Olive Oil Cake with Crème Fraîche, Pistachios, Orange, and Chocolate

November 29, 2017
9 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Serves 10-12
Author Notes

This is a fragrant olive oil sponge cake made with rice flour—which enhances the flavor of the oil—split and moistened with more oil and filled with vanilla crème fraîche laced with chopped chocolate, pistachios, and candied orange peel. I drizzle the plates with oil as I serve as well. If you are fortunate enough to have a bottle of olio nuovo—unfiltered fresh oil from the most recent harvest, you can save it for drizzling, use extra virgin oil in the batter. Or go nuts and use the new oil throughout.

A note on rice flour: Use an American brand of regular or superfine rice flour. The Thai rice flour available in most Asian groceries is too fine and will not work with this recipe. —Alice Medrich

What You'll Need
  • For the Cake
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (16 grams) finely chopped pistachios
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (85 grams) extra virgin olive oil (or olio nuovo)
  • 1 unsprayed or organic orange
  • 2/3 cup (130 grams) sugar
  • 4 large cold eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon (generous) salt (I use fine sea salt)
  • 2/3 cup (100 grams) rice flour (see note, above)
  • For the Filling
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) chilled crème fraîche
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons (36-50 grams) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (30 grams) finely chopped candied orange peel or candied orange slices
  • 6 tablespoons (50 grams) finely chopped pistachios, plus extra left from the pan
  • 2 tablespoons olio nuovo or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ounce (28 grams) dark chocolate, chopped medium finely
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  • olio nuovo (or extra virgin olive oil) for serving, optional
  1. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350° F with a rack in the lower third. Measure all of the cake ingredients before you begin, and have a sieve or sifter at hand.
  2. Mix the softened butter with the teaspoons of sugar and smear it over the sides (only) of and 8 by 2 inch round cake pan. Pour the pistachios in the pan and rotate it like a ferris wheel to coat the sides with nuts. Save excess nuts for the filling. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper.
  3. Put the olive oil in a 4 to 6-cup bowl (it must be large enough to fold some of the batter into later). Grate the zest of half of the orange over the oil, and set the orange aside—you'll zest the other half later.
  4. Put the sugar, eggs, and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mixture is tripled in volume and forms a slowly dissolving ribbon when the beater is lifted.
  5. Whisk the rice flour to fluff it. Sift one-third of the flour over the eggs. Fold until the flour in almost blended. Repeat with half of the remaining flour. Repeat with the rest of the flour, folding until the flour is blended.
  6. Scrape about one quarter of the batter into the bowl of olive oil. Fold until the oil is completely blended into the batter. (You will be tempted to stir instead of fold—but keep on folding until the batter absorbs the oil). Scrape the oiled batter over the remaining batter and fold just until blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and just beginning to shrink from the sides of the pan.
  7. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack. Slide a slim spatula around the sides of the cake, pressing against the sides of the pan to avoid tearing the cake and unmold it onto a rack, peel off the parchment and turn the cake right side up to finish cooling.
  8. To fill and finish the cake: Whip the crème fraîche with the vanilla and sugar until it holds a nice shape but is not completely stiff. Fold in the diced peel, remaining pistachios, and chopped chocolate.
  9. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake in half horizontally. Set the top piece aside. Drizzle the cut side of the bottom layer with 1 tablespoon of oil. Spread all of the filling evenly over the layer.
  10. Drizzle the cut side of the top layer with 1 tablespoons of oil and set it, oiled-side-down, on the filling. Press the layers gently to level the cake. Wrap and refrigerate the cake for at least an hour and up to a day. Remove the cake from the fridge 30 minutes before serving. Sieve a little powdered sugar over the cake, sprinkle with reserved pistachios and long thin shreds of orange zest stripped from the unzested half of the orange.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Merrilee Edgar
    Merrilee Edgar
  • KelseyB
  • Dawn Tanner
    Dawn Tanner
  • Allie
  • Alice Medrich
    Alice Medrich
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).

