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Harvest Grape & Olive Oil Cake

4.5 stars based on 6 votes

Studded with juicy red grapes with hints of vanilla and citrus, this is a simple and lovely Italian-style cake — perfect for  breakfast, brunch or tea but also delicious topped with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream for dessert. It’s called a “harvest cake” because it’s traditionally made during the grape harvest season to use up the small grapes not going for pressing. More practically, it’s a great way to use up any grapes that are less than perfect (e.g. soft or tough-skinned).

ingredients-1

You might be wondering, does the cake taste like olive oil? Not at all! It’s made with a combination of butter and olive oil, which makes it incredibly moist with just a little more character than your standard butter cake. It keeps well for days, and is the kind of cake you leave on the counter and watch disappear one sliver at a time. (Hint: If you like my French Apple Cake or Simple Summer Strawberry Cake, you’ll enjoy like this cake too.)

Begin by greasing and flouring a 9-inch springform pan. If you don’t have one, don’t worry about it; I’ve made this cake without any problem in a nonstick 9-inch cake pan — it comes right out.

prepping-springform-pan

Then use a zester to grate the lemon and orange rind.

orange-and-lemon-zest

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

whisking-dry-ingredients

In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and 2/3 cup of the sugar until pale yellow.

DSC_0022

Add the milk, olive oil, melted butter, lemon zest, orange zest and vanilla.

adding-olive-oil

Beat until well combined.

beating-wet-ingredients

Then mix in the dry ingredients.

beating-in-dry-ingredients

Using a rubber spatula, stir in 1-1/2 cups of the grapes.

stirring-in-grapes

Transfer the batter the the prepared pan.

batter-in-the-pan

Then top with the remaining 1/2 cup grapes and 1 tablespoon of sugar.

topping-with-grapes-and-sugar

Bake for about 50 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden and a tester comes out clean.

baked-cake-2

Let the cake cool on a rack for about 15 minutes, then slide a butter knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Unfasten the latch on the side of the pan and gently ease the side of the pan off of the cake. Let cool on a rack completely.

cooling-cake

Slide a wide metal spatula between the bottom of the cake and the pan, lift the cake off the base and transfer to a serving plate. Serve it as a breakfast, brunch or tea cake, or top it with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream for an elegant dessert.

slice-of-cake

Note: I’ve seen many versions of this cake — this one is most similar to the Winemaker’s Grape Cake in Patricia Wells’ Patricia Wells At Home in Provence.

Harvest Grape & Olive Oil Cake

Servings: 8-12
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off, plus more for flouring the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup milk (low fat is fine)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest, from one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, from one orange
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups seedless red grapes, divided

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 9-inch springform pan. Place about 2 tablespoons of flour in the pan. Turn and shake the pan so that the flour covers all greased surfaces. Turn the pan upside down over the sink and tap lightly with your hand to remove excess flour. (If you don't have a springform pan, it's fine to use a 9-inch nonstick cake pan. For extra insurance that the cake will release, butter the pan, then place a 9-inch round of parchment paper on the bottom, butter the paper, then flour the whole pan as directed above.)
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with 2/3 cup of the sugar until pale and slightly thickened, about a minute. Add the milk, olive oil, melted butter, lemon zest, orange zest and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in 1-1/2 cups of the grapes. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Scatter the remaining grapes evenly over the top of the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly over top. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the cake is lightly golden and a tester comes out clean. Cool the cake for about 15 minutes on a rack.
  4. Slide a butter knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Unfasten the latch on the side of the pan and gently ease the side of the pan off of the cake. Slide a wide metal spatula between the bottom of the cake and the pan, lift the cake off the base and transfer to a serving plate. (If you used a regular nonstick cake pan, simply invert the cake onto a plate and flip over.)

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    Worked out great! Moist, not too sweet. Made it in a foil 9 inch square pan- used coconut oil spray and flour, had absolutely no problem popping it out intact. So happy to have used a bunch of sour red grapes that I thought I would have to toss!!

