Fresh Orange and Olive Oil Cake

orangeI first made this simple cake using pantry staples of orange juice and light olive oil after researching a new book on the history of American cake. The popular California olive oil cakes have roots in Italy, and they have been baked by pastry chefs and home cooks in California and elsewhere for the past decade. Their success lies not only in the fact they use up locally produced olive oil, but also in how magnificent these cakes turn out.

Olive oil is a natural emulsifier, uniting the ingredients in the cake and creating a cake that is both moist and rises high in the pan. Who would have known?

I could not wait to try the combination of olive oil and orange juice with my Simply Yellow cake mix. And the first try was a success. All you need to add to my mix are eggs, carton orange juice, a little grated orange or lemon zest if you have it, and light olive oil. Don’t use your precious green-gold extra virgin oil – save that for salads – and instead buy light olive oil with a pale gold color and no flavor. It is best for baking cakes.

Bake this cake in a springform pan, glaze it with orange juice whisked with powdered sugar, or bake it in cupcakes, a sheet cake, or even two 8-inch layers. For that layer cake, frost with a simple buttercream that has been seasoned ever so lightly with grated orange zest.

Orange cakes are simple, pure, and delightful. They are the perfect, sweet encore to a meal of grilled fish. They make for an unexpected birthday cake, and they are always easy to pull together from ingredients in your pantry and, of course, a great cake mix.

This simple cake made with pantry staples will become one of your favorites. Use pure or light olive oil, saving your extra virgin oil for salads. The olive oil is a natural emulsifier, creating a moist cake with rich texture. Use what orange juice you have on hand – either from the carton or fresh. If you use carton OJ and don’t have a fresh orange to zest, substitute lemon zest in the glaze.

Fresh Orange and Olive Oil Cake
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 12
  • 1 package (18.25 ounces) Cake Mix Doctor Simply Yellow mix
  • ⅔ cup light olive oil
  • ⅔ cup orange juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • Glaze:
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest
  1. Place a rack in the center of oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.
  2. Place the cake mix, olive oil, orange juice, and eggs in a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, 30 seconds. Increase mixer to medium and beat until smooth, 1 minute more. Pour the batter into the reserved pan, and place the pan in the oven.
  3. Bake the cake until it is deeply golden brown and springs back when pressed in the center, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and let the cake cool while you prepare the glaze.
  4. For the glaze, whisk together the sugar, orange juice, and zest until smooth. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, and unfasten the sides of the pan. Run a knife under the bottom of the cake to separate it from the bottom of the pan. Place the cake on a serving plate, and drizzle with the glaze. Slice and serve.

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