Citrus Olive Oil Cake with Winter Fruit Salad

Citrus Olive Oil Cake with Winter Fruit Salad


During the dark winter months I find myself craving foods that are full of color, bright flavors, and lots of vitamins – like citrus fruit. The annual Hanukkah box of tangerines and grapefruit from Aunt Betty in Boca Raton goes pretty fast in our house.  Try using citrus in this light winter dessert based on the olive oil cakes traditional to many Mediterranean cuisines.  Olive oil is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat – using a fruity, light oil will really give the cake great flavor – and the fruit salad will provide a healthy dose of vitamin C to help fend off winter colds.   I like to use a really colorful combination of red grapefruit, oranges, blood oranges, pomegranate seeds, and mango dressed with a little bit of honey, pomegranate molasses, and a splash of the leftover sparking wine sitting in my fridge, but feel free to make up your own combination of fruits and flavors.


Yields: 12 Servings  


¾ cup olive oil (a fruity, extra-virgin oil if possible) 

Cooking spray 

1 large lemon, zested and juiced 

1 large orange, zested and saved for the salad 

1 cup cake flour, sifted (see Note) 

5 large eggs, separated (you will only use the 5 yolks and 4 whites, so save the last white for something else) 

½ teaspoon salt 

¾ cup sugar, divided into ¼ cup and ½ cup 

1 ½ tablespoons Demerra or raw sugar crystals for topping (may substitute regular sugar) 

A variety of winter fruits, peeled, sectioned, cut and juices reserved:  try 1 each of red grapefruit, orange or tangerines, blood orange, mango (see Note), and pomegranate seeds (see Note) 

2 teaspoons honey 

2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (optional) 

Splash of sweet white wine, champagne or other light spirits such as white rum (optional) 

Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.  Coat a 9-inch spring form or regular cake pan with cooking spray, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper (see Note) and spray that as well. Finely zest the lemon and orange (see Note) and combine the zests.  Whisk 1 tablespoon of zest with the flour in a small bowl.  Reserve the remaining zest for the salad.  Halve and squeeze the lemon and reserve 1 ½ tablespoons of juice (seeds removed!)  Save the orange for the fruit salad. 

 In an electric mixer with very clean beaters and bowl, beat the 4 egg whites with the salt at medium-high speed until foamy.   With the mixer running, slowly add in ¼ cup of the sugar a little at a time, continuing to beat until the egg whites hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.  (If you do not have another mixer bowl, at this point carefully transfer the beaten whites into another bowl so that you can reuse the mixer bowl for the next step.) 

 Beat together the egg yolks and ½ cup sugar in the electric mixer at high speed until the mixture is thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes.  Lower the mixer speed to medium and slowly add in the oil and lemon juice, continuing to beat until just combined.  The mixture may look separated but don’t worry about this.  Remove bowl from mixer and use a spoon or spatula to mix in the flour and zest until just combined (do not beat!) 

 Gently fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the yolk and flour mixture to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly.  There should be no white streaks in the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and gently rap the pan on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.  Sprinkle the top of the cake with the Demerra or regular sugar.  Bake until puffed and golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  Cool the cake on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around the inside and remove the sides of the spring form pan (or gently turn out of the regular pan and flip back upright).  Cool the cake to room temperature before removing the bottom of the pan and peeling off the parchment paper. 

 While the cake is baking or cooling, peel and section the citrus fruits and place your combination of fruits in a bowl with the remaining zest.  Drizzle with honey and a splash of wine or spirits, if desired, and lightly toss to combine.  Taste and add more honey if necessary.  Serve slices of cake with fruit salad and its juices. 


  • Cake flour should be sifted before measuring.  Scoop out at least a cup of flour into a sifter or fine sieve held over a piece of parchment or waxed paper and sift it through.  Roll up the sides of the paper to create a funnel to pour the sifted flour into your measuring cup.
  • Pomegranate seeds, or “arils,” can be purchased in some markets.  When buying a whole pomegranate, choose one that is heavy for its size.  Score a circle around the top of the fruit and then lightly score vertically down the fruit a few times.  Place the fruit in a bowl of cool water in the sink to submerge and peel off the top and sides.  Break the fruit apart in the water, allowing the arils to fall into the bowl.  The bits of white pith will float to the top and can be poured off, leaving the arils behind.
  • Choose mangoes that are fragrant and yield slightly to pressure, but are not too soft.  Cut off the stem end to create a flat surface and then remove the skin with a vegetable peeler.  Stand the fruit on the flat end and cut down parallel to the flat side of the pit to remove the flesh, and then trim the remaining flesh from the sides of the pit.
  • To easily cut a circle of parchment paper, first tear off a square of paper that is slightly larger than the round pan you will be using.  Fold it in half, then in quarters, and then into eighths until you have a narrow triangle remaining, all the time keeping the same center point in tact.  Hold the point in the center of the pan and mark the wide end where it hits the side of the pan.  Cut the wide end to shorten the triangle, then unfold and you will have a circle that fits into the pan.
  • Zesting citrus fruit means removing only the colored outside of the fruit that contains the essential oils, not the white pith.  Always wash citrus fruits before zesting to remove wax.  Create fine zest by using a Microplane or other fine grater against the outside of the fruit, working over parchment or waxed paper to catch the zest.  If you don’t have a fine grater, use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest layer and then chop finely.  Extra zest can be frozen for up to 3 months in a sealed bag or container.

  Nutritional Information per Serving (1/12 of recipe):  Calories = 284 (140 from fat); Total fat = 15.6g (13g Monounsaturated, 2.6g Saturated); Cholesterol = 87mg; Sodium = 119mg; Total Carbohydrates = 33g (1.5g Fiber, 23.1g Sugars); Protein = 3.9g; 8% RDA of Vitamin A, 44% RDA of Vitamin C, 3% RDA Calcium, 5% RDA Iron. 

  Adapted from “Lemon Olive-Oil Cake” recipe published in Gourmet magazine, April 2006

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