When it comes to baking, most of us assume we need certain staple ingredients, including flour, eggs and butter. However, more and more recipes are emerging that use good-quality Moroccan olive oil instead, resulting in super moist and absolutely delicious cakes.
Here’s why many of us are swapping butter for olive oil in our favourite bakes – and why you might too.
One of the reasons why people might prefer baking with Extra Virgin olive oil is because it is more nutritious than butter, which is high in saturated fat.
In comparison, extra virgin olive oil is high in mono-saturated fat, which includes antioxidants to protect our cells and vitamin E. Therefore, it is a healthier choice, as it has been shown to ease inflammation and lower the risk of developing heart disease.
Baking with it also reduces the amount of saturated fat you would otherwise consume, which raises cholesterol levels.
While you might think something bland or mild would be better in a cake or biscuit, having a strong flavour actually works in olive oil’s favour when it comes to baking.
This is because it can actually taste delicious in baked goods, adding to, instead of distracting from, the overall flavour of the pudding.
The strength of Extra Virgin olive oil you choose will depend on what you are baking, with All Recipes suggesting using a mild variety for cakes, muffins and cookies, as this will give the dessert a “fruity note without [being] overpowering”.
However, you can go for a stronger type for rich puddings, such as brownies or flourless cakes.
It is known to enhance the flavour of chocolate, nuts, spices and fruit, so don’t be afraid to substitute it when the recipe calls for melted butter.
According to Fine Cooking, its perfect match is a cake or bake that contains fruit or nuts, such as carrot cake or pumpkin bread.
“The Extra Virgin olive oil gives it a rich moistness and depth that enhances the warm spices and mingles perfectly with the essence of honey and the pumpkin seed topping,” Ellie Kiriger wrote, adding: “It’s an American favourite with a Mediterranean flair – a perfect package of taste and health.”
That brings us on to the next advantage of using Extra Virgin olive oil in baked goods – it makes them deliciously moist.
This is thought to be due to the vitamin E content found in Extra Virgin olive oil, which also helps to keep bakes fresher for longer. Indeed, while traditional cakes tend to go dry after a couple of days, those with olive oil typically stay squidgy far beyond this.
As olive oil cakes are known for their moistness, they lend themselves particularly well to bakes like carrot cake, orange cake, banana bread, lemon drizzle cake, and many other puddings that have a fruit or nut content.
– Great in chocolate cakes
Something that may surprise you is the relationship olive oil has with chocolate, particularly as the fat can have a slightly savoury flavour to it.
Despite this – or perhaps because of it – putting olive oil in chocolate cake recipes works brilliantly, giving it a rich flavour and moist texture that is difficult to replicate with butter.
As a result, there is a plethora of chocolate olive oil cake recipes available these days, including one from cookbook author and TV star Nigella Lawson.
In Nigellisima, she wrote: “Although I first came up with this recipe because I had someone coming for supper who – genuinely – couldn’t eat wheat or dairy, it is so meltingly good, I now make it all the time for those whose life and diet are not so unfairly constrained, myself included.”
The cake calls for ground almonds, vanilla extract, bicarbonate of soda, caster sugar, and eggs, as well as cocoa powder and olive oil. She recommends accompanying this delicious-sounding bake with raspberries as well as mascarpone or ice-cream.
A great advantage of eating a chocolate cake made with Extra Virgin olive oil, in addition to the flavour, is that a study has shown the combination of dark chocolate and extra virgin olive oil could improve heart health.
Research from the University of Pisa, published in Science Daily, revealed the two ingredients could reduce the risk of developing any cardiovascular conditions when eaten together.
Dr Rossella Di Stefano, who led the study, said: “We found that small daily portions of dark chocolate with added natural polyphenols from extra virgin olive oil was associated with an improved cardiovascular risk profile.”
Another great incentive to swap butter for olive oil is that you can make your favourite puddings vegan by removing the dairy content and swapping eggs for another ingredient.
It is also a good option for those with a dairy intolerance, allowing your loved ones to continue to enjoy delicious treats without suffering an adverse reaction to it.
For great olive oil cake recipes, take a look here.