    - Joyce on October 16, 2016 Reply
  • Jen, have been making a very similar cake for years except that mine has wine instead of milk. On Epicurious…Beaumes-De-Veniseake with Grapes

    - Carol on April 27, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This grape cake is really good. Everything I have made from this site is really good thank you for your recipes

    - Sharon on April 4, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Loved this Harvest Grape & Olive Oil Cake! Moist, tasty, healthy, classy, and sophisticated way to eat dessert. A light delight to the end of any meal. The big purple grapes present a colorful & whimsical visual unlike anything I’ve ever seen. My “steak & potatoes” spouse surprisingly loved and ate it!!

    My family, friends and I absolutely LOVE your recipes! but I don’t always have to tell you (too busy cooking, enjoying, & eating!)

    - Laurie on October 23, 2015 Reply
  • Hi, I have a LOT of green seeded grapes and I wanted to try this cake using them. Any reason why green grapes (cut in half, seeds removed) would not work as well, other than being less “pretty” in the final product?
    Thanks!

    - erin on October 15, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Erin, So sorry for the late reply. Green grapes should work fine.

      - Jenn on October 20, 2015 Reply
  • Hi Jen! The grapes I have are very large. As in mutant-like – LOL. Do you think cutting them in half would release too much extra liquid into the batter during baking? I rarely have to ask baking questions but, having no “baking with grapes” experience, I figured I’d take the safe route and ask. btw – made the fresh strawberry cake last night – YUM!

    - Vicky on September 10, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Vicky, That’s a good question…I think the cake will probably be okay — it just won’t look as pretty. Hope you enjoy it and so glad you liked the strawberry cake!

      - Jenn on September 10, 2015 Reply
      • 5 stars

        Hi Jenn! Just circling back to let you know that the halved grapes worked perfectly. I was careful to put the cut side down of the ones on top. The only thing I did differently was to add about 2T of sour cream to the batter. Thank you for a fabulous recipe!

        - Vicky on September 22, 2015 Reply
        • So glad, Vicky! Thanks for letting me know :)

          - Jenn on September 23, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Well Jen another home run!! We went out to dinner with friends and I wanted to invite them back to our home to end the special evening with a light treat. This cake was perfect. I did not have grapes on hand so I substituted the same measurement for frozen blueberries. It was beautiful, moist and the flavors just popped like little stars. Thanks again for your treasured recipes

    - Carol Marrazzo on March 24, 2015 Reply
  • 3 stars

    I couldn’t wait to try this recipe. I followed the recipe except I didn’t have orange zest and used grapefruit instead. The bread turned out pretty dry. I liked it but the rest of the family did not. I think by the title they were expecting more of a cake while I figured it was supposed to be more of a tea cake. This is the only thing that I have made from Jenn’s website that was not a home run.

    - Christina on March 19, 2015 Reply
  • Hi Jen – This recipe sounds like it would be wonderful with a cup of tea! Looking forward to trying it. Do you think I could freeze the cake?

    - Donna Bechold on November 1, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Donna, I do think you could freeze it. Hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on November 1, 2014 Reply
  • Are there other fruits that could sub for grapes, Jenn? Thanks!

    - Marlene on October 2, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Marlene, I think plums would also work very well. For berries or apples, I would use the other cake recipes on the site (see the links in the second paragraph above). Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on October 2, 2014 Reply
  • HELLO ~
    DO YOU THINK THAT I COULD SUBSTITUTE ALMOND MILK FOR THE LOW FAT MILK USED IN THIS RECIPE? I CANNOT WAIT TO TRY THIS ~ IT LOOKS DELISH!

    - DANA on October 2, 2014 Reply
    • i’m sure almond milk would work fine!

      - Bill on October 2, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Dana, Yes, I agree, almond milk would work well. Please come back and let me know how it turns out.

      - Jenn on October 2, 2014 Reply
  • If you didn’t add the grapes would you reduce baking time? I’m looking for a plain, dense cake for a quick breakfast or with tea later in the day.
    Thank you

    - Jane on October 2, 2014 Reply
    • yes, just keep an eye on the cake!

      - Bill on October 2, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Jane, There are a lot of grapes in this cake, so if you omit them I’m afraid the batter will not adequately fill the pan. You could try it in an 8-inch cake pan and reduce the cooking time. I’d start checking after about 30 minutes. Just keep in mind that the cake won’t be quite as moist without the grapes — they release some of their juices as they cook. Hope it works out :)

      - Jenn on October 2, 2014 Reply

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