Make Ahead

Strawberry Balsamic and Olive Oil Breakfast Cake

April 17, 2013
6 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

Balsamic vinegar and strawberries are a classic pairing. Balsamic vinegar and olive oil are a classic vinaigrette. Surely, I thought to myself, all three must come to sweet-and-sour harmony in a cake.

This recipe came together in my head as I thought about the theme of this contest. I knew I wanted to take the vinegar idea in a sweet direction. Vinegar caramels came to mind, and then I thought of a tartly sweet caramel sauce. That made me think of upside-down cakes, and all at once, the recipe came together. I decided to build on the usual technique for making an attractive upside-down cake: spiral your fruit or toppings at the bottom of the pan, pour over a caramel-based glaze prepped on the stovetop, pour your batter over that, bake, cool, and invert to oohs and ahhs. In order to make sure the flavor of the vinegar was heightened and emphasized, I wanted to include it in both the glaze and the cake. Olive oil cake seemed an inspired pairing with the balsamic vinegar, and so I adapted an olive oil cake recipe I'd worked on previously, swapping in balsamic vinegar for the rosewater I'd previously featured. To keep the aesthetic of the cake spring-like, as a match for the season and the strawberries, I used golden balsamic vinegar instead of its darker, thicker sibling.

This cake comes together quickly. Dense and moist, with an intriguing tartness to offset the jam-like quality of the strawberries, it is rich with eggs and not too sweet. Oh go on, make it for breakfast. —indieculinary

Test Kitchen Notes

This was a really lovely cake, even if I couldn't see myself eating it for breakfast. The strawberry layer is jammy and complex from the balsamic caramel, and the cake is not too sweet, but nice and moist with overtones of the fruity olive oil that I used as well as a tanginess from the vinegar. The strawberries shrink a little, so while I was so set on trying to make it look pretty, I didn't put enough strawberries on the top. Next time I'll use the suggested amount. The hour of baking seems like a long time, but the cake is nice and moist from the olive oil and buttermilk, and the dark brown crust adds a layer of complexity that I really liked. —drbabs

What You'll Need
  • Golden balsamic vinegar glaze and strawberry spiral
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup golden balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Cake
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup golden balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray an 8-inch cake pan with olive oil spray. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper (this is an important step -- it will help your cake release from the pan after baking without disturbing the arrangement of your strawberries). Spray again with olive oil.
  3. Remove stems and slice strawberries vertically. Arrange them in a spiral, starting with the outside layer and overlapping slightly at the bottom of the cake pan.
  4. Combine the brown sugar, golden balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and honey in a stainless steel pan and whisk to emulsify. Bring to a boil and stir frequently until thickened enough that it drips more slowly from your stirring spoon. Remove from heat and pour carefully over the arranged strawberries.
  5. To make the cake batter, start by whisking together in one bowl the sugar, buttermilk, vinegar, and eggs.
  6. In another bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients: the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  7. Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients in three stages, stirring to incorporate each time.
  8. Add your olive oil in 3 stages, folding and stirring to incorporate each time.
  9. Slowly and carefully pour the batter over the strawberries. Don't pour too rapidly, or you'll displace your carefully-arranged spiral.
  10. Bake for approximately an hour. The cake is done when the top is golden and it has pulled away slightly from the edges of the pan.
  11. Cool for 10 minutes, and then run a knife between the cake and the pan to make sure it is completely loosened.
  12. Put a flat plate atop the pan, and then, using potholders to protect your hands, quickly flip the cake while holding the plate tightly to the pan.
  13. Slowly lift the pan, and the cake will be sitting, covered in parchment paper, on the plate. Peel off the parchment paper and be greeted by a beautiful spiral of sweet-tart fruit atop a golden cake.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Allie
  • Jen
  • Aysem Sahika Bilgin
    Aysem Sahika Bilgin
  • alicia
  • Kapatu