27 Reviews

Merrilee E. December 14, 2023
I've made this recipe as a birthday cake as printed here, and as a roulade. The filling is simply perfect for the cake. Love the texture.
sanjalebi November 30, 2021
Criminally under-rated! I messed up with the prep for this (accidentally beat the rice flour rather than the sugar with the eggs first - oops) and STILL it was moist, tender, and delicious. The creme fraiche filling is especially delicious- I found candied mangos rather than candied oranges at the grocery and those worked in there beautifully. I love the fact that it feels like a fancy layer cake but is super easy! Reminded me of a old favorite bakery cake but better.
KelseyB February 12, 2020
Flavors were great. A light and fruity dessert. I made the cake as directed except increasing the temperature by 15° for high elevation. It was dry around the edges but still good. Will try again in summer.
Linda August 26, 2018
Well, this was a total bust. Like Grischa, my cake fell within 5 minutes after taking it out of the oven. I followed the instructions very carefully and even went to 3 grocery stores to find white rice flour. I was taking this to a dinner party and didn't have time to start another dessert from scratch. My husband insisted that it would be okay, so I had to think outside the box. I ended up cutting the cake into pieces, made the filling, took 6 pretty goblets to the party and made layers like a parfait. Topped it off with the candied orange peel and a sprinkle of pistachios. It was okay, but certainly didn't knock my socks off....and, it was a lot of work and also expensive considering the cost of the special flour. So, I would not recommend this. My favorite dessert from this site is the Cannoli Cake. I also took that to the same dinner group and everyone raved about it and went so far as to say it should be our signature dessert!
Linda August 25, 2018
Thanks so much...guess I'll have to hit a few more grocery stores to find the regular rice flour.
Linda August 24, 2018
Okay, the only thing I could find was Bob's Red Mill brown rice you think that will work? I want to make it tomorrow to take to a dinner. Thanks to anybody who responds!
Alice M. August 25, 2018
It will "work" but the effect will be different. The caramel-y flavor of the brown rice flour will compete a bit with the olive oil. I chose the white rice flour specifically to highlight the flavor of the oil.
Linda August 12, 2018
Thanks so much. Going to make this for our gourmet dinner group in 2 weeks.
milkjam August 12, 2018
Pretty much any grocery store in this part of eastern Washington has it. Bob's Red Mill is most common brand. Local health food stores and bulk sections for no brand stuff.
Linda August 12, 2018
Where do you find rice flour? I've never heard of it.
milkjam February 4, 2018
Hard to tell, could be the folding stages. That is how this type of cake gets it loft. Sifting the flour helps also.
Grischa February 4, 2018
I followed the recipe was a beautiful golden cake.... i let it cool in its pan .....10 minutes later my masterpiece fell flat to half an inch cake :( you think the flour? any advise is highly appreciated!
Michelle December 28, 2017
I know rice flower is part of the point, but what other flour could I substitute? I have unbleached AP, cake flour, Einkorn AP, and almond meal/flour
Veronica H. December 26, 2017
I followed the recipe exactly for Christmas dinner and it was incredibly delicious! The cake was moist and fragrant, and the filling made the cake. The only drawback was that the rice flour created small lumps (not noticeable upon consumption), but perhaps I was not gentle enough with incorporating it into the batter. If you are able, make your own candied orange peel (it's very easy). It tastes much better than store-bought.
milkjam December 26, 2017
Made this for Christmas. Very easy and delicious. I had to sub orange marmalade for candied orange peel and used it in the filling only. Made creme fraiche with whipping cream and Greek yogurt that was put into a jar on the counter over night.
maxenethebean December 19, 2017
Has anyone made this with brown rice flour?
Dawn T. December 15, 2017
Where does the candied orange peel come in? I didn't see it in the recipe. Also, it says to wrap it and chill it for a day. Wrap it in saran? Thanks!
Suzy Q. December 9, 2017
I did not see the original recipe before it was updated? Since many have asked about the ricotta or farmers cheese I just thought I'd get clarification as to whether it is added or not? Thank you
Nikkitha B. December 10, 2017
It’s not added — just creme fraiche
Suzy Q. December 11, 2017
Thank you!
Allie December 9, 2017

I have not made the cake...(will soon!) but I have made this Creme Fraiche and it works quite well!
Anna B. December 8, 2017
for the cake - could I split the batter to two pans rather than making a bigger one and cutting? For the filling, could I sub sour cream or greek yogurt for creme fraiche?
pat December 8, 2017
same comment as Rebecca (below) please update the recipe- it sound good , otherwise!