Just before Thanksgiving, I decided to make one of my favorite cakes, Giada De Laurentiis’s orange-ricotta pound cake, substituting oil for the butter. It worked beautifully and best of all, the cake materialized in one bowl very quickly.
This made me wonder which other cakes made with butter could be given the same treatment? I haven’t experimented extensively, but I suspect nearly all. I have long loved the flavor and texture of cakes made with oil, olive or otherwise, but I especially love making cakes with olive oil this time of year. Here’s why:
- No need to wait for butter to soften. If you have a microwave, softening butter is likely no big deal. If you don’t, it’s a pain in the rear. This time of year, butter doesn’t soften quickly on the countertop, so other tricks must be employed.
- No need to beat butter. Many cake recipes call for beating butter till it’s light and fluffy. No such instruction is called for with oil-based cakes.
- Speed. Without having to soften butter or beat it, oil-based cakes come together very quickly.
- Texture. This is a personal thing: I prefer (often) the texture of oil-based cakes.
- Longevity. In my experience, cakes made with oil keep longer, which is a boon this time of year, when anything that can be made ahead of time holds strong appeal. Often, too, the flavor of cakes made with oil improves over time.
This cake bakes for about an hour or until an instant-read thermometer registers about 200ºF. I love my Thermapen for testing cakes—I tend to underbake cakes and am perpetually disappointed when I cut into one only to find uncooked batter.
Adapted from this Giada De Laurentis recipe, this version calls for oil in place of butter, and the whole thing is made in one bowl. This cake keeps well for days—tuck it in an airtight bag or container. It makes a beautiful gift—wrap it in parchment paper and tie it with baker’s twine. See visual here. Often I make this in three mini loaf pans to give as gifts.
Yield = 3 mini loaves or 1 standard (9 x 5 x 3-inch) loaf
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 3/4 cup neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable
- 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur such as Grand Marnier
- 1 1/2 cups (320 g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups (192 g) all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease one 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan with butter or nonstick spray. Alternatively, grease three mini loaf pans.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and ricotta till blended. Add the oil and liqueur and whisk until blended. Add the sugar, salt, and zest, and whisk again to combine. Add the baking powder and whisk again to incorporate. Add the flour and use a spatula to incorporate until it is no longer visible.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan or pans and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, 50 to 60 minutes (or longer; about 35 minutes for mini pans). If you have an instant-read thermometer, it should register about 200ºF. Let the loaves cool completely in their pans, then turn out onto a rack. Do not wrap until completely cool.