94 Reviews

Lisa L. June 10, 2019
I'm looking forward to baking this; sounds great. One thing that puzzles me though....recipe says that at the end you turn it over to reveal the beautiful spiral. The photo certainly doesn't show a stunning cake. What's up? Is it not flipped over in the photo?
Terry June 9, 2019
I have Celiac. Can this be adjusted to be gluten free??? Sounds amazing!!!
Chloe July 11, 2017
This turned out pretty great for me! The olive oil taste in the cake is really strong. I dig it.
I was really worried that I overdid the glaze after making it because it was SO THICK and kind of resembled some kind of toffee - I only ended up putting a little bit on the strawberries out of concern I'd messed it up, but it was super tasty in the cake itself and I wish I used more now!
One or two of my strawberries floated up as previous reporters have commented, but most of them remained on the bottom of the cake.
Looking forward to trying this recipe again to see if I can make it a bit better second time round :)
indieculinary March 20, 2018
Hi Chloe, Apologies for the 8-months-later response, but very glad to read that you enjoyed it! Good luck with the glaze next time.
Allie June 3, 2017
My first is in the oven now! Poured quite slowly... perhaps it was my smallish strawberries from the CSA? but they have all risen to the top before I placed it in the oven. Darn. I was looking forward to that beautiful top.
indieculinary June 4, 2017
I need to think more about what differences in technique, or what the science behind it might be, to account for why the strawberries would rise within the batter for some people, but never have done so for me. I'm curious!
Ghazzzit March 4, 2016
This made for a fantastic weekend entertainment dessert. Subbed whole wheat pastry flour for the cake flour and used dark balsamic vinegar (what I had on hand). It turned out caramel colored due to the dark vinegar so not quite as "cakey" as the photo - but delicious and beautiful all the same.
Watch the baking time if subbing the ingreds as I did - it needed far less.
Jolynn June 18, 2015
Hi! I just made this but when I inverted the cake, almost 1/4 (or more) juice/glaze came pouring out of my plate! So right now my entire cake is soaked with the glaze... I sneaked a tiny bite while it was still warm and the flavours are amazing. It's a pity that the cake will be too mushy tho!! Can I know exactly how much do I have to reduce the glaze? To a honey-like consistency? Oh and how long does this cake last in room temp? Or do we have to store it in the fridge? Thank you so much to anyone who can answer my doubts!
Jolynn June 18, 2015
1/4 or more cup I mean!
indieculinary June 18, 2015
Hi Jolynn,
I usually think of the consistency of the glaze post-reduction as something that coats the back of a spoon, which means you can run your finger through it and the path you make with your finger stays put (i.e., the glaze is thick enough that it doesn't immediately flow right back in where your finger was.) If you can pour off any extra glaze remaining right now, that should help keep your cake from getting soggy. If you're not going to serve the cake right away, the fridge seems like a good idea.

Jolynn June 18, 2015
I see! Thank you so much for your quick response and tips, Michelle! I'll definitely try this cake out again! This recipe is definitely a keeper, the combination of strawberries, olive oil and balsamic vinegar is truly impeccable (:
Jolynn July 20, 2015
I'm baking this for a second time right now! the cake is actually in the oven while I'm typing this (my glaze is wayyyyy too thick this time round but cross my fingers it'll turn out great still). On a side note, if you guys are gonna make this cake and happen to read these comments, PLEASE do NOT actually stick your finger through the spoon because I was stupid enough to do that and ended up blistering my finger T_T you can just draw a line using your spoon on the sides of the pan that's coated with the glaze to check for the consistency like you would using your finger on a spoon. Nonetheless I still think Michelle's description of what the consistency of the glaze should be is great! Just wanted to give you guys who are still not-quite-a-pro at cooking/baking like me a heads up hahaha.
Jen June 7, 2015
I was thinking of making this cake today for dessert tomorrow night. Does it hold up well? (Looks amazing!)
Aysem S. May 28, 2015
Can I use whole milk instead of buttermilk? Looks amazing! Can't wait to try but I don't want to grocery market right now. :)
indieculinary May 29, 2015
I suggest sticking with the buttermilk for flavor and texture (the acid in the buttermilk helps to tenderize the gluten.) But since the recipe has baking powder (which also brings acid to the game), the cake should still rise just fine with the substitution and you'll probably be okay. Let me know how it turned out, if you tried it!

