Due Spaghetti, an Italian food, wine and travel blog

Rustic Olive Oil Cake

Olive oil cake with a slice pulled out on a cutting board sprinkled with powdered sugar and slices of blood oranges in the background.

“Olive oil is good for you,” Stefano’s father, Andrea, used to tell us. He didn’t qualify his claim, or finish his proclamation with …in moderation. It was simply, unconditionally, good for us.

It was fortunate, then, that we never wanted for olive oil. The olive trees on the family’s two plots of land were prolific producers of olives, and in turn, the nuts of that fruit yielded enough oil for Andrea and Maria’s household, our household, Stefano’s brother Marco’s household, with more left over for the friends and relatives that had helped with the olive harvest.

I don’t think I have even seen Stefano’s mom, Maria, cook with any oil other than olive oil. Her salads and vegetables glisten in it, her sauces simmer in it, and her meats stew in it. She sometimes fries in it. She even bakes with it.

It was perhaps Maria’s olive oil cake that Stefano missed the most when we moved to the U.S. There simply weren’t other breakfast options here that worked for him. Yes, olive oil cake is a breakfast food.  It’s not only a breakfast food – it works very well with afternoon coffee – but it’s special as a breakfast food. So, after a few weeks of trying out boxed cereals, muffins and other pastries, we called Maria and asked her to give us the recipe for la pizza dolce, or sweet pizza, as it is referred to.

There are hundreds of variations of la pizza dolce, recipes reflecting regional variations on this simple, sweet cake. This recipe is uncomplicated and pure: flour, sugar, eggs, and olive oil. Something to help it rise. Stir it all together and pop it in the oven. Before you know it, the kitchen is filled with the sweet, earthy aroma of this golden-hued, humble cake.



Olive oil cake on a cutting board with powdered sugar sprinkled on top and three slices of blood orange to the side.

Rustic Olive Oil Cake

Yield: One 9" round cake

There are hundreds of variations of olive oil cake, or pizza dolce, as it's called in Italy. Ours is uncomplicated and pure: flour, sugar, eggs, and olive oil. Something to help it rise. Stir it all together and pop it in the oven. Before you know it, the kitchen is filled with the sweet, earthy aroma of this golden-hued, humble cake.


  • 3 eggs
  • 300 grams sugar
  • 250 ml whole milk
  • 100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 300 grams 00 Italian flour or all-purpose flour
  • 16 grams Lievito Pane degli Angeli, or substitute with 1 Tbsp baking powder


    Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).

    Butter and flour a 9 in. round cake pan.

    Crack the eggs into a medium mixing bowl and beat by hand.

    Add the milk and the olive oil, and whisk together until well mixed.

    Add the sugar, and stir well. 

    If you are using Pane degli Angeli, pass it first through a small hand strainer to remove any lumps, and add it to the flour. If you are using baking soda, add it directly to the flour.

    Mix the flour into the batter, stirring gently with a wire whisk.

    Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan.

    Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake to ensure it is fully cooked. Be careful, because if you take it out too early it will sink in the center.

    Dust with powdered sugar and serve.


Olive oil cake is prone to sinking in the center after it is taken out of the oven.  Here are a few tips to prevent this from happening to you:

  • Mix the batter by hand to avoid adding too much air into the mixture.
  • Avoid opening the oven door frequently to check on your cake.  Wait until the baking time is complete before you open the oven door.
  • Use a toothpick to ensure that the center of the cake is fully baked. If the toothpick comes out gummy or with crumbs stuck to it, the cake needs more time. If the toothpick comes out clean, it is done.
  • If all else fails, bake the cake in a tube-pan or bundt cake pan!

12 thoughts on “Rustic Olive Oil Cake”

  1. I’m not familiar with this cake, but breakfast with a slice of cake is pretty common in Italy. In my family cake wasn’t there often but when there was some it usually was apple cakes or crostata.

  2. Having your own supply of olive oil is such a privilege! Our neighbor back in Rome used to give us some of the oil that came from his grove of olive trees, which he sent to the frantoio down the road for pressing. I’m not sure that it was the best olive oil in the world, but knowing it came from the trees down the hill from our house made it incredibly special.

    1. So true, Frank. There was nothing more delicious than a piece of bread toasted on the open fire at the frantoio and drizzled with the new oil come right out of the press. We are so fortunate that Stefano’s mom still tends to the olive trees. Stefano’s brother and sister complain sometimes about all of the work it entails, but we’d give anything to be able to be back to help out during the olive harvest.

  3. I am envious of those olive trees. My aunt Silva often made a pizza dolce that had some orange juice and zest added. The only thing she knew how to bake (she made me a birthday cake once when I was little that was the saddest thing you ever saw and tasted worse. Eating it at 6:00am before running off to Termini with her and my grandparents to catch a train to Venice only added to the drama)! For Easter, we usually have colomba with our hard boiled eggs, salame, red wine and chocolate, but maybe I’ll make pizza dolce instead.

    1. That is hilarious! Cracking those big Kinder Easter eggs over each other’s heads is one of our favorite traditions – our boys have happily joined in the fun! We usually order a colomba also, and I usually do my best to make a pastiera napoletana for Easter. If it turns out well, we’ll post it!

  4. Your post made me smile, as always. My mother, like Stefano’s, did everything with olive oil (except frying) and I have inherited that. When I moved to Milan, I was so my roommates used butter to do things like fry an egg. We also had a small patch of olives and oil from it. Now my family gets it from a friend. I don’t think I ever saw a labeled bottle of olive oil in my mother’s cupboard. I see some good-looking salame on the plate: perfect companion for the olive oil cake.

    1. We do share so many memories! Store purchased olive oil, and store purchased wine, for that matter, were pretty much unheard of at her house : ).

  5. One tablespoon of baking soda seems like a bit too much to me — are you sure that’s right?

    Love your site!

    1. Ruth, Thank you for this question! 1 Tablespoon is correct, but it should read baking powder, not baking soda. We are grateful to you for catching this and calling it to our attention. We’ll edit and update this post.

  6. Matthew Casamassima

    Loved the Olive Oil Pizza Rustica – as an amateur photographer, I am fascinated with the clarity of the photos and the perfect lighting and background settings . Could you share with me, the make and model of camera and most importantly, the lens configuration ?

    Great Blog
    Thank You

    1. Hi, Matthew. We’re glad that you’ve stumbled across Due Spaghetti! We’ve been intrigued to discover of late that more people come across our blog through image searches than regular content searches. We are definitely amateur photographers – we use an old Nikon D40x, usually with an 18-55mm lens. We try to shoot in natural light as much as possible, but we do have a studio light with a softbox on a light stand that we use when natural light is lacking. We shot the plated torta rustica photos indoors using that studio light. We edit our photos on iPhoto. Good luck, and we hope to see you back.

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Due Spaghetti

Travel around with me and discover different cultures, gain new experiences, try unique food and enjoy what the world has to offer.

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