There is something about olive oil cake that I find simply irresistible. Not too sweet, faintly herbaceous, and often flavored with a hint of orange or lemon zest, I think it's the perfect dessert to serve at a dinner party or to leave on the countertop for snacking. Of course, a simple, single-layer olive oil cake is easy to make from scratch. But I wanted to see if I could make it even easier—by transforming a store-bought pound cake mix.
First, I had to find the right mix. A quick trip to the supermarket revealed that many pound cake mixes call only for water or eggs. I needed one that called for butter or canola oil, so that I could swap it out for EVOO. In the end, Betty Crocker's fit the bill. It called for 2/3 cup of water, 2 eggs, and 4 tablespoons of butter.
I knew that I was going to substitute olive oil for the butter, but I also wanted to add some additional ingredients to my cake. I figured that the more I flavored it, the less artificial it would taste. I decided to toss in the zest of a large orange and 1/4 cup of chopped toasted Hazelnuts. On a whim, I reduced the water by two tablespoons and made up the difference with Frangelico.
Instead of baking my cake in a standard loaf pan, I opted for a 9-inch round pan. I thought it would make make my cake seem more homey and traditional. Since I was using a round pan instead of a loaf pan, I knew my cake would bake faster. Instead of the full 50 minutes, I set my oven timer for 35.
At the end of the baking time, my cake emerged golden-brown and incredibly puffy. It rose like a hilltop out of the pan. The aroma was lovely--sweet and fresh, and not the least bit cloying. I could definitely smell the fresh citrus and the toasted nuts. I dusted the cake with confectioner's sugar and cut a thick wedge. While the consistency was clearly heavier than a from-scratch olive oil cake, the crumbs were fine and the interior was pleasantly moist.
Most important? It tasted delicious. I was hoping to create a cake that would pass for homemade, and while this didn't quite get there, it was close. The Frangelico imparted a subtle warmth, the olive oil made it a bit fruity, and hazelnuts added a bit of crunch. This would be a great party dessert option when you're short on time or feeding a large crowd.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.