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).
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.
Then use a zester to grate the lemon and orange rind.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and 2/3 cup of the sugar until pale yellow.
Add the milk, olive oil, melted butter, lemon zest, orange zest and vanilla.
Beat until well combined.
Then mix in the dry ingredients.
Using a rubber spatula, stir in 1-1/2 cups of the grapes.
Transfer the batter the the prepared pan.
Then top with the remaining 1/2 cup grapes and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Bake for about 50 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden and a tester comes out clean.
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.
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.
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.
My Recipe Videos
Harvest Grape & Olive Oil Cake
- 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
- 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.)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cake can be frozen for up to 3 months. After it is completely cooled, wrap it securely in aluminum foil, freezer wrap or place a freezer bag. Thaw overnight on the countertop before serving.