Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake (GFCF)

Next to yogurt cakes, I’m a big fan of any cakes that use olive oil and show it with pride right in the recipe name. Despite the kind of citrus used in this recipe, the cake actually has more of a lemony flavour than grapefruit, as my brother described it; he was my first taster and loves this cake.

The original recipe, which I found on Smitten Kitchen, uses the grapefruit segments in the cake. I used a small amount of the grapefruit segments, cut up, into some of the batter and baked a test batch in a little cupcake liner. While I loved the extra fruit in the cake it left a bitter aftertaste that I wasn’t fond of, which I did not get when I ate the grapefruit raw. I’ve read about citrus becoming bitter after baking, even with copious amounts of sugar, but had never experienced it in my own baking until then. Oh well, it did look pretty.

One particular aspect about olive oil cakes that does inevitably rear its head at some point is the quality of the olive oil used if it is supposed to be prominent in the cake or doesn’t really contribute flavour or anything else except allure. Good olive oil does not have to be expensive; the extra virgin olive oil I used in this cake is the same olive oil I use for cooking and, depending on the brand bought and where, it ranges from five to seven bucks (Canadian). It has a strong, prominent flavour and a lovely aroma but it isn’t fancy. It has good character, as olive oil tasters would say.

That being said, do use good olive oil for this cake because I think it contributes to the cake’s flavour and it blends beautifully with the citrus.

This cake is also, accidentally, gum-free (by which I mean xanthum or guar). I forgot completely about it, only realizing after the cake had already been in the oven for a good while. As you can see, the cake worked out and I was very thankful for that.

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark via Smitten Kitchen

If you choose to bake this cake or the orange variation (below, following instructions) in a loaf pan instead of a square cake pan, you may want to bake it for an extra 10 minutes.

2 grapefruits
3.5 ounces honey (just shy of 1/2 cup)
About 1/2 cup So Delicious Original Coconut Milk Beverage (or other non-dairy milk of your choice)
3 medium or large eggs
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
56 grams (about 1/2 cup) millet flour
56 grams (about 1/2 cup) brown rice flour
27 grams (about 1/4 cup) coconut flour, sifted
27 grams (about 1/4 cup) cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Zest the grapefruits (I used a microplane) and stir the zest into the honey, letting steep to infuse the honey. [In retrospect, I think this kind of muted the citrus flavour. If you want it to come through more, add the zest to the batter last.]

Juice a quarter of one of the zested grapefruits to yield 1/4 cup of juice. Mix the juice with the coconut milk (it may separate and look a bit flakey; that’s fine) and add to the grapefruit zest-infused honey, mixing with a fork. Mix in eggs and olive oil.

Blend the flours, baking powder and soda and salt together in a separate bowl.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, gradually stirring in – still with the fork – until there aren’t any lumps left and the batter has thickened. It will be velvety smooth.

Pour batter into a 9-inch square pan lined with parchment paper, spreading evenly, and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the pan a full degree at 20 minutes to ensure even baking. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

Serve plain or with leftover grapefruit segments if desired, or make a compote with the grapefruit. Enjoy!

Working with other citrus fruit – I made an orange version of this cake, using three oranges and replaced the amount of millet flour with an equal amount of brown rice flour since I was out of millet flour. I zested the oranges and added it to the batter. I also separated the eggs and whipped the whites separately, folding them into the batter after adding the orange zest and gently folded in the orange segments, cut in 1/4-inch pieces, last. The crumb is slightly denser and fluffier, without any bitter aftertaste from the orange pieces.

19 thoughts on “Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake (GFCF)

  1. Hey Zoe!–I agree with Iris … those photos are awesome. I love that golden color one gets when mixing eggs with olive oil or butter, and in this case grapefruit juice. 🙂 I’m not a huge fan of grapefruit (without the copious amounts of sugar–haha!), so I like that this cake has a lemon vibe. 😉

    As you know I love baking with olive oil. 🙂 It’s really the key ingredient in several gfe recipes! I think it’s awesome for gf/df baking and pairs really well with coconut milk. There are folks who say you have to limit olive oil’s uses, but Mark Sisson did a great post on his blog the other day debunking most of the negativity re: olive oil. (You can read it here if you are interested:


    1. Hi Shirley, thank you! The only trick with this whole grapefruit cake with the lemon vibe, as you so aptly put it, is getting lemon lovers to eat it if they know what citrus fruit was used. My sister loves lemons but doesn’t like grapefruit, so she refused to try at all, haha.

      I had no idea about this apparently bad rap olive oil’s been getting. Certainly interesting and thanks for sharing that link! Myself, I usually have olive oil on salads and steamed veggies and notice a dramatic difference when I do, my hair is generally the first thing I notice; it’s a lot glossier and shinier when I have olive oil on a regular basis.

    1. Thank you for the invite to Sugar Free Sundays, Raj! 🙂 I made an orange version of this cake yesterday that included the orange segments and there was no bitterness, so perhaps it was just the grapefruit I used? Everyone loves it. There was no mention of a bitter aftertaste from Deb or any of the comments on Smitten Kitchen, or from Melissa Clark herself…

      For the orange cake I changed some of the directions slightly and I only used brown rice flour, coconut flour, and cornstarch since I have to get more millet flour. I’ve edited the post to include my slight variation in execution, following the recipe. 🙂

  2. Is there any way this could be made with stevia, either liquid or powder? My sister has to be gluten free and sugar free and I’m having a hard time finding recipes to bake for her. She is tempted to cheat and I’d love to help her since I’ve been gluten free for 2 years and love to bake.

    1. Hi Barb, I don’t know how the honey could be substituted with stevia (liquid or powder) since I have very little experience using stevia, however Iris of The Daily Dietribe could have a few pointers for you. She’s been using just stevia in her baking recently and substituting it for other sugars with success. She’s posted some recipes that use stevia and they’re gluten-free. Good luck!

      1. Hi Barb,

        I’ve been baking gluten-free for 2 years now, but I’m pretty new to stevia baking. However, if I were going to attempt this, I would replace the honey with 1-2 tsp. of liquid stevia. 2 would probably be better, but sometimes I use less to save money! To replace the moisture of the honey, I would then try adding another 1/4 cup of milk. Or perhaps even start with 1/8 cup and add another 1/8 cup if it seems like the batter needs it.

        Good luck, and let us all know if you try this!

        Iris (The Daily Dietribe)

  3. This looks so delicious! I am also drawn to any cake that proclaims its olive oil ingredient proudly. Interesting experiments with the grapefruit… I see a citrus olive oil cake in my future!


  4. Zoe, made this last night and it is so moist and delicious! Just a note here that 3.5 oz of honey is really not close to 1/2 cup. it only filled up my 1/2 cup measure cup about 3/4 of the way.
    thanks for sharing your recipes.

    1. Hi Anne, glad to hear and thank you for your feedback! Regarding the amount of honey, I think I had measured the honey with a glass liquid measuring cup; it sounds like you used a dry measuring cup? It sounds like it still worked out, though. I sometimes measure honey with a dry measuring cup, too, or just eyeball it.

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