Episode 5: Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Tuscan Producer, Lorenzo Caponetti

July 26, 2013

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake: a sensational and simple treat that celebrates the centuries-old liquid gift that comes from olive trees. Olive oil is a good fat – it’s actually a fruit juice – and produces remarkable flavors when combined with other lovingly produced ingredients. I’ve been caught sipping the stuff straight from the bottle, and Mamma always made sure it graced our dinner table.

This is a perfect cake to serve for breakfast, tea or dessert – dusted with confectioner’s sugar and topped with a smattering of toasted nuts. I had the pleasure of devouring a slice with my dear friend (who shared this recipe with me), Elizabeth, and renowned Tuscan olive oil producer Lorenzo Caponetti during his visit to Ithaca. Elizabeth spent several weeks harvesting olives on Lorenzo’s farm in Italy; though hard work, the setting sounds like a dream ripe with fresh fruits of the earth and an unprecedented zest for life. Lorenzo is bursting with passion, not just for the artisanal ways in which he crafts his olive oil, but for his and his wife’s commitment to “clean” farming practices. Caponetti Farm produces exquisite, fresh flavors while stewarding a serene piece of land. Every can of olive oil, every fresh fruit and vegetable, is tenderly wrapped within a story.

Olive oil is a fantastic fat! It is rich in polyphenols, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Polyphenols also act as antioxidants, reducing oxidation and cell damage, which leads to many degenerative diseases, and can even reduce microbial activity and infections.

In fact, other than coconut oil, olive oil is the only other vegetable oil good for cooking with heat. The general principle for cooking with olive oil while preserving its nutrient-rich properties and flavors is “slow and low (heat).” Contrary to popular opinion, “cheap” cooking oils that surfaced in the 20th century as a result of crop surpluses like corn, such as corn, canola, sunflower and grapeseed, react negatively with our bodies when heated for cooking. For omnivores, lard and butter are far better alternatives than modern cooking oils, and good substitutes for olive oil. When I met Nina Planck at the Just Food Conference 2013 last March, she had a lot of insight about “good fats” versus “bad fats.” For the more curious eaters, I’d recommend picking up a copy of her book Real Food: What to Eat and Why.

Although Lorenzo admitted it’s quite tough to find “real”, high quality olive oil in the U.S., he shared some essential tips for discovering good olive oil at your nearest market, storing it in the kitchen and cooking with it. Good olive oil will come with a premium price, but if there is one ingredient you budget for in your kitchen, this is it!

Emma Frisch Episode 5: Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Tuscan Producer, Lorenzo Caponetti Recipe

Tips for Buying, Storing, and Cooking with Olive Oil

Lorenzo calls buying olive oil in the U.S. a “blind date.” Olive oil is a product we know so little about in the U.S.

  • How to buy good olive oil in the U.S.
  • Should I buy filtered vs. unfiltered olive oil?
  • Why is olive oil so good for us?
  • Does “bitter olive oil” mean the oil has gone bad?
1. Lot Numbers. this represents a code that identifies each bottle as part of a larger batch. A lot number helps track the olive oil during processing and identify date and shelf life. According to an article on Chowhound, a lot number will usually appear in this format and represent the following information:
  • L00 000 A XXXX
  • B XXXX
  • C XXXX
  • Where: “L” means Lot.
  • “00” indicates the last two digits of the year
  • “000” indicates progressive day of the year (from 001 to 365).
  • “A” represents the first daily shift, “B” the second and “C” the third.
  • “XXXX” refers to an internal tracking number used to trace the product throughout the entire production process.
2. Production or Expiration Date. look for a date on the bottle. Olive oil has a shelf life of about 1 year from production. In the first annual quarter, you will want to use your olive oil raw – for dressings, dipping and garnishing. In the next quarter and moving into the third you can cook with olive oil, using it as a vehicle for transferring heat and creating delightful flavors. Towards the end of the third quarter and moving into the fourth, you will want to bake with your olive oil. When you run out, pray for the next harvest.
3. Country of Origin or Estate. look for a bottle that explicitly states where the olive oil originated. Estate olive oil suggests it came from a single farm and processing facility. A regional reference is also ok, but a country reference can be vague and imply that the olive oil was mixed from various locations throughout the country.

4. Storing. store olive oil in a dark, glass bottle in a cool place like a kitchen cupboard away from the stove. (I like to keep a smaller bottle on hand next to the stove for cooking).
Can you remember the most incredible olive oil you ever tasted? Tell us about the brand or the dish you had in the comments below!
Emma Frisch Episode 5: Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Tuscan Producer, Lorenzo Caponetti Ingredient

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Episode 5: Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Tuscan Producer, Lorenzo Caponetti

Serve with a mascarpone or fresh whipped cream, and seasonal fruit.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: One 9-inch cake 1x


  • 1 1/2 cups full-fat plain yogurt
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • a dash of freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup toasted, pistachios, chopped


  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch spring form cake pan lightly with butter or olive oil, and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, nutmeg, rosemary and lemon zest right into the liquids and whisk until no lumps remain.
  3. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, covering with another circle or parchment or foil at the end if the top is browning. When a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan.
  4. Pour a tablespoon of confectioners sugar into a fine mesh sieve, and tap the sieve to lightly decorate the surface of the cake with a dusting of powder. Sprinkle toasted nuts over the surface.
  5. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature. When well wrapped, this keeps very well for several days.


Here’s a list of good-quality, affordable olive oils:
California Olive Ranch
Filippo Berio

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