Olive oil cake is one of those desserts that balances savory and sweet perfectly. Our version is rich and subtly sweet, with a touch of lemon to add a bright flavor. It feels perfect as a dessert topped with a bit of coconut cream or even with breakfast, toasted, and topped with ghee. No matter when you eat it, you’re sure to love this simple vegan olive oil cake recipe!
Why olive oil?
Unlike most desserts that rely on butter or processed canola oil, this dessert uses ample olive oil to keep it moist while adding the famous flavor of olive oil cake. There is a reason that the Mediterranean diet, famous for its health benefits, includes olive oil as the main staple in many recipes. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, with about 75% of the fat content being made up by a specific type of monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Oleic acid has been linked to reduced inflammation, one of the main culprits in the development of chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer.
Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, which fight free radicals that can cause oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. One of the antioxidants found in olive oil is called oleocanthal and has been compared to naturally working on inflammation in a similar way as the synthetic ingredients in ibuprofen. These antioxidants fight the oxidation that can happen to blood cholesterol. The oxidation of cholesterol is one of the reasons heart disease can develop, and fighting that oxidation with a diet rich in antioxidants is an important step in promoting heart health.
In one extensive study, olive oil was the only source of monounsaturated fat that was linked with a decreased stroke risk. Both heart disease and stroke happen at significantly lower rates in Mediterranean communities, and olive oil is believed to be one of the main reasons why. While many individuals may also associate fat intake with increased body weight, olive oil has been tied to regulating body weight when consumed consistently.
To heat or not to heat?
One thing to note when cooking and baking with fats, including olive oil, is the importance of heating fats to an appropriate level. For instance, because of the delicate nature of flax oil, it should never be heated. Even moderate exposure to light and heat can cause oxidative damage. That’s why you often find flaxseed oil in the refrigerated section, in dark bottles. Ghee or coconut oil, comprised of resilient saturated fats are on the opposite end of the spectrum, able to hold up to high heat without smoking (an indicator of oxidative damage). We provide a break down to oils and their safe usage here.
Many people are tempted to save their highest quality oils for serving cold (like dipping bread or making dressings), but it’s been shown that cooking is actually the best time to use your highest quality oils. The higher antioxidant levels of high-quality oils help protect them against heat.
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 cup olive oil
2 cups gluten-free baking flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch loaf pan with parchment paper and grease with olive oil. Mix flaxseed with 6 tablespoons hot water. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes, or until gel consistency forms.
Zest and juice lemon. Add almond milk, sugar, olive oil, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest to a small bowl. Stir to thoroughly combine. Fold in flax mixture and set aside.
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
Add wet ingredients to dry and thoroughly mix. Pour batter into loaf pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let the olive oil cake cool completely before slicing and serving.
Recipe and photography by Kaitlyn Noble
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