Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

Kim Boyce's Rosemary Olive Oil cake is incredibly moist, golden-crumbed, flecked with rosemary, and dotted throughout with big and small chocolate chunks.

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

This is one of my favorite cakes of the past ten years. It's a rustic, incredibly moist, golden-crumbed olive oil cake. Flecked with rosemary, and dotted throughout with big and small chocolate chunks you're looking at a perfect picnic treat. It's one of those cakes that is both distinctive and memorable in an understated way and a breeze to make. We have Kim Boyce to thank for the recipe, and you might remember it from when I originally posted it here after Kim released Good to the Grain in 2010.
Olive Oil Cake Recipe

What Makes this Olive Oil Cake Special?

The rosemary is the wild card factor here. And it's so good. It heats up in the oven as the cake is baking and  permeates the cake in a subtle but steady way, not at all overpowering. The other thing I love about this cake is that it is such a breeze to make. You're looking at ten minutes tops to get it in the oven. This is perfect when you're trying to pull things together for a road trip, or picnic, or flight.


Why are Olive Oil Cakes so Good?

There are a number of reasons people love cakes made with olive oil in place of butter. You tend to get a nice, even crumb with olive oil cakes. But, in my opinion, you really see the difference a day or two after baking. Olive oil cakes tend to stay beautifully moist. Olive oil is fattier than butter with no water factor. There's a theory that the percentage of water in butter interacts with the flour in a cake batter to form more gluten strands. This results in a more structured and less tender cake. Olive oil cakes are also great for people who forget to plan ahead. With butter cakes you're often waiting for the butter to come up to room temperature. Not necessary when you're baking with olive oil.
Olive Oil Cake Recipe

Tweaks and Variations

I've made a few tweaks to Kim's recipe over the years, and you can see them integrated into the recipe below. Most are stylistic more than anything. I converted the recipe into weights for the scale-based bakers. I also decided I wanted more chocolate visible on top, and a bit of a sugary top crust. What about pan size? I wanted to bake it in a vintage baton cake pan I found in Portland a few years ago (my $1 pan!), and aside from a slightly longer baking time, it was no problem. Feel free to experiment with different pans or muffin tins, but adjust your baking pans accordingly.
Olive Oil Cake Recipe

This  one of those perfect picnic, travel, or lunchbox cakes. I can't believe it has been over a decade since I originally highlighted it here, but I love that it is still part of my repertoire. Xo Kim & congrats on the much deserved James Beard Award! xx -h

More Cake Recipes

If you're needing more chocolate in your life, try this chocolate pudding, or for a real chocolate jolt, make these chocolate brownies.


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Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

4.79 from 14 votes

As Kim notes, you don't need to use a specialty olive oil for this cake. But if you have one with a lot of flavor, the cake will be that much better. This is one of those recipes where I think using regular sugar is the way to go. There was plenty going on with the interplay between the rosemary, chocolate, and olive oil - and I'm not sure adding less refined brown or Muscovado sugar helps this cake any. The last note I'll make is to suggest chopping up a chocolate bar for this. It's just not going to be the same if you use uniform chocolate chips. Aim for big chunks 1/2-inch in diameter, you'll end up with all sorts of shavings and littler pieces as you are chopping, and having that mix of flecks and the big chunks is pretty great.

  • Olive oil for the pan
Dry ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup / 3 oz / 80g spelt flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 cups / 7.5 oz / 210 g all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup / 4 oz / 115g sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Wet ingredients:
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup / 240 ml olive oil
  • 3/4 cup / 180 ml whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 5 ounces / 140 g bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons sugar for top crunch
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 175C. Rub a 9 1/2-inch (24 cm) fluted tart pan, or equivalent, with olive oil (and/or line with parchment paper).
  2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring any bits of grain or other ingredients left in the sifter back into the bowl. Set aside.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly. Add the olive oil, milk and rosemary and whisk again. Using a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry, gently mixing just until combined. Stir in 2/3 of the chocolate. Pour the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly and smoothing the top. Sprinkle with the remaining chocolate and run a fork along the length of the chocolate so that the batter envelops it just a bit. Sprinkle with the second sugar.
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is domed, golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. My cake, in the alternate pan, took closer to 50 minutes. Also, just when my cake was nearly finished baking, I decided I wanted a bit more color on top. I finished it under the broiler for a minute - which caramelized the sugar on top as well and gave it a bit of crunch. Don't walk away from the cake while it is under the broiler.
  5. The cake can be eaten warm or cool from the pan, or cooled, wrapped tightly in plastic, and kept for 2-3 days.


