Olive oil cake, a simple sponge cake made with olive oil instead of butter, is a Tuscan classic. I ﬁrst had it about 30 years ago, while visiting a Tuscan olive oil estate where they served it for breakfast. I had never heard of such a thing, but it was love at ﬁrst bite: so delicate and simple, and the ﬂavor of the olive oil really came through. I must have eaten the entire cake, one little sliver at a time. It's that kind of cake.
As a home baker, you're going to love making this as much as eating it, because the batter is just so easy and forgiving. I bake it in decorative tea cake molds. For me, the best part of these is the delicate, golden, crunchy crust, and by making them small, I get more of that crust. You can use a mold as small as 2-tablespoon capacity or as large as a 4-inch removable-bottom tart pan.
When combining wet and dry ingredients, create a well in the center of the dry ingredients with your hands. Pour half of the wet ingredients into the well and use a whisk to draw the dry ingredients from the edges to the center into a thick paste. Add the remaining wet ingredients and whisk to combine.
If the batter is lumpy, pour it through a ﬁne-mesh sieve to strain out the lumps.
To remove the cakes from the molds when done, gently bang the molds on the countertop to loosen the cakes. Invert the cakes onto the cold baking sheet and turn them upright.
Equipment needed: Small decorative molds (2-tablespoon to 1/4-cup capacity) or tart pans with removable bottoms (I use Nordic Ware Bundt Charms, which have a 2-tablespoon capacity).
Sift the ﬂour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder together into a large wide bowl. Whisk the milk, olive oil and eggs together in a separate large bowl.2.
Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients with your hands. Pour half of the wet ingredients into the well and use a whisk to draw the dry ingredients from the edges to the center into a thick paste. Add the remaining wet ingredients and whisk to combine. (If the batter is lumpy, pour it through a ﬁne-mesh sieve to strain out the lumps.) Using a ﬁne rasp grater, grate the zest (the bright-orange outer layer) of the orange into the bowl. (Reserve the orange for another use.) Add the rosemary and stir to incorporate it. Transfer the batter to a pitcher or another vessel that is easy to pour from.3.
Adjust an oven rack to the center position. Put the molds on a large baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and preheat the molds and the oven to 350 F for at least 20 minutes.4.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Working quickly so they don't cool and taking care not to burn yourself, coat the molds with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the molds. (Alternatively, use a measuring cup or scoop to ﬁll the molds to the rim with batter.)5.
Return the baking sheet with the molds to the center rack of the oven and bake the cakes until they are deep golden brown and ﬁrm to the touch, 25 to 35 minutes, rotating the baking sheet front to back halfway through the baking time so the cakes brown evenly.6.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and gently bang the molds on the countertop to loosen the cakes. Invert the cakes onto the cold baking sheet and turn them upright. Repeat to bake more batches.