Lesley May 29, 2015
You could always make "faux" buttermilk by adding some acid to the milk.
alicia March 25, 2015
can i use normal balsamic, or must it be white or golden?
indieculinary April 1, 2015
Hi Alicia,
You can use normal balsamic, but the layer of strawberries will darken and the cake may not be as attractive.

Kapatu March 22, 2015
It's Sunday morning and we just had a big (some even 2...) slice of your gorgeous cake. Thank you for a superb recipe! I have some pictures and mine looked more like an upside down cake with a layer of strawberries on top. Thought I could attach them to the comment.. Anyway happy baking to all!
indieculinary April 1, 2015
So glad to hear that you enjoyed the cake. I was looking forward to seeing your pictures-- it looks more like an upside-down cake when I make it, as well.

Callebaut July 20, 2014
Am I the only one who thought the vinegar flavor in the glaze was way too strong?
indieculinary September 6, 2014
The taste of the vinegar should definitely be evident in the finished cake-- but if you decide to try making it again, try boiling your glaze longer, and the sweetness should intensify to counter the vinegar.
Soc P. June 4, 2014
has anyone tried it with flavored balsamic vinegars? I have a green apple one and I am tempted to try it with chopped apples. any thoughts?
Lesley June 5, 2014
Carmelize the apples in balsamic?
indieculinary September 6, 2014
Did you try it?
Lesley June 4, 2014
What is golden balsamic. I've heard of white but not golden.
indieculinary June 4, 2014
Hi Lesley-- they're interchangeable. Have fun!
Lesley June 5, 2014
Thank you!!!
Im actually going to rework this into a gluten free
recipe. I'm looking forward to playing with it.

pgw September 4, 2013
what's the procedure(s) for having some of the strawberries in the batter (like in one of the pictures above)?
indieculinary September 19, 2013
To be quite honest, they're not really supposed to do that. Something unusual must have happened for the testers. If you're trying to get that effect, I'd suggest pouring your batter in as rapidly as possible, and maybe gently shaking the pan before you put it in the oven.
DeannaMarie August 26, 2013
Must say --- this is a truly beautiful cake. Recently whipped one up with fresh peaches. Not too sweet, it allows the fruit to really shine through. Even my non-dessert loving friends can't get enough of it. Kudos!!
indieculinary September 19, 2013
Thank you!
Michelle L. August 9, 2013
My peach/fig version just went in the oven. Fingers crossed!]
indieculinary August 9, 2013
Fingers crossed over here too. :)
Triada July 28, 2013
Just made this with fresh blueberries from the farmers market -- DELICIOUS.
indieculinary July 31, 2013
Yum! Good call on the blueberries!
ctd July 26, 2013
The directions say to slice the strawberries vertically -- does that mean to cut each berry once (in half) or to slice each berry a few times? I had a hard time telling from the final picture. Can't wait to try this!
indieculinary July 26, 2013
It really depends on the size of your berries, but I usually get about 3-4 vertical slices per strawberry.
indieculinary June 29, 2013
Hi everyone-- if you're looking for photos of the finished cake-- I just saw this one and they did a fantastic job with the strawberry spiral. I think it's even better than mine. :)
Miriam I. June 10, 2019
I’m really into upside down cakes these days and can’t wait to try this.
vicki June 21, 2013
Is there any fruit you would recommend as a substitute for the strawberries? I'm allergic but this recipe sounds too good not to try.
FeastofGreens June 21, 2013
I wonder if figs or pears might be an interesting substitute.
indieculinary June 22, 2013
I think figs are a great idea, and pears would probably hold up. I think any stone fruit would work very well with the golden balsamic vinegar-- I vote peaches or plums. (Or figs as FeastofGreens recommended!)
Triada July 28, 2013
Blueberries work!
indieculinary July 31, 2013