Serves 8 -12

Recipe adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce.

Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hr
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

Post Your Comment

Recipe Rating


I made half the batter with chocolate and half without. I am probably the only one saying this but it tasted better without. The delicate flavours of Rosemary and Olive oil in the mildly sweet cake is delicious. The chocolate tends to bulldoze over these flavours. Also, I used oat flour in place of Spelt since I don’t get that here. The texture is lovely.


    Hi Priya! Thanks for the comment. Curious about your use of oat flour. Did you use use the oat flour just in place of the spelt? Alongside the all-purpose. Or did you swap out all the flours for oat flour? Assuming the former! Love the swap idea.

    Heidi Swanson

Hi Heidi, I've been wanting to make this cake for ages! I LOVE olive oil cakes. I wanted to ask two things: 1. Can I swap coconut sugar for the sugar ? Second is whether I can swap yogurt (full fat) to the milk...THese are the items I have on hand... Thanks a whole bunch. Super excited about this recipe


    Hi Ayelet - I'd give it a try! I can't remember off-hand what temperature coconut sugar burns at, but I believe it is lower than sugar. So, if you know your oven runs hot, maybe dial it back a shade? Let us know how it goes if you try it. I love the flavor of coconut sugar, and it might be really nice in this cake.

    Heidi Swanson

I loved how it came out. Much better than I expected. I had to adjust the recipe by substituting the all-purpose flour with bread flour and pastry flour because I can not find it where I live (Japan) as well as half of the chocolate with cocoa powder. I also used only half of sugar because the cocoa powder was sweet, so was chocolate. I would maybe use less olive oil next time, but in total, it came out perfectly! I would make this again when guests visit us home. Thank you, Heidi , for this recipe.

K from Japan

    Thanks for the note K! So happy it worked out :)

    Heidi Swanson

The first time I made this for a new mom and her other 4 children. They loved it sooooooo much that 7 years later, the kids remembered the bread and asked for it again. It is such a distinct, delicately delicious way to make a bread/dessert. It is very good Thanks for sharing it again so many years later. I do have that elongated pullman pan. I'm hoping it works.


    Thanks Dale!

    Heidi Swanson

I made it for my husband 's birthday. It was great. Not too sweet and the rosemary-olive oil- dark chocolate combination was sublime!! Thank you for posting the recipe!


    Thanks Ana!

    Heidi Swanson

What a great recipe! Since I am gluten free I substituted 1 3/4 cups King Arthur GF flour and used 1/2 cup almond flour instead of the spelt. Also, to cut down on the glycemic index I used only 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar. The cake came out awesome. The flavors went together beautifully and the texture was just right. I did crisp up the top in the broiler...yum!


    Thanks Marie - and thanks for sharing your substitutions. I bet the coconut sugar was a nice swap! Also curious about the almond flour. I can imagine it being wonderful here.

    Heidi Swanson

This cake has been a family favorite since you first posted it in 2010! It was one of the first of your recipes that I tried, and I've taken it to lots of gatherings and made it many many times just for us. The aroma of this cake baking lures everyone out of their rooms. :)


My 2 year old loves this. Can you imagine a two year old saying “let’s make a wosemary oive oil chocowit cake for my birthday today” everyday for a month...It’s real good.


    So awesome. LOVE this.


I've been making this since the time of the original posting and it's a recipe I've reached for at different milestones in my life. It's nostalgic to think back to the first time I made this (in early 2010), and reflect on how my whole life has changed, but this recipe has been a constant. It's such a foolproof and delicious melange of rich, herbaceous and choco flavours and I will be making it for years. Thank you Heidi!!

HS: Thanks for the sweet note KC!


This was the perfect cake recipe to play with today, since we didn't have enough butter for a traditional sponge. We infused the olive oil with rosemary and lime peel, then swapped out the chocolate for feta cheese crumbles. Topped with a rosemary lime glaze, the cake was a sweet and savory surprise that everyone devoured!


