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Sweet & Spicy | Lisa Williams

Ode to olive oil: Use olive oil instead of butter or other oils to make these treats

An orange olive oil cake is served at the home of Lisa Williams in Cedar Rapids Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019. Olive oil brings
An orange olive oil cake is served at the home of Lisa Williams in Cedar Rapids Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019. Olive oil brings subtle flavor and texture to these delightful desserts. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

On a recent layover at O’Hare, I found myself at the Vosges chocolate shop, where I picked up a small box of truffles. It wasn’t until I’d finished the first piece that I noticed the label touted the presence of olive oil.

Olive oil seems to be having a moment as the crossover hit in the dessert department. Instagram hashtags are lighting up with cakes and other sweets using olive oil. (So long, coconut oil). That’s good news for anyone avoiding dairy products and for the rest of us who enjoy a little kitchen adventure to shake up the taste buds now and then.

I’ve often reached for olive oil when making a cake, but not for any health benefits or even intentional flavor choice. It’s more that I was baking on a whim and realized the pantry was bare. In all cases, the cakes were successful and no one was the wiser.

Baking with olive oil is no different from using other liquid oils, such as canola. Use olive oil one-for-one where the recipe calls for canola or another cooking oil. If substituting olive oil for butter, California Olive Ranch website recommends using 75 percent less oil than butter.

Olive oil adds more flavor than canola oil, which is essentially flavorless. Olive oils range in flavor from mild and buttery on one end to a peppery pungency at the other end, so consider that when you’re making a substitution. Flavors such as chocolate or warm autumn spices will stand up to a stronger olive oil better than a delicate vanilla flavor.

If you’re lucky enough to have a bottle or two of pricey estate-bottled olive oil, don’t use that for dessert. Reserve these special oils for salad dressing and for drizzling on a finished dish.

Having enjoyed those truffles from Vosges — and with this column in mind — I did a little research and reconnaissance baking to bring you some fun and delicious recipes to try.


Use this tip sheet from california for substituting butter for olive oil in recipes.

•1 teaspoon butter: Use 3/4 teaspoon olive oil

•1 tablespoon butter: Use 2 1/4 teaspoons olive oil

•1/4 cup butter: Use 3 tablespoons olive oil

•1/3 cup butter: Use 1/4 cup olive oil

•1/2 cup butter: Use 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 2/3 cup butter: Use 1/2 cup olive oil

• 3/4 cup butter: Use 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil

•1 cup butter: Use 3/4 cup olive oil


If a recipe calls for canola or other oil, substitute olive oil one-for-one.

Olive Oil Dessert Recipes

Charlotte Druckman’s Olive (Oil) Cake

Curiosity led me to try this skillet cake and I was not disappointed. Oil-cured olives are slightly dry and shriveled and much less salty than their brine-cured relatives. This would be great for a morning break with strong tea or coffee or an afternoon glass of wine. The slightly chewy cake may remind you of blondies. Feel free to replace the olives with chocolate chips, dried cherries, prunes or even salted peanuts.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup almond meal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon fine salt

1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar, divided

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

5/8 cup pitted oil-cured black olives, roughly chopped (you can find the Krinos brand at Hy-Vee)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet on the rack. (A 9-inch skillet is fine — the cake might take a little longer to bake.)

Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a large mixing bowl and handheld electric mixer), beat the olive oil, brown sugar and 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar together on medium-high speed until thoroughly combined.

Add eggs, one at a time, to incorporate, scraping down the bowl. Add the vanilla and beat to incorporate.

Decrease speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Remove the hot cast-iron skillet from the oven and carefully brush the bottom and sides with olive oil. Scrape the batter into the skillet and smooth the top. Scatter the olives all over the batter, covering it. Sprinkle the top evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Carefully return the hot skillet to the oven.

Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into a center part of the cake comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Wait a good 10 minutes before flipping the cake out of the skillet. Use a butter or dinner knife (not too sharp) to make sure the cake is loosened from the sides of the pan, and, if necessary, to coax the edges off the bottom of the pan for easy flipping. Flip it out of the pan, then flip it back right-side up (olives on top).


Depending on how well-seasoned your cast iron pan is, it’s possible that the bottom will stick. If it’s sticking all over, let it cool and firm up a bit more, then try to ease it out with a spatula, or just serve it from the pan. Let cake cool completely before serving.


Orange Olive Oil Cake

If you think butter cakes reign supreme, this may change your mind. This tall beauty has a moist, even crumb with a fruity citrus flavor. It slices perfectly and a little goes a long way. You might mistake it for a pound cake. Use a lighter colored baking pan as the dark pans are more likely to burn the outside crust.

4 to 5 large navel oranges

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

5 large eggs

3 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups mild, fruity extra-virgin olive oil

Powdered sugar, for sprinkling, if desired

Position rack in the middle of oven, remove any racks above, and preheat to 350 degrees. Coat a 12-cup Bundt or tube pan with baking spray (or oil and flour) 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 fifth orange.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

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

Gently scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 75 minutes. Check cake occasionally and if the top begins to brown a bit too much, loosely cover it with foil. When the cake is done, transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes.

Turn the cake out onto a wire rack. Allow cake to cool completely before serving.

Source: Leite’s Cuinaria

Chocolate Truffles with Olive Oil

These are perhaps the silkiest truffles you’ll ever put past your lips. Most truffle recipes call for chocolate and heavy cream. This recipe by chocolate expert Alice Medrich uses a mixture of olive oil and butter instead of heavy cream. These are a bit more delicate and will soften faster than the ones made with heavy cream, but the payoff is texture and flavor. The cocoa coating is optional. I think they are pretty without it.

16 ounces 60 percent to 62 percent dark chocolate, chopped

11 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 pinches of sea salt

About 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (if desired)

1 organic orange for zesting (optional), washed

Line the bottom and all sides of an 8-inch square pan with foil.

Place chocolate, butter, olive oil, and salt in a medium stainless-steel bowl set directly in a pan of almost simmering water. Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Pour the mixture into the lined pan and tilt to level the mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours (or up to 3 days) to harden.


Remove the truffle pan from the refrigerator and use the liner to transfer the truffle sheet to a cutting board. Let the sheet of truffles stand at room temperature for 10 minutes to soften very slightly.

Invert the sheet and peel off the liner. Use a long knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry to cut the sheet into strips 3/4 inch to 7/8 inch wide. Cut strips crosswise into cubes. You can place the truffles on a plate as is, or you can proceed with recipe and toss with cocoa.

Put cocoa into medium bowl and have another bowl handy. Transfer cubes to bowl of cocoa powder. Pour truffles and from one bowl to another to thoroughly coat with cocoa.

If desired, use microplane zester to grate the zest of an orange directly over the truffles and toss them again. Store the truffles tightly covered for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator or freeze them for up to 3 months. Remove the truffles from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving. If necessary, toss with a little added cocoa and/or remove excess cocoa by shaking truffles gently in a coarse strainer.

Refrigerate to store. Remove truffles from refrigerator about 10 minutes before serving.

Source: Alice

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