Harvest Grape & Olive Oil Cake

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Studded with juicy red grapes with hints of vanilla and citrus, this is a simple and lovely Italian-style cake.

grape cake

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

Studded with juicy red grapes with hints of vanilla and citrus, this is a simple and lovely Italian-style 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.)
  5. 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.

See more recipes:

Reviews & Comments

  • Loved making this with my 2 year old daughter to use up some red grapes she didn’t want to eat. Really lovely. I think I might make it again in Summer when our plums are ready. It wasn’t as sickenly sweet as I expected, although I did reduce the sugar to be sure of that.

    • — Danielle Wilson on July 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • So good thank you very much for adding this lovely recipe. It reminds me of an old french recipe for rhubarb cake which is very similar in its density but doesn’t have the citrus zest in. Thank you again, happy cooking everyone.

    • — Fiona Swain on May 16, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen
    Hope you and your family are doing good under the current world situation. I wanted to thank you for posting such lovely and reliable recipes on your website.
    I was looking for a nice olive oil cake recipe (using no butter). The ones I hace tried are either too dense or too dry. Are there any recipes you could recommend?
    Thanks in advance!
    Regards
    Vanita

    • — Vanita on April 23, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes and they’re bringing you some semblance of comfort right now. 🙂
      You could make this cake with all oil – I think it will still be delicious!

      • — Jenn on April 23, 2020
      • Reply
      • Thank you for your response!! Do you think I can omit the whole fruit (ie grapes) altogether and make it like a lemon olive oil cake? Or use orange zest and extract and make it like a orange olive oil cake?? I’m not a fan of grapes.
        Thanks again in advance
        Vanita

        • — Vanita on April 24, 2020
        • Reply
        • Sure, Vanita, I think either of those alternatives would work. 🙂

          • — Jenn on April 26, 2020
          • Reply
          • Made this cake once really liked it. Can I make this gluten free and get the same results?

            • — Carol Rieck on June 14, 2020
          • So glad you liked it, Carol! I haven’t made this with gluten-free flour (and no readers have commented yet that they have), but I think it should work. A lot of gluten-free bakers have mentioned that they have good luck wf with King Arthur’s gluten-free flour.

            • — Jenn on June 15, 2020
  • I’m so happy with this cake! Thank you for so many great recipes!

    • — A.Lo on April 5, 2019
    • Reply
  • Jenn, could you please help me with metric measure in weight?

    • Hi Janice, I just added them to the recipe. Hope you enjoy the cake!

  • I saw this recipe on a HuffPost round-up of “breakfast cakes.” I didn’t have enough grapes so I used cherries and I didn’t have any oranges for zest. The cake was tasty. The family loved it. Oh and I also used gluten free flour because we have a family member with celiac. The substitution was fine.

  • 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!!

  • 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

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

  • 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!)

  • 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!

    • Hi Erin, So sorry for the late reply. Green grapes should work fine.

  • 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!

    • 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!

      • 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!

        • So glad, Vicky! Thanks for letting me know 🙂

    • A light and fluffy sponge cake, with a great way to use up LOTS of grapes!

      I didn’t have any baking powder, so used self raising flour (same amount as of plain) and it came out really well!

      Also sliced the grapes I half and put a little flour on them to stop them sinking.

      Excited I can freeze it. Would definitely make again 🙂

      • — Ellie on March 3, 2020
      • Reply
  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • Hi Donna, I do think you could freeze it. Hope you enjoy!

  • Are there other fruits that could sub for grapes, Jenn? Thanks!

    • 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!

  • 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!

    • i’m sure almond milk would work fine!

    • Hi Dana, Yes, I agree, almond milk would work well. Please come back and let me know how it turns out.

  • 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

    • yes, just keep an eye on the cake!

    • 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 🙂

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