Orange and Black (Olive) Cake: A Dark Chocolate Delight

Orange & Black Olive Chocolate Cake (15)Like many kids, I was known to stick black olives on my fingertips at holiday gatherings, joyously waving my hands until I popped them into my mouth one by one.  I loved the way the olives transformed my hands into a cartoon character’s, and the way their juicy, salty burst of flavor sang of a special occasion.  Decades later, after growing to enjoy a rainbow of olives — stuffed and cured in a variety of ways — I still find myself warmed by the sweet subtexts that plain old black olives bring.

Orange & Black Olive Chocolate Cake (1)But when I recently ended up with a can of chopped black olives, I admit I took one bite and was reminded of how plain they taste compared to the colorful olives of adulthood. Sure, they are moist and salty–but not too flavorful otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, though: this realization was an exciting one for me. Mild, moist and a little bit salty? Those are a few perfect attributes for a cake ingredient. And since Jerusalem artichokes and green peas had proven to make delicious desserts, certainly black olives deserved a chance.

Orange & Black Olive Chocolate Cake (6)I decided on a black-on-black batter: dark cocoa and black coffee to mingle with the tiny bits of olives, plus a tad of butter, flour and sugar.  A heap of orange zest would add a citrusy tang, and a good dose of vanilla would soften it all.  The result was just as I’d hoped: a spongy, moist and deep-dark dessert enjoyed by many.  Here is the recipe.

Orange and Black Olive Cake (makes a one-layer 8″ cake; serves 10)

  • 2 eggsOrange & Black Olive Chocolate Cake (3)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup black coffee at room temperature
  • 4.25 ounce can (or 1/2 cup packed) finely chopped black olives
  • finely grated zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease an 8″ cake pan and either line bottom of pan with parchment paper or dust with flour.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and butter until pale and even.  Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder over the egg mixture. Begin to stir, gradually adding the coffee.  Mix until completely smooth.  Fold in the olives and orange zest, stirring until evenly distributed. Spread the batter into prepared cake pan, and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center tests clean.  Let cake cool completely in pan before inverting and decorating as you please.  Serve at room temperature, and store covered, eating within two days.

Orange & Black Olive Chocolate Cake (13) With its hidden flecks of orange and black olive, this rich chocolate cake is a crowd-pleasing treat which satisfies with an almost brownie-like crumb.  When I shared it with a group at work and asked them to guess the secret ingredient, I heard “liqueur,” “melted chocolate” and “vanilla beans”; no one guessed olives, and hardly anyone could believe they were there.  A cinch to whip up, this cake is a nod to those olives-on-fingertips days of youth, delivering simplicity and sweetness in one scrumptious form — all ages welcome.

Orange & Black Olive Chocolate Cake (11) Maybe next time… This is truly an all-around versatile chocolate cake.  Serve it with vanilla bean ice cream for a decadent dessert.  Double the recipe, bake in two pans, and add your favorite frosting for a traditional layer cake.  For a rich, chocolatey crunch, toss some cacao nibs into the batter.  For a crisp citrus glaze, juice the zested orange, whisk a few teaspoons into a cup of powdered sugar, drizzle over the cooled cake and let dry.

Orange & Black Olive Chocolate Cake (14)Orange & Black Olive Chocolate Cake (8)Orange & Black Olive Chocolate Cake (10)

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23 Responses to Orange and Black (Olive) Cake: A Dark Chocolate Delight

  1. Just discovered your blog today and I’d love to make this and some of your other recipes. Thanks.

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  3. Lorraine says:

    Is it at all possible to prepare the olive cake in a bunds pan?

    • Hi Lorraine, Thanks for stopping by! I love the way you think; this cake would look lovely as a bundt. I haven’t tried making this in a bundt pan yet, but my hunch is that it might not be the best format: as is, the cake is really tender, and the recipe is pretty small for your average bundt pan. That said, I might try it in a bundt as a double or 1.5X version of the recipe, perhaps with an extra egg for structure. If I try it, I’ll update you; if you try it, I’d love to hear how it went! Thanks again.

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  5. Wow, amazing! I love olives too (soooo much!), and while those black ones did it for me as a child, they aren’t briny enough for me to eat on their own now. This is so inspired! You are amazing as always:)

  6. I’m laughing to myself because I did the same thing when I was a kid w/the olives. You continue to amaze me with your creativity & use of ingredients that no one would ever think to use. that cake looks so moist and delicious but I really love the decorating on top – very pretty.

  7. CG Olsen says:

    As someone who can’t bake, period (except apple pie… as long as I get a store-bought crust), I’m continually amazed at the things you make with these weird ingredients. The sweet-pea one really sounded good, but I think you just about have me sold on the olive cake… Let me know if you bring one to the office sometime, maybe I’ll visit my old department. 😛

    • Thanks so much, Carl. Your kind words mean a lot to me, as they come from such a brilliant, creative, sweet person. You are always invited to visit the office; I’ll do my best to contact you when I bring a treat!


  8. Lilly Sue says:

    This cake looks so amazing! It looks beautifully moist. I absolutely love olives as well so this looks like a fun recipe I must try. Thanks for sharing!

  9. katy says:

    These are such gorgeous and lush photos; I especially love the patterned powdered sugar on top of the cake! As for turning canned black olives into a delectable cake, I tip my hat to you.

    • Thanks so much, Katy. Your photos are so gorgeous — your compliment means a lot to me. I promise, this cake just tastes like a good chocolate dessert: no hint of olives, except that they make it moist and replace the salt that would normally go in the recipe.


  10. Looks amazing – really clever idea.

  11. mmmarzipan says:

    what a unique and lovely idea- presents beautifully too!

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