Campari Olive Oil Cake

April 18, 2021
14 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food and prop stylist: Alexis Anthony.
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 8
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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  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.)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Elizabeth Traverso
    Elizabeth Traverso
  • Krispyecca
  • Franca
  • Oleg Koefoed
    Oleg Koefoed
  • Jess
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.

15 Reviews

Elizabeth T. March 26, 2023
I make this all the time as we love Campari. It is perfect and so light. I love to serve it with unsweetened whipped cream with flecks of citrus zest. This is a perfect dessert and so easy to make.
Jenny January 13, 2022
The cake turned out wonderfully moist and aromatic. I reduced the sugar to 170 grams and found it to be enough, but I have to say that the amount of flour in grams did render the batter very soupy and liquidy, so I measured out the amount in cups and weighed it and then added the difference (320 grams in total), which made the batter more normal, although still loose. The problem is also that when you start adding flour to a lot of liquid, it easily forms clumps, so in the end I had to use an electric whisk to try and get rid of the lumps. Adjustments I would make would be to reduce the amount of Campari to 1/4 cup to cut away some of the bitterness, and use more orange juice than grapefruit juice, and potentially also some more lemon juice. Other than that, a wonderful cake! Would make again with these adjustments! :)
Krispyecca January 12, 2022
I really wanted to like this cake more than I did, because citrus and Campari is such a great flavor combo. But I just didn't. The cake is heavy, took forever to bake, and tasted mostly of olive oil to me. It's not bad but not great either. This recipe was worth a try but I won't be making it again.
Franca December 1, 2021
I made these in a muffin tin to serve as individual desserts. I reduced the sugar to 200 grams, and may reduce the amount of fat next time. It came across a little greasy. That being said, I loved the bitterness of the campari and citrus zests that came through. An all around lovely cake.
Oleg K. July 31, 2020
Wonderful. Added more lemon zest, could still use more, will try with a bit less sugar, and more lemon. But it's a delicious cake, had it with a cocktail with Lillet and organic tonic. Great for a summer's afternoon. Thank you. 🙏
Jess June 20, 2020
I'm more partial to Aperol than Campari - I may try that version, without the grapefruit zest (upping the lemon and orange zests)
iolanthe April 30, 2020
I halved the recipe, using one egg and making up a little extra liquid with the orange juice. I liked the flavor (olive oil, citrus, herbal aftertaste) but found the cake far too oily, and I'm not sure that a second egg would fix this. In the future I will try just adding Campari to a reliable olive oil cake recipe.
iolanthe May 1, 2020
Since I cannot edit comments, I feel the need to add that the above comment is totally wrong! I had misread the amount of butter, thus ruining the texture of the cake (not that it stopped us from eating it).
andrea S. April 17, 2020
I made it exactly as written, other than using a 9" cake pan rather than springform. Since we're only serving it to ourselves (thanks Corona pandemic), plating it didn't matter. It had great flavor and was a nice balance of sweet + bitter. It came out of the lightly buttered cake pan just fine. A sprinkle of powdered sugar worked to serve it for breakfast. (the Americano followed later in the day)
Tamara April 12, 2020
The unique aftertaste of the citrus dazzles. A perfect Easter cake!
Tamara April 12, 2020
The unique aftertaste of the citrus dazzles. A perfect Easter cake.
Chesnok April 10, 2020
In her version in the NY times it calls for ½ teaspoon baking soda - this version calls for 1 teaspoon. I'm assuming the 1 tsp must be a typo?
Brinda A. April 11, 2020
Yes, apologies! Thank you for pointing this out; it's been fixed above.
Marty L. April 4, 2020
Made this in a regular 9 inch cake pan...Divided the recipe in half...skipped the parchment and butter. Simply brushed the pan with olive oil and “dusted” the pan with sugar.
Perfect thin slices with a crispy crust.
trish April 14, 2020
I'd like to try this as well, did you use 1 or 2 eggs? Thanks!