The Savory Ingredient Giada De Laurentiis Adds To Chocolate Cake

Chocolate and hazelnut are two quintessential flavors traditional to Northern Italy. They come together with an unexpected savory ingredient in one of Giada De Laurentiis' well-loved cake recipes. Her chocolate hazelnut olive oil cake takes on a fantastic crumbly texture and has a rich, moist consistency thanks to the addition of olive oil. When used instead of butter, olive oil lends an incredible moistness to chocolate cake and other baked goods — and helps them stay fresh for longer.

Cakes baked with olive oil as the main fat instead of butter or margarine will come out tender and noticeably moister than those made with solid fats like butter. Rather than taste overpowering, olive oil brings a subtle and fruity pepperiness to sweets that balance well with the bold flavors of chocolate, fruits, nuts, and spices. It also lightens up denser cakes that can tend to otherwise turn out dry or stodgy, like carrot cake. A fresh olive oil cake will likely be devoured before it has a chance to go stale.

A handy kitchen hack to know is that olive oil can be substituted for melted butter in most baking recipes, but keep in mind you will need to use less oil than you would butter. You can use the following butter-to-oil ratios as a guide – where 1 tablespoon of butter equals 2 ¼ teaspoons of olive oil, ¼ cup equals 3 tablespoons, ½ cup equals ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons, ¾ cup equals ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon, and 1 cup equals ¾ cups.

Olive oil is the key to luscious moist cakes

In what De Laurentiis describes as a "delicious marriage," her chocolate hazelnut olive oil cake combines some of the Mediterranean's finest ingredients — the fragrant silkiness of extra virgin olive oil, the earthy sweetness of cocoa powder, and the toasty nuttiness of hazelnut oil.

The cake is easy to put together and done in under an hour, perfect for a spontaneous baking sesh. First, you will whisk together the dry ingredients, which are standard for most cakes and include flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Next, add the wet ingredients like eggs and milk, and then the hazelnut and olive oil. Top with chocolate chips before popping into the oven, and serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a sprinkle of powdered sugar for a kiss of sweetness.

When Giada first shared the cake on social media, it was made with Guido Gobino hazelnut oil from the Piedmont region of Italy, which was available to purchase through her online Giadzy shop. The shop no longer stocks that brand, and now the recipe links to one by Pariani, also from the same area in Italy. One bottle costs about $13 for 1.3 fluid ounces — although the recipe requires ½ cup, which is 4 fluid ounces, so you'll need about three bottles to have just enough. In reply to a comment about nut allergies, Giada noted that instead of hazelnut, any flavored oil can be used, or it can be made using only an equivalent amount of olive oil instead.

From decadent chocolate to tart treats

Giada De Laurentiis is not the only celebrity chef who bakes with olive oil. Aran Goyoaga, a Spanish gluten-free baker who has perfected flourless cooking due to celiac disease, has a delightful gluten-free chocolate olive oil cake that features almond flour. It turns out nutty and dense with an almost pudding-like creaminess.

Another bonus of baking with olive oil instead of butter is that it is a lot easier to cook with. Already liquid at room temperature, you do not have to wait for olive oil to melt before using, and you won't need an electric mixer because the smooth oil is easily mixed into cake batter by hand. Avoid overmixing, however, which can result in a gummy cake. As for which oil to use, you want the robust flavor to be noticeable, but olive oil cake doesn't deserve your fancy olive oil. Look for good quality extra virgin olive oil, which is the highest grade available, and a good rule of thumb is that if the olive oil tastes good enough to eat on a salad or for dipping bread, it will work well for baking. It does not have to be the most expensive to taste great.

Along with chocolate, olive oil is excellent with citrus flavors. This vibrant Meyer lemon and olive oil cake recipe incorporates lemon zest for a tangy pop matched with a powdered sugar glaze.