During my 25-plus years in the olive oil business, one of the thrilling changes I’ve seen has occurred at restaurants: More and more offer cakes and other baked desserts made with extra virgin olive oil, instead of butter. Home bakers, too, increasingly are foregoing the butter and baking cakes, tortes, brownies and more with olive oil.
Swapping olive oil for butter cuts saturated fat. Plus, good olive oil adds a wonderful, nuanced flavor to baked goods and keeps them moist. Olive oil also contributes to a special, textured "crumb." To help you with your holiday baking, we’ve assembled a Q&A on baking with olive oil.
How do I substitute olive oil for butter in cakes and other baked good?
As a general rule of thumb, substitute three-quarters of the butter in a recipe with olive oil. In other words: If a baking recipe calls for a stick of butter (8 tablespoons), for example, use 6 tablespoons of olive oil. (Click here to see a conversion table.) If the recipe uses melted butter, follow the instruction and substitute the oil for the butter at three-quarters of the amount.
What if the recipe calls for the butter to be creamed with the sugar?
“If the butter is creamed with the sugar, and there is additional liquid (such as milk) in the recipe, follow the recipe instructions substituting the oil for the butter at three-quarters of the amount,” cookbook author and olive oil expert Fran Gage advises.
If a recipe, like carrot cake, calls for vegetable or canola oil, can I use olive oil instead?
Why not! We do it frequently. Just use the olive oil on a one-for-one basis. If a recipe, say, calls for half a cup of vegetable oil, use the same amount of olive oil. Your cake and other baked goods will benefit from the fuller, delicious flavor of a good olive oil.
What style of olive oil should I use in my baking?
Generally speaking, a delicate oil – like our Arbequina and Everyday Fresh oils – works well. “A delicate extra virgin olive oil, with low bitterness and pungency, is always a good choice, especially if it has buttery notes because it will then mimic the flavor of the butter that it is replacing,” Gage says. But she also notes that you can use a more robust oil in recipes using chocolate. “High-quality chocolate can stand up to the bitterness and pungency of a medium or even a robust extra virgin olive oil,” Gage says. Our medium-robust Arbosana is a particularly good choice for all things chocolate.
Can I use any type of olive oil off the grocery shelf in baking?
Not if you want to improve the flavor of your baked good. Use a quality olive oil that tastes good. “Only use an olive oil that you enjoy eating on salads, as a bread dip, etc.,” Matthew Kadey, a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food writer whose work has appeared in EatingWell and Men’s Health, says. “If you don’t particularly like the taste of a highly processed olive oil, why sully your baking with it. As the old saw goes: ‘Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t want to drink.’”