Dario’s Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Pine Nuts Recipe on Food52 (2024)


by: Food52



10 Ratings

  • Serves 10 to 12

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Author Notes

The brilliant butcher and my dear friend Dario Cecchini serves this at his restaurants in the town of Panzano, in Tuscany. After a seven-course fixed menu of meat dishes, Dario brings out this cake, cut into squares and stacked high on a plate. As he sets it down, he explains to guests that the reason he makes this cake after the animal-heavy feast is that it is the rare dessert that doesn’t contain any dairy products—so it’s a sort of nod to those who don’t like to mix meat with dairy.
The olive oil cake I’d been making for years is made with equal parts olive and milk, so I was intrigued when I learned that Dario’s cake doesn’t contain milk. Dario’s lovely wife, Kim Wicks, shared the recipe with me, and my pastry chefs worked to replicate the cake back in Los Angeles, which is always a challenge because of the difference in flours and leavenings used in Italy and here. After further experimentation by my friend Ruth Reichl, we determined what, deep down, I already knew: there is no substitute for Italian leavening. Alternatively, you can use equal parts baking powder and baking soda, and the cake will be delicious. But if you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating this cake in Dario’s restaurant, perched as it is over the mountainside in his little village south of Chianti, you might notice that Dario’s cake is ever-so-slightly airier.

As I said, I’ve made my own version of an olive oil cake for years, but where mine has a pretty straightforward, sponge cake–like texture, Dario’s contains a lot of “goodies,” including chopped oranges (including the peel), wine-soaked raisins, and pine nuts. But my favorite thing about Dario’s cake is that it’s so moist it lasts for days. Put it on a plate with a knife and leave it on the kitchen counter and I guarantee not a single individual will be able to walk by without taking a sliver.

You will need a 10-inch angel food cake pan to make this. Use a good extra-virgin olive oil, but not a drizzling quality oil, to make this ideally Italian.

Excerpted from Mozza at Home by Nancy Silverton with Carolynn Carreño Copyright © 2016 by Nancy Silverton with Carolynn Carreño. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • 1/2 cupplump raisins (preferably Flame raisins; about 5 ounces)
  • 1/4 cupplus 2 tablespoons vin santo (or another sweet dessert wine)
  • 1/3 cuppine nuts, preferably Sicilian
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 navel oranges, halved through the stems (unpeeled), seeds removed and discarded
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoonsItalian leavening 
(such as Benchmate or Paneangeli; or 1 teaspoon baking soda plus
 1 teaspoon baking powder)
  • 3/4 cupplus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cupplus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cupspastry flour
(or unbleached all-purpose flour)
  • Rosemary tufts pulled from 2 long fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1/4 cupconfectioners’ sugar for dusting
  1. Bring the raisins and vin santo to a simmer in a very small saucepan over high heat. Turn off the heat and set aside for the raisins to absorb the wine for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
  2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325°F.
  3. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are fragrant and golden brown, shaking the baking sheet and rotating it from front to back halfway through the cooking time so the nuts brown evenly. Remove the pine nuts from the oven and set them aside to cool to room temperature.
  4. Increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Spray a 10-inch angel food pan generously with nonstick cooking spray and dust it lightly with flour.
  5. Leaving the peels attached, lay the orange halves flat side down and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices. Chop the slices into ¼-inch-thick cubes.
  6. Put the eggs, Italian leavening, and ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on medium-high speed until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Gradually add the olive oil by pouring it down the side of the bowl in a slow, steady stream and mix until the batter is emulsified. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add one-third of the flour and mix until it is no longer visible. Add one-third of the raisins and mix just to incorporate them. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat two more times, mixing in one-third of the flour at a time, then one-third of the raisins at a time, and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions, until all of the flour and all of the raisins have been incorporated.
  7. Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl from the stand. Add the chopped oranges and use a rubber spatula to gently fold them into the batter. Set the batter aside to rest for 10 minutes. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and scatter the pine nuts over the top. Sprinkle the cake with the remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar and stick the tufts of rosemary into the batter, distributing them over the surface of the cake in an attractive way.
  8. Bake the cake for 10 minutes. Rotate the cake and lower the oven temperature to 325°F. Bake the cake for another 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, rotating the cake once during the baking time so it browns evenly. Remove the cake from the oven and set it aside to cool to room temperature.
  9. To serve, run a knife or offset spatula around the inside of the pan to release the cake from the pan and put a large plate over the top of the pan. Swiftly flip the cake and the plate to invert the cake onto the plate. Invert the cake again onto a large serving plate or cake stand. Pour the confectioners’ sugar into a fine-mesh strainer and tap the strainer over the cake to dust the cake lightly with the sugar. Serve the cake with a cake spatula or knife for guests to cut the size serving they want and serve themselves.


  • Cake
  • Pine Nut
  • Raisin
  • Rosemary
  • Olive Oil
  • Bake

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nadia Hassani

  • Cheryl Jean

  • PRST

  • Markella Balasis Vavaka

  • Sharyn Guthrie

Popular on Food52

26 Reviews

BWatt November 18, 2023

Am intrigued with this recipe and will try-
Would be so great if ingredients were in gms, even liquids and oranges! Confusion around leavener and how much b soda/powder to replace. Thank you

Karen October 20, 2023

May I ask this, when you say Italian leavening are you speaking of Italian yeast e.g.,
Paneangeli Lievito Pane Degli Angeli Yeast? Thank you for giving me clarity about this.

