Bay Leaf Olive Oil Cake

May 16, 2022
1 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food stylist: Ericka Martins. Prop stylist: Brooke Deonarine.
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 55 minutes
  • makes One (9-inch) cake
Author Notes

Last summer, I had dinner at the cutest new restaurant up the street from my parent’s house in Michigan. The whole meal was wonderful but the real star was their dessert special. I almost didn’t order it because the words “bay leaf” and “cake” are two I’d never heard together, but I was intrigued. They paired the delicate cake with a rose ice cream and some berries; it was subtly sweet and floral and way too small. I wanted more.

I don’t know about you, but I have never really given bay leaves the time of day. If a recipe called for a couple leaves, I’d toss them in the pot—but if I didn’t have any on hand, I didn’t think twice about omitting them. Until that moment, I don’t think I ever really knew what bay leaves taste like. But with my newfound respect for bay leaves, I was set on giving these cute little forgotten leaves the spotlight they deserve.

This recipe is inspired by that cake I had last summer, but since no one has time to whip up homemade ice cream, I add a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream with a hint of vanilla right on top instead. I also love adding some seasonal fruit or a compote for some brightness but you can also just have a piece plain as a snack. After all, cake really is the best snack right? Right.

This recipe uses dried bay leaves, but if you can find fresh ones, that's great too. (If you do opt for fresh leaves, you can simmer for less time or use fewer leaves since they are more potent.) I know that most of us have a jar of decades-old, crusty bay leaves shoved in the back of our spice cabinets—I tested this recipe with those and with a new jar from the store. Both work just fine, but you may want to add a few extra leaves to the milk if you are using bay leaves that have been in your cupboard for a decade. Like most spices, the longer they’ve been sitting on a shelf, the less flavorful they are. This recipe is a great way to use up the old jar so you have an excuse to go buy a new one!

I hope you love this lightly sweet, floral, herby cake as much as I do (and by that I mean I’ve had it for breakfast four days in a row now).

Note: The better your olive oil is, the better your cake will taste. This is time to pull out the good stuff. —Delaney Vetter

What You'll Need
  • Bay Leaf Cake
  • 10 dried bay leaves (plus more if you're working with older spices)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup good-quality olive oil, plus more for preparing pan
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar, plus more for preparing pan
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Vanilla Whipped Cream
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped
  • Fresh berries, for serving (optional)
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven; heat to 375°F. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the bay leaves, cream, and milk to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming, for about 15 minutes. If the mixture starts to boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. After 15 minutes, remove from the heat and discard the bay leaves. The mixture should be fragrant. Let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, line a 9-inch cake can with parchment, oil, and an even coating of sugar.
  3. In a large mixing bowl and using an electric hand mixer, beat the eggs, vanilla, and 1 cup of the sugar on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until pale and foamy. Reduce the speed to low and slowly drizzle in the oil, milk mixture, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Continue to beat on medium-low speed until well incorporated.
  4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; beat until just combined.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes. At the 20-minute mark, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to bake for 25 minutes, until the top is golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan.
  6. While the cake cools, prepare the whipped cream. Using the electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a whisk if you want a workout), in a large bowl, whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form.
  7. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with the whipped cream and fresh raspberries, if desired.

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1 Review

goodainti May 18, 2022
I do like bay leaf - actively like it - so will try this!