Wow! Just made it this morning. (Been on my to-do list far too long.) So very good! Definitely a keeper! Thank you!


I've been cutting back on facebook and other highly interactive social media sites and simply reading food blogs and websites. I think I've gone through 5 years of your recipes and posts and I just love every single post. They are thoughtful and honest and fun. I made this cake over the weekend for a guest and we enjoyed it immensely! Thank you so much for offering so many easy, accessible, and veg friendly recipes on your site!


i've been reading your inspiring posts and trying your recipes i think for something like 10 years, though this is probably the first time i'm leaving a comment. i made this cake over the weekend, and took some in for my coworkers. it was devoured and i had a few requests for the recipe - obviously i directed them to this page! ;) i only managed to scrape a scant tablespoon off my poor rosemary seedling...i hope it survives the massacre! anyway, i am definitely going to put this recipe in my regular repertoire, and for next time i will make sure i have a larger plant on hand! :)

HS: Love hearing this Aradhana! :) If your seedling ends up flowering, you'll have to sprinkle some blossoms on top as well. xx!


I just want to thank you for all the great recipes over the years. I have been living in China for 10 years and I still remember when you posted this recipe back in 2010/11. I took a photo of your website and recipe and told myself that when I could get these ingredients in China I would make it. Since it was taking longer than I expected, I started asking friends visiting from Hong Kong to bring me fresh rosemary, good chocolate, and spelt flour. Your 1$ rosemary loaf pan I could never find here, but I did get a bundt pan that a friend gave me when they left China. I do have to say things are much easier now to find like fresh ingredients even organic ones. I make your version of the Rosemary olive oil cake, and your lemony banana cake, rest assured it is well received by the Chinese friends as well as my foreign friends here. Thank you for being you! Many blessings to you and your family.

HS: Thank you for the sweet note Jesse - this made my morning!

Jesse G

Made this yesterday even better today. Next time I'll try lavender. Thanks

Julie Fox

Hello Heidi, I just made this incredible cake and truly thank you for the recipe. Living on the North Coast, I am 30 miles from the nearest food market thus I was forced to make a few substitutions which proved amazingly successful. Instead of whole milk, I incorporated my homemade Greek-style full-fat yogurt and as i didn't have any Spelt flour in my larder, I employed what I had on hand, that being predominately rice flour with a small quantity of hi-protein white and whole wheat flours. I used Trader Joe's 85% bittersweet chocolate (again what I had in store) and increased the amount of finely chopped fresh rosemary one and a half times. The result, a totally enjoyable and beyond, EXCELLENT CAKE!!! My only problem is that I can't stop slicing triangles of this delightful and delicious construct...which I am sure is not a low-calorie concoction. Oh well, who cares, I'll try fasting tomorrow?! BTW, I was born in the Santa Cruz Mtns but spent my childhood and youth in Saratoga. First, we lived on Bucknall Lane ( which I'm sure you know, crossed Quito Road) where I attended El Quito Park School and then Moreland Junior High before moving to Saratoga proper, which was truly a step in the right direction. I had the most wonderful childhood that you might imagine. Currently, I have been a professional chef for many years as well as a jewelry maker, goldsmith and most recently, an architect. Diversity is my strong suit! :-O) I LOVE your website and am a loyal follower. The new and improved series of recipes is totally inspirational and SOooo well designed and done. Thank you for that. FYI, I currently live in Mendocino which has been a relief and refuge from the chaos and craziness of the Bay Area that I once inhabited and loved immensely. I lived in The City several times during the Sixties and Seventies, absolute paradise, but I can no longer tolerate the traffic, turmoil and blatant insurgence of occupation by Google and other Silicon Valley entities. Perhaps it's cuz I am now 72 years young but no longer intrigued or entranced by the inevitable expansion and direction that evolution has unleashed. Very sad from my perspective. Anyway, I have resisted boring you with my story but somehow, that is no longer acceptable and I apologize for this oratory. It's just that I feel a soul connection and you bring memories flooding back which makes me smile and very thankful. Best, and keep it coming, Pteryl

Pteryl Dactyl

Wow, this looks incredible. I would never have thought of rosemary and chocolate, but it sounds so good :) Will definitely be trying this over the weekend. Have a friend coming over for lunch and I think she'd love this. Thanks!!