Nadia H. June 24, 2023

This is a fabulous cake and definitely a keeper but I think there are a few kinks in the instructions. The weight of the raisins is off, 1/2 cup = 2.5 oz. Also, the recipe for 2 cakes in the LA Times has it as 1 tablespoon baking soda and scant tablespoon baking powder, I used half of that amount and the cake rose perfectly. And I agree with other comments, I did not want to use the (organic) oranges with the bitter white pith so I zested them and removed pith and seeds, them chopped the flesh and mixed everything together. One substitution I made was walnuts for pine nuts.

AnnaS June 24, 2023

I made this last week for my husband to bring to work for his colleagues. I snuck out a small piece to taste and was in love! I am now making a second one for the family. It reminds of the cakes and pastries that were served with afternoon coffee at my Great Grandmother's house when I was a child. They were usually light on sugar and rich with fruits and nuts. She came to the US at 17, from Italy and her cooking style never "Americanized". Thank you for transporting me back!

JT February 24, 2019

I wanted to love this cake but didn’t. The oranges were the biggest factor - they threw off the cake’s texture and dominated its flavor - I think it would have been better with zest. I would not make this again (though it was beautiful).

Jo January 13, 2019

This was delicious - but I would have loved more pine nuts and rosemary through the cake rather than just on top, I’m going to try it again with some extra mixed through the batter

copywolf February 10, 2018

Needed to bake a cake with what I had on hand and this more or less fit the bill though I had to trade out the raisins for currants and the oranges for mandarins. Just incredibly delicious, moist, great crumb, depth of flavor and not too sweet. A sophisticated and adult dessert or coffee/tea accompaniment.

Cheryl J. January 12, 2017

I was surprised that the cake didn't seem to rise much. The finished cake is only a few inches high. Is this the way it's supposed to be?

Kimberly S. January 14, 2017

Nope - you did something wrong. Buy the Italian yeast - it makes all the difference

Cheryl J. January 17, 2017

Thanks Kimberly. I used the Italian leavening, a 10" tube pan, and followed the instructions as provided. I'll give it another try. It's too tasty not to!

Betsy S. November 25, 2016

This recipe is so precise except about the oranges. I wish it said chop oranges until you have 1 cup or whatever. The thickness of the peel can vary considerably and the amount of pith. Large oranges have more flesh. I've made this cake twice, love it but I obsess about the oranges.

PRST November 3, 2016

What everyone is missing by substituting baking powder and baking soda for the Italian leavening agent is the vanilla flavor so prominent in those agents.
I haven't seen this mentioned or maybe I missed it. I think that's why there is no real substitute. Maybe adding a little vanilla to the recipe would help.

Also, an easier way to invert a cake from an angel food pan is to take a piece of stiff cardboard, cut a hole in the center the size of the angel food pan tube and use that, instead of a plate, to invert the cake out of the tube pan. Then you can easily put a plate over the bottom of the cake to re- invert.

Sharyn G. November 29, 2016

For 1 packet of Lievito Pane degli Angeli, use 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. - See more at: http://thetuscangun.com/blog/lievito-pane-degli-angeli/#sthash.3SM8HpXD.dpuf

PRST December 17, 2016

Thanks for the link! Much better substitute than what's listed above because it has vanilla however It is easy to buy the real deal these days .

Lauren F. November 18, 2023

Is one packet equivalent to the 2 tsp. in the recipe above? Sadly, the link doesn't work any longer. Was going to try this for Thanksgiving!

Charlotte October 23, 2016

The recipe calls for an angel food cake pan. Would a bunt cake pan work?

sarah October 25, 2016

for me, it did

Summer October 21, 2016

Sounds delicious. Are you suppose to cool the cake in the pan?

Richard K. October 12, 2016

A little worried about the unpeeled oranges. Any thoughts?

Markella B. October 14, 2016

I've made orange flavored cake with unpeeled oranges before, pureed in the food processor but using a different recipe and it was absolutely perfect. I was also worried that it might leave a bitter aftertaste, but it was not bitter at all, just a very fragrant and fresh orange flavor.

sarah October 16, 2016

I made it today, and it's delicious! I had no raisins, so I used the same amount of orange, also I did leave out the pine nuts. Worked beautifully.

fricky1 October 17, 2016

I only use organic oranges when the peel is included, as conventional oranges can carry a higher pesticide load under the assumption that they will not be consumed.

Nancy N. October 20, 2016

According to the directions you are supposed to put the batter in the pan first and then sprinkle the pine nuts and rosemary over the top. Do they work their way thru the batter as it cooks? Because otherwise if you follow the directions when you invert the cake onto a plate they would be on the bottom of the cake where you can't see them but the photo shows them on top.

Eldyne P. October 25, 2016

The recipe actually tells you to turn out onto a plate and then turn back up the right way onto a cake stand or serving plate. So that the nuts etc are on the top.

Markella B. October 11, 2016

I would definitely try this recipe. The flavors of orange, rosemary, pine nuts and olive oil sound wonderful. I would like to ask if opening the oven door after 10 minutes as indicated in the recipe will affect the correct rising of the cake. I have always known that you're not supposed to open the oven door until the cake rises and sets because it can deflate.

Danielle W. February 5, 2018

I think you are just opening the oven door long enough to rotate the cake pan. Hopefully, that would not negatively affect the cake.

Dario’s Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Pine Nuts  Recipe on Food52 (2024)
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