Orange Olive Oil Cake-MainPhoto
Orange Olive Oil Cake-MainPhoto

Photo © 2009 Nuno Correia. All rights reserved.

Imagine a delicious dessert you can make in advance since it only gets better with age! This Portuguese treat from David Leite is what you are looking for…

This orange-olive oil cake was, without a doubt, the hardest recipe to develop in The New Portuguese Table. Cindi Kruth, one of my recipe testers, and I made 13 versions of it until I knew it was as good as the recipe I got at Papas, the tiny restaurant up the hill from my apartment in Lisbon. The problem was—and I have no idea if this was intentional (you know how some cooks can be)—but they gave me a recipe for a classic chiffon cake. Yet their mighty bolo de laranja was dense and rich, and just one slice could satisfy even my appetite.

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Friend and Portuguese food scholar Janet Boileau was smitten with the orange-olive oil cake and also went to work trying to figure it out. In the end, it took a call to the wonderful Lisbon chef Fausto Airioldi to help me get a handle on the dessert. He agreed with me that this was no stinking chiffon cake. It was too full of the bold flavors of Portugal. So, that’s when Cindi and I started from scratch, literally. Several weeks later, we came up with this. And if you had a chance to stop by one of my book signings, you would have had a sample. It’s what I always serve, and people always ask for, when I’m fending off those huge lines of three and four fans.

Note: Make sure to use a light-colored Bundt pan. A dark one will turn out a cake that sticks and is unpleasantly brown. The pan I use is the Nordic Ware’s Anniversary 15-cup Bundt Pan. And since this orange-olive oil cake only gets better with age, don’t even think about taking a bite until the day after you make it, or even the day after that. —David Leite

Serves: 12 to 14
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Nonstick baking spray with flour
4 to 5 large navel oranges
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ TSP baking powder
1¾ TSP kosher salt
5 large eggs
3 cups granulated sugar
1½ cups mild extra-virgin olive oil
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling


  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, remove any racks above, and crank up the heat to 350°F (175°C). Coat a 12-cup Bundt or tube pan with baking spray and set aside.
  2. Finely grate the zest of 3 of the oranges, then squeeze 4 of them. You should have 1½ cups of juice; if not, squeeze the 5th orange. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a handheld mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until well-combined, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in the granulated sugar and continue beating until thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. On low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and oil, starting and ending with the flour, and beat until just a few wisps of flour remain. Pour in the orange juice and zest and whirl for a few seconds to bring the batter together.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 1¼ hours. If the top is browning too much as the cake bakes, cover lightly with foil. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.
  6. Turn the cake out onto the rack and cool completely, then place it in a covered cake stand and let it sit overnight. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar.