Campari Olive Oil Cake

March 31, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food and prop stylist: Alexis Anthony.
Author Notes

When I posted a photo of this very modest-looking cake on Instagram, I was blown away by the response. Honestly, it didn’t look like much—a generic yellow cake with a golden top. I think just the very notion of putting Campari and olive oil in a cake is what made people stop and “like” it. And it is a pretty terrific flavor combination—the citrusy bittersweet character of the Campari goes really well with the fragrant olive oil, to which I also add melted butter for richness as well as lots of fresh citrus juice and zest. The flavors are both fresh and intense, with a fluffy, moist crumb. On its own it’s a pretty plain-looking thing, but you can dress it up for a party, adding orange segments, berries, and dollops of whipped cream or crème fraîche to the top. Or if you want to go one step further, simmer some Campari and a bit of sugar down to a syrup, and drizzle that all over the cake. It makes it pretty, pinker, and accentuates the boozy flavor of the cake.

Reprinted from Dinner in French. Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Clark. Photographs copyright © 2020 by Laura Edwards. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC. —Melissa Clark

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 8
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick / 56 grams) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (335 grams) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup (150 milliliters) whole milk
  • 2/3 cup (150 milliliters) mild olive oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup (80 milliliters) Campari
  • 1 tablespoon grated grapefruit zest
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup whipped crème fraîche or whipped cream, sweetened or not as you like, for serving
In This Recipe
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch springform pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper. (You can use a regular 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep, but the cake will be harder to unmold.)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, butter, eggs, Campari, citrus zests, and citrus juices. Fold in the dry ingredients, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake until the top is golden and springs back when lightly pressed in the center, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (A cake tester might emerge with a few crumbs, which is okay.)
  4. Let the cake cool completely in the pan. Then run a butter knife around the edges and release the sides. Serve with dollops of whipped crème fraîche. (This cake is best served on the same day that it’s baked.)

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Melissa Clark writes about cuisine and other products of appetite. After brief forays working as a cook in a restaurant kitchen, and as a caterer out of her fifth floor walk-up, Clark decided upon a more sedentary path. She earned an M.F.A. in writing from Columbia University, and began a freelance food writing career. Currently, she is a food columnist for the New York Times, and has written for Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Every Day with Rachel Ray, and Martha Stewart, amongst others. All told, Clark has written over 30 cookbooks. Clark was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where she now lives with her husband, Daniel Gercke, their preschool daughter Dahlia, and their formerly cosseted cat.