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How to bake with olive oil

Olive oil
Rich, fruity olive oil is a fantastic ingredient to cook with. It works in all kinds of meat and pasta dishes, and can be used to make delicious salad dressings and mayonnaise. It is not usually an ingredient used by bakers (especially if you like to bake sweets!), because its strong flavor isn’t what you want to taste in your average vanilla or chocolate cake. Neutral vegetable oils, like canola oil, are more popular choices for baking because they don’t add any additional flavors to a recipe but still leave you with a moist, tender baked good. But olive oil can be a wonderful choice for baking if you use it in a recipe that suits it.

When baking with olive oil, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you get a good result. You want a recipe where the flavor of the olive oil can stand out and where it will be a complimentary flavor in the rest of the dish. Olive oil can have many layers of flavor to it. In addition to the flavor of olives, many also have very floral or nutty notes and grassy or earthy flavors. You want to choose a recipe where these flavors won’t be out of place (as they would probably be in a vanilla birthday cake), and if they can stand out and shine, so much the better.

Olive oil goes extremely well with fruity flavors and can be a good choice in recipes that already feature citrus or fresh berries. These draw out the sweeter notes in the oil and contrast well with the more savory tones. It does not work particularly well with buttercream or cream cheese frostings because the richness of the olive oil competes too much with the buttery frosting and can cause a cake to taste a little grease, so simpler cakes and muffins are typically better choices. Any savory baked good, including herb and cheese muffins, biscuits or breads, can be a good match for olive oil even if the recipe calls for plain vegetable oil.

At the end of the day, your success in baking with olive oil will always come down to personal taste. I don’t regularly use olive oil in my chocolate cakes, but I have had some chocolate olive oil cakes that were very tasty. The most important thing to remember is that olive oil will have a stronger flavor impact on a recipe than other vegetable oils, and that you need to keep that in mind. If you’re a fan of olive oil in general, a little experimentation can definitely yield some delicious results.

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  • Linda
    May 1, 2012

    I love that recipe for strawberry shortcake. I’ve made it many times to go with various fruit but it stands on its own as a great snack cake. Rich tasting but light.

  • Kagi
    May 1, 2012

    I just have to link this cake, because it’s the most delicious olive oil cake I’ve ever had:


    I made it into mini-cupcakes and glazed them by dipping the tops in a mixture of the juice and zest of 1 lime with enough powdered sugar to make a thin glaze.

    They were delicious cold, and killer when warmed up.

  • Bea Roque
    May 1, 2012

    Good morning,

    I have to (sort of disagree) with you…. only for this time:-)
    In SPain we use olive oil for most of our baked goods, madeleines, cakes, doughnuts, nearly everything. What you say is right in a way, but using a strong flavour olive oil can give the baked goods a very strong flavor, but that is in any product. There are different tipes of oil, depending on the variety of the olive, somes are sharp, some are sweet, some are virgin and some are refined. Their uses depend, some are for cooking, others for eating plain, just with bread and salt..or even sugar, and some for salad. The varieties you have in the photo, for the color, I can tell they are virgin, and , yes they are too strong for baking, but perfect for salads.

    A variety I love for my baking is made from olives Arbequina…if I dont find that variety I just buy refned olive oil 0,4% which is brilliant.

    This is 0,4% is the one I used for my chocolate cake http://www.elrincondebea.com/2012/04/chocolate-strawberry-cake.html

    As I say, I will disagree with you, only this time….:-)


  • Kirsten
    July 27, 2012

    Thank you so much for this article! Great post and appreciate your spreading the word that, yes, you CAN bake with olive oil. Certainly love the olive oil cracker recipe, too! Can’t wait to try it out!

    Keep up the awesome work!

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