Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

This is a recipe I’ve been making for years. Something my aunt shared from an old Better Homes & Gardens magazine long ago. It’s my favorite chocolate cake. Period. I love it for its simplicity, its texture, and its versatility. I create a new version of this cake anytime I want by adding a sprinkling of something into the batter, or on top of the cake before baking, or drizzling or dusting or frosting after baking. The recipe is for just one layer, which often is quickly baked in my kitchen for a snack. Yes, I said snack. It’s not loaded with butter, and on the scale of sweet treats, it’s not very sweet or rich, and it’s practically a health food what with all the olive oil, right? I think eating this can actually make you live longer…at least, I’m going to find out. It can also be doubled or tripled. Need a three layer cake (I sometimes do)? Just triple the recipe, triple the cake pans, and you’re there.

So, I’m finally sharing this gem. A sweet friend had a birthday recently, and I decided she must have cake! I was in the mood to do something a little unexpected, so I scattered a small handful of cocoa nibs over the top and a tiny bit of Maldon sea salt. Everyone was gone for the day, so I was able to actually bake two, send one off with my friend and take a photo of this one before it was devoured (which is why it has taken so long to post — these hungry people in my house eat everything before I get a photo!). Craving chocolate cake yet? Good. In about 45 minutes, start to finish, you can have one hot out of the oven.


Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

“One-Bowl Chocolate Cake” recipe from Better Homes & Gardens, April 2004: “Healing, Giving, Baking”, adapted by Stephanie Kunstle and renamed in honor of adaptation (and because I hate dull names)

Note: If you’re at high altitude, pay attention to my adjustments to the baking soda and baking powder. Because the soda is the main leavening agent, if you use the full amount, it will rise too much and too fast and then crash under the weight of this insane atmospheric pressure and you’ll end up with a sad little well in the center of your cake (and if this happens, throw a scoop of ice-cream into the well and say you did it on purpose — tips from an expert).


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 good quality unsweetened cocoa powder (I usually use a nice Dutch process Belgian cocoa, but a natural cocoa is also delicious)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda (if you’re at high altitude, measure it and shake a bit out…so you are using a scant 1/2 tsp.)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder (again, if at high altitude, use a scant 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup milk (2% or whole)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • OPTIONAL: a cup of dark chocolate chips to fold into batter, a small handful of cocoa nibs, a little sea salt (about 1/2 tsp), or roasted nuts to scatter over the batter in the pan just before baking, powdered sugar or just cocoa powder for dusting after baking and just before serving, or a powdered sugar and citrus glaze to drizzle, or your favorite buttercream or cream cheese frosting.


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and lightly dust a (9″ x 1.5″ OR 8″x 8″x 2″) cake pan with cocoa powder.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine well. Add milk, olive oil, and vanilla. Beat with whisk attachment on medium-low speed until just combined, then beat on high for 2 minutes. Add the egg, and beat on high for another 2 minutes. If you want to add dark chocolate chips or chunks, fold those in now. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. If you want to scatter good things on top of your batter, do that now.
  3. Bake for about 30-35 minutes until a wooden toothpick comes out clean (I start checking it around 25 minutes). Cool cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan by inverting onto rack, then invert onto your hand, and slide it right side up onto the rack (this avoids those mean rack lines on the top of your cake). Cool thoroughly on the rack.
  4. To serve, dust with a bit of powdered sugar (I put mine in a sieve and shake it over the top) or do the same with cocoa powder. Or if it pleases you, go big and drizzle with a nice glaze or frost away (and layer if you have more than one). Enjoy!


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2 Responses to Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

  1. Cake as health food? If you insist. I love this idea of a not overly sweet or rich chocolate cake. Death by Chocolate? Would rather have this one.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Yes, Sally! As much as I say I love dessert and chocolate, I’m often struggling with the sweetness or richness of it all. Probably my absolute favorite way to finish this cake is with a little unsweetened cocoa powder. Then hand me a glass of milk!

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