This is a gloriously rustic olive oil cake that’s both dairy-free and gluten-free, making it ideal for any gathering since just about everyone can enjoy it! I really love that hazelnut is the front-and-centre flavour, with the olive oil whispering quietly in the background. With meringue-like crispy edges and a brownie-ish centre, this sweet number is wickedly addictive.
Hazelnut Olive Oil Cake
This is actually the Lemon Olive Oil cake from a delightful cookbook called “Just Desserts” by Charlotte Ree. I’ve taken the liberty of renaming it because I enjoy the hazelnut flavour in it so much, I wanted to headline it – so I did!
Usually with olive oil cakes, the olive oil is the dominant flavour. Recipes also typically encourage you to use very good olive oil (read: expensive!) for this reason, which tends to result in quite an assertive flavour. But in this cake, hazelnut is the primary flavour and that’s a reason I enjoy this so much. My taste buds get kind of confused when I taste strong olive oil in sweet cakes. I think, “salad dressing”! #SimpleGal
In this cake though the role of olive oil is to produce a rich, brownie-like cake with a moistness you can’t achieve with just butter.
But my favourite part is the crust around the corners, sides and surface! It’s a bit crisp – meringue-like is how I describe it. I want to cut it all off and run away with it. Catch me if you can!!
Proof of damp brownie-like insides, in case you doubt me:
What you need to make this Hazelnut Olive Oil Cake
Here’s what you need to make this:
Extra virgin olive oil – As mentioned above, despite the name a really nice thing about this cake is that there’s no need to invest in expensive olive oil for it since it’s not the primary flavour. Just use a decent-quality one that you use for everyday salads.
The olive oil brings a moistness to the cake that you don’t get with butter. Plus, it makes it dairy-free!
Hazelnut meal – This is ground hazelnuts, the hazelnut equivalent of the more well-known almond meal used in flourless baked treats like Flourless Chocolate Cake, Flourless Chocolate Brownies and Orange Cake.
In addition to taking the place of flour in cakes, hazelnut meal brings a wonderful nutty flavour to cakes. So much more interesting than tasteless wheat flour!!!
Lemon zest – Finely grated, using a microplane or similar. Being a delicately-flavoured cake, this is key ingredient. You can taste the lemon but it’s more a back note flavour that accentuates the hazelnut. Initially, I was unsure why lemon was included in a nutty cake like this until I was forced to make a version without (I had a fruit bowl filled with white-zestless lemons!). The cake was way less interesting in taste and hazelnut flavour more muted. The takeaway: don’t skip the lemon!
Baking soda / bi-carbonate soda – This is what gives the cake a bit of lift, though the inside of the cake will not have an airy, spongey crumb typical of flour cakes. It’s rather moist and gooey like brownies, which is by design.
Baking powder can be substituted but because it is not as powerful, the cake will be a little more dense. Not a disaster though by any means!
Sugar – Caster sugar / superfine sugar is best because it dissolves more easily in the batter. However, regular white sugar (granulated sugar) will work just fine too.
Eggs – Large ones, 50 to 60g / 2 oz each (cartons are usually labelled “large eggs”) at room temperature, not fridge-cold, as cold eggs don’t aerate as well when beaten.
Vanilla extract – Extract is better than artificial vanilla essence which is, well, fake. I personally wouldn’t waste pricey vanilla beans on this cake. I reserve vanilla beans for things like Creme Brûlée, Flan Patissiére (French Custard Tart), pouring custard (Creme Anglaise) etc.
Pinch of salt – Generally good practice in most sweet things is a sprinkle of salt to bring out the flavour of the other ingredients. It doesn’t make it salty.
How to make Charlotte’s Hazelnut Olive Oil Cake
It’s a breeze – and rather forgiving too. Remember, we are not going for Michelin-starred patisserie perfection here. This is a “shabby chic”-vibe cake we’re making here!
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. The hazelnut meal, baking soda, lemon zest and salt.
Beat wet ingredients – Beat the eggs, sugar, and olive oil for 2 to 3 minutes on speed 7 with an electric beater until it changes from yellow to pale yellow, and thickens to the texture of thickened/heavy cream – in unwhipped form (which is thicker than standard pouring cream).
Stir dry ingredients into the egg mixture.
Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake 45 minutes. It will puff up dramatically but don’t get too excited, it collapses again as it cools!
Cool completely in the pan before releasing from the springform pan to serve. This cake is rather delicate to handle when warm so really, be patient and let it cool!
What it looks like – The cake will rise in the oven then deflate as it cools. Don’t be alarmed when you see that it settles with a “crater” in the centre. This is the way it is supposed to be! And as you eat you will appreciate the contrast it effects, ie. you get more of the fluffier, addictively-crispy meringue-ish sides and the right amount of the rich, fudge-y brownie-like centre of the cake.
Sprinkle the cake with roughly-chopped toasted hazelnuts, if you want to double up on the hazelnut flavour like I do. Finally, dust with icing sugar, slice and serve!
Charlotte suggests serving with a dollop of crème fraîche, which I did when I served it to friends. I even served the cake on a plate and provided forks. But in real life, I just grab a slice with my hand. Make it. And you’ll understand what I mean! – Nagi x
PS. I realise I’ve used the description “brownie” a lot to describe the cake’s texture, but there is no chocolate flavour here! Sorry if you’ve been confused.
Watch how to make it
Hazelnut Olive Oil Cake (GF, DF)
- 150g / 5oz hazelnut meal (1 3/4 cups firmly packed) (ground hazelnut, sub almond meal, Note 1)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda / bicarbonate soda , sifted (Note 2)
- Zest of 1 lemon , finely grated (about 2 teaspoon or so)
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (Note 3)
- 1 cup caster sugar / superfine sugar (sub ordinary/granulated sugar)
- 3 large eggs , at room temperature (Note 4)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup whole hazelnuts , toasted then roughly chopped (Note 5)
- Icing sugar / confectioners’ sugar , for dusting
- Crème fraîche (dollop for company)
- Preheat oven to 170°C / 340°F (150°C fan). Grease a 20 cm/8" springform pan with olive oil then line with baking paper (parchment paper), then grease the paper. (Note 6)
- Dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, mix the hazelnut meal, baking soda, lemon and salt.
- Beat wet ingredients: In a large bowl, beat the olive oil, eggs and sugar for 2 to 3 minutes on speed 7 of a handheld beater or until it becomes pale and thick (like pouring cream).
- Add vanilla and beat on speed 1 for 10 seconds.
- Mix in dry: Add the Dry ingredients and mix in gently using a rubber spatula.
- Bake 45 minutes: Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes. It will puff up dramatically in the oven but it collapses as it cools.
- Cool: Remove from the oven and allow the cake to fully cool in the pan before releasing from the springform pan. This is a rustic cake that has higher edges and a flatter centre. Perfect proportions, I say: plenty of meringue-like edges and not an overwhelming amount of the rich brownie-like centre of the cake!
- Decorate: Sprinkle with hazelnuts and dust with icing sugar, if desired. Serve fully cool.
Life of Dozer
When it rains, Dozer really enjoys standing at the doggie door holding the door open with his head, looking out and contemplating the meaning of life as he watches the rain pitter-patter on the deck …..
… as well as letting the blustery cold wind blast inside through the hole, not to mention all the RAIN that comes in!!! 😖