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Olive Oil Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

Olive oil cake. You may never have had it before, but it’s one of the best desserts you will ever have in your life. Yep. We said it.

Inspired by Tulie Bakery in Salt Lake City, this recipe is designed to be identical to the cake that we’ve purchased countless times from our favorite bakery in the Beehive State. This cake is beautifully moist, rich in flavor, and oh-so-perfect with its accompanying brown butter frosting. Never had olive oil cake before? You are in for a serious treat.

two slices of olive oil cake with remainder of whole cake on stand

Can you use olive oil in cake?

You may have landed here because you’re wondering if olive oil can be used in any old cake. The short answer: yes. The long answer: yes, BUT you ideally wouldn’t want to do that unless the recipe (such as this one) is specifically developed to use olive oil because it will drastically change both the flavor and composition of the cake. Better oil substitutes for a classic cake are neutral oils such as canola oil, vegetable oil, or even grapeseed oil.

frosted olive oil cake with browned butter buttercream

What is olive oil cake?

Olive oil cake is very similar to any other cake you’d consume except for the fat in this cake is olive oil– preferably a good quality extra virgin olive oil. Other fats you’ll see more traditionally in cakes are canola oil, vegetable oil, or even butter.

olive oil cake with slice cut out

Olive oil cake has a distinct flavor of . . . you guessed it– olive oil, which is why we recommend using a good-quality olive oil for this recipe. The olive oil is undoubtedly the most prominent flavor for this cake, but each olive oil cake will taste different based on the unique ingredients utilized. This particular cake calls for both orange and lemon zest, and freshly squeezed lemon juice, which gives it the perfect hint of citrus without overpowering the entire cake.

Ingredients

  • extra virgin olive oil- reach for something high quality as this will be the base of your flavor
  • eggs- always use large eggs, and make sure they are room temperature
  • whole milk- don’t skimp on the fat here and opt for full-fat whole milk
  • zest and juice of lemon- for the perfect touch of acidity and brightness
  • zest of orange– because the combo of both lemon & orange zest is incredible
  • sugar- this recipe calls for granulated
  • all-purpose flour- what we used when to develop this recipe, although we have had several readers make this cake with gluten-free flour with success!
  • salt- we always bake with kosher salt
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
olive oil cake with browned butter frosting, two slices cut out

How To Make Olive Oil Cake

Making olive oil cake is very simple and (believe it or not) easier than making a traditional cake. The generous amount of olive oil in this recipe makes the cake less likely to dry up and is more likely to turn out perfectly every single time. You’ll combine all of the ingredients in a stand mixer, pour them into a greased and parchment-lined 9-inch springform pan, and then bake for just over an hour.

one slice being removed from cake

This olive oil cake is served with an accompanying brown butter frosting, which is made by first browning the butter, allowing it to cool, and then creaming it with powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and a touch of milk. This recipe isn’t difficult by any means, the only challenge is being patient enough to complete each step in succession. You got this!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use another pan if I don’t have a springform?

If possible, we recommend using a 9-inch springform pan for nice big slices that mimic the cake from Tulie Bakery. If you only have cake pans, you can make this cake in two 8-inch cake pans and bake them for 25-35 minutes at 325°F until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.

How dark should my brown butter be?

You don’t want your butter to completely burn, but in order to get those beautiful, toasty flecks in your buttercream you’ll need to some color develop (see images of buttercream for reference) and you may want to brown more than you have in other recipes.

Can you make this cake with gluten-free flour?

We haven’t tested this recipe with gluten-free flour but several of our readers have reported success making this (Cup4Cup would be our recommended brand for gluten-free baking).

Can I bake this cake on convection setting?

We do not recommend using the convection setting for this cake. Even if you oven has convection capabilities please use standard bake settings for this recipe.

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Olive Oil Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

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There is no cake like this in the world. This moist, beautiful olive oil cake is subtly sweet and complimented perfectly by a homemade brown butter frosting.

Course DessertCuisine AmericanKeyword brown butter frosting, olive oil cake, tulie bakery

Prep Time 20 minutes Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Servings 8 people

Author Brooke Eliason

Equipment

  • 9-inch springform pan

Ingredients

Olive Oil Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil*
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk, room temperature
  • zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • zest of 1 medium or large orange
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Brown Butter Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 pinches of kosher salt
  • 2-3 Tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream, plus more as needed

Instructions

Olive Oil Cake

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously grease a 9-inch springform pan on the bottom and sides. Line the bottom of the pan with a 9-inch round of parchment paper and grease again. Set aside.
  • In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, combine the olive oil and eggs until smooth. Add the milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, orange zest, and sugar and combine again until smooth.
  • Add the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda to the olive oil mixture all at once, and combine, still with your whisk attachment, until ingredients are just barely incorporated. Do not overmix. Remove bowl from stand mixer and use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the bowl and make sure all ingredients are incorporated.
  • Place the springform pan directly on a cookie sheet, pour the batter into the prepared springform pan, and bake in the oven for 70-80 minutes. The cake will be done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached. If the toothpick is wet in the center, continue baking for 5-minute increments until done. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.

Brown Butter Frosting

  • Warm a medium-sized saucepan to medium heat and add butter. Once the butter has completely melted, allow it to brown, stirring frequently and gently scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula. The butter will foam and sizzle as brown specks appear on the bottom of the pan.** When the aroma of the pan is nutty and the bottom of the pan is a toasty-brown color remove from heat and let cool completely.
  • Once the butter is completely cooled, beat the butter and sugar together; first on low speed, then increasing as the two ingredients become incorporated. Add the vanilla, salt, and milk, and continue to beat until smooth. If the frosting is still too thick, add more milk, one tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is achieved.

Assembly

  • Once the cake is completely cooled and the frosting is made, assemble your cake. Use a butter knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the springform pan if needed. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake and place on a cake stand.
  • Frost the sides and top of the cake with a thin layer of frosting using an icing spatula. Set in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to allow the base coat or "crumb coat" to set. Take out of the fridge and add remaining frosting, gently scraping the side of the cake with a bench scraper or cake scraper for a clean edge. Using the edge of your icing spatula, create a simple swirl on the top of the cake by gently pressing the spatula into the frosting while turning the cake in a circular motion, moving the spatula from the edge of the cake, slowly toward the center as the cake rotates. This is most easily done with a cake turntable but can be done on a cake stand too.

Notes

*When we mention using a good-quality extra virgin olive oil recipe, it doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy the fanciest, most expensive bottle of olive oil that you can find, but please do use an oil that isn’t expired and one that comes from a reputable, good brand. Some of our favorites that won’t break the bank: California Olive Ranch (found in most grocery stores), Kirkland Signature Organic (Costco), or Trader Joe’s Premium 100% Greek. 
**Don’t be afraid to really develop some color when browning your butter. You don’t want to completely burn all of your butter but it’s totally okay to get a few darker flecks on the bottom of your saucepan. Think about the slightly charred, amazingly nostalgic flavor that comes from the edge of a campfire-roasted marshmallow? We want a little of that in our buttercream. 
***Thanks to the generous amount of olive oil, this cake is one that will still taste fantastic if you make it a day ahead. You can make the icing a day ahead as well just store in the refrigerator and allow plenty of time to come to room temperature before frosting.