I made this cake last night. I brought it to work two hours ago, and my coworkers have already devoured it. It was a big hit, and something that I will make again soon! Thanks.


I made this over the weekend as our contribution to a Sunday dinner hosted by friends. Turned out absolutely perfect - just the right amount of sweet. I was really surprised how well the rosemary played with the chocolate and that it didn't over power the cake. I am now a complete convert to the hand chopped chocolate chunks (or as my wife likes to say "chocolate chips, from SCRATCH!").

Jill Shearer

Heidi, I have made this cake a number of times over the years - it quickly became one of my favorites. I probably add a bit more chocolate to it, because, well, chocolate. But the rosemary is my favorite part - from the way it smells when you're chopping it, to the delicacy it takes on once baked. OMG, now I have to go make this again! Thank you!


My husband was over the moon with this cake and said it has a grown up flavor. I think that is an accurate description. Not too sweet with a lovely savory flavor with the rosemary. Very satisfying.


This cake is perfection! Made it last night and it's almost all gone, and will make it again this weekend for guests. Used unsweetened almond milk instead of whole. Thank you!!!


I've baked this cake using the exact recipe. Except I've baked in on a bundt pan (12 cup). I've baked it for 32mins and it seems to look okay. Can wait to taste it. Thanks for the lovely fuss-free recipe : )


Looks great! I have a recipe for an olive oil cake using red grapes and also serving with grape compote that is so good, will try this too.


Thank you so much for reminding us of this great recipe! I've made it several times but it had dropped off my radar. Can't wait to revisit it with your tweaks!


Could you substitute a gluten free flour in this recipe? Thanks

HS: Hi Ruthie - I haven't personally tried a GF flour here, but if you try, please let me know!


This is mine too! I have made it countless times. I use a combo of 1 3/4 cup whole-spelt and 1/2 almond flour and add in the zest an orange too. Divine rustic cake and always a hit each time I make it. xx

Aria Alpert Adjani

Hey Heidi! So, Lisa’s birthday is Saturday (it's a big one!) and I’m charge of the cake. I want to make this cake, but her daughter, Natalie has been diagnosed with Alopecia and avoids wheat, dairy and soy. Could I use a non-wheat flour (chickpea or almond?) and could I use coconut or Almond milk?

HS: Lori! Big hugs to Lisa for me. I haven't tried a 100% non-wheat/GF flour swap here, but others have had success with the coconut milk swap....wish I could give you a definitive solution here. xx!

Lori Narlock

What is the length of the vintage baton pan that you used?

HS: Hi Heather - it was 4 1/2 x 13 inches - have fun!


The smell of the cake wafting from the oven converted my skeptical husband last night. Now, we are both eagerly awaiting a potluck this afternoon to try it.


Love the combination of olive oil and rosemary. But to me, the chocolate was too much. Next time i would use much less chocolate, or leave it out altogether. Maybe substitute it with lemon zest instead...


I made this cake yesterday. It turned out wonderful! It definitely is best the next day after tightly wrapped. I substituted whole milk for low fat with no problem. Be sure to use the sugar on the top - it really adds something to the cake. I used extra virgin olive oil. Great recipe!


This cake is perfection. Almost the best part is the look that comes over people's faces as they eat it (mentioned in several other posts). At first it is completely approachable with its sugar crunch and chocolate, but as they chew, they encounter the rosemary-olive oil flavor, and you can see the uncertainty, thoughtfulness, and then decision that it is all right, crossing their faces. And yet it is not at all in your face, it's a very gentle, approachable cake. A cake that makes you stop and think for a moment. A cake that broadens your mind as well as your belly. Thanks, Heidi!


I give a lot of your recipes to my mum for her to make (and me occasionally). This one was so delicious I feel compelled to write and thank you.. I'm thinking lavender in the place of the rosemary might be an interesting alteration. I'll report back on that one..


Just lovely. If you need to lower the oil, substitute 3/4 C of applesauce for 1/2C of the olive oil and whip the egg whites to soft peaks and blend in to lighten the texture. You can also use silken tofu instead of eggs and any nut or soy milk. Try this with lavender and lemon zest instead of rosemary and chocolate. Dried cherries (maybe soaked in marsala), thyme and almond extract would also be nice.


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