Cherry Marsala Olive Oil Cake

Cherry Marsala Olive Oil Cake

The way I see it, there are 2 species of cake. There are the fancy, celebration cakes with swirls of frosting, bells, whistles, and the whole bit. And then there are the everyday cakes. I’m talking about the cakes that are made at a moment’s notice when you need an afternoon pick-me-up or when eating a salad for dinner only seems like a viable option if you get to round out the meal with a little slice cake.

Today’s cake, if you hadn’t already guessed, falls firmly into the second category. It’s nothing fancy, just a good, solid anytime cake to have in your repertoire. It’s the kind of cake that can be made on a whim, mixed up in less time than the oven takes to heat. Olive oil gives it round, fruity flavor and a splash of Marsala gives it a subtle but haunting Italian flavor. 

Olive Oil Cake Ingredients

This cake comes almost directly from one of Marcella Hazan’s cookbooks–the only embellishment I added was a handful Marsala-plumped dried cherries–and it goes together effortlessly.  

Crack a couple of eggs into a bowl and whisk with sugar. Mix in lemon zest, olive oil, milk, Marsala, and a pinch of salt, then stir in flour and baking powder. Fold in the cherries. Pour the cake batter into a tube pan and bake.  

Let the cake cool on a rack, then dust it with powdered sugar and cut it into wedges. The olive oil keeps the cake moist, Marsala and the touch of citrus make it fragrant, and the bits of chewy cherries here and there differentiate one bite from the next. It’s the sort of cake I want to eat with my morning coffee, my afternoon tea, and my evening glass of wine.  

And do you know what? I will, just because I want to and it’s exactly the kind of cake that doesn’t need a reason greater than that. 

Marsala Olive Oil Cake

Cherry Marsala Olive Oil Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
I love this cake just with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and a cup of coffee. If you'd like to fancy it up, feel free to serve it with a spoonful of lightly sweetened mascarpone or crème fraîche and fresh or roasted fruit.
Recipe type: Dessert, Baked Goods, Cake
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 8
  • ½ c. dried Bing Cherries
  • ⅓ c. Dry Marsala Wine
  • 2 Eggs
  • ½ c. + 2 Tbsp. Sugar
  • zest of 1 Lemon
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ⅓ c. Milk
  • ¾ c. (plus a little more for the pan) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
  • 1½ c. All-Purpose Flour
  1. Place the cherries in a small bowl and pour the Marsala over the top. Let the cherries sit and plump in the wine for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a tube pan with a thin coating of olive oil.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until they are pale and foamy. Stir in the lemon zest, salt, milk, olive oil, and Marsala that the cherries were soaking in (don't mix the cherries in just yet).
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Fold in the cherries.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and allow to finish cooling on a wire rack. The cake keeps well at room temperature for several days.


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