marnier
  • 3 tablespoons pistachio meats, unsalted


  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 9″ round cake pan (make sure it’s 2″ deep). Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, eggs, orange juice, orange zest, rum & milk. In another smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in batches, whisking thoroughly in between. Do not over mix but be sure it’s combined.
  4. Pour into cake pan. Sprinkle the pistachios over the top and bake for 1 hour or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from pan and continue to cool another hour. Serve sprinkled with sugar or plain.

Olive oil cake.

It’s moist, delicate, and the orange flavor is so good. You can also add the pistachios to the batter before baking, or leave them out altogether. I have also made this cake using white whole wheat flour, and it came out fantastic.

Like I said, it can be doubled to make a two-layer cake. A perfect birthday cake too, I’m sure. Layered with a ricotta frosting (think cannoli cream)… unf.

Olive oil cake with orange zest, rum & pistachios.

Suggestions for use: substitute lemon for orange for a different flavor profile, use almonds instead of pistachios, serve slightly warm with cold whipped cream, serve room temperature with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, layer 2 cakes with frosting, add candied ginger.
Soundtrack: Rosemary Clooney – “Mambo Italiano”
Sources & credits: Striped tea towel; vintage, Pyrex 1-cup measuring cup; vintage.
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