A Cake for Cooks: Yogurt + Olive Oil Blood Orange Cake

While many of you are snuggled up while the snow falls, the orchards of Florida and California are abuzz with the winter citrus harvest. When I lived in DC, I thought of citrus as my reward for suffering through winter and this was my justification for bi- weekly splurges on jewel-like citrus treats flown in from the lands of sunshine.

I began my hunt for Meyer lemons, blood and cara cara oranges, clementines, white grapefruit, and pomelos starting around the second week of December and would even venture out to the far reaches of Silver Spring to visit my favorite Korean supermarket in search of satsumas.

I yelped and turned around looking for someone to high five when I found blood oranges being sold by the bag in the Columbia Heights Giant three or four years ago. Although many of us use citrus year round without a second thought as to its season or availability, winter is peak citrus season and the best time to find ‘specialty’ citrus. 

Blood oranges are my personal favorite. They can look like regular oranges–hiding deep red, purple, or pink fruit beneath skin that only sometimes gives away its contents with blush spots. They brighten salads, mix beautifully with gin, and transform simple batters into elegant cakes.

Now that I live in San Diego, I am faced with an onslaught of citrus every time I go to the grocery store or farmer’s market. What more—it’s generally affordable! My beloved Mexican grocery store had blood oranges at 98 cents for two pounds last week!! No longer do I delicately hold each fruit in my hand feeling its weight to pick only a few dense, juicy fruit.  Now I buy 5 and 10 pound bags. I am a woman who has lost almost all self-control. I bring bowls of oranges and tangerines into work each week and beg my colleagues to help me eat them – they indulge me then bring me the pomelos and sweet limes they grow in their backyards! It’s a dream come true, but this bounty is due to expire any week now as the weather heats up and we say goodbye to cool, foggy mornings. Even in this citrus paradise, good things do not last forever.

I’ve made a blood orange cake for my birthday for the past six years and made a dozen more for dinner parties and brunches in that time. I’ve used Melissa Clark’s loaf cake recipe, riffed on Smitten Kitchen’s adapted formula, and branched out to try Saveur’s take with butter. In all of this experimentation, I found that my favorite cakes have more oranges, twice the recommended amount of vanilla extract, olive oil in place of butter, and Greek yogurt, so that’s what you’ll find in this recipe.

This is an unfussy cake. I think of it as a cake for cooks – it is elegant in its simplicity and you can riff on it and adapt it to the ingredients you have on hand. 

I make my husband a multi-tier birthday cake filled with butter every January and this uses up my will to bake fancy things. I make this cake for my birthday in February because it requires very little planning, creates few dirty dishes, and leaves me with little to no dessert-induced guilt. It also tastes great and pairs well with coffee at breakfast or tea in the afternoon. It’s better the second day and it peaks on day three. 

This is an unfussy cake. I think of it as a cake for cooks – it is elegant in its simplicity and you can riff on it and adapt it to the ingredients you have on hand. Enjoy!

Yogurt + Olive Oil Blood Orange Cake


  • 4 blood oranges
  • 1 1/2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan lightly with baking spray, butter, or oil. Some recipes suggest that you line the pan with parchment, but I don’t bother.

  2. To supreme your oranges, cut off the bottoms and tops of the fruit so that it so that they can stand upright on a cutting board. Cut away their peels and piths by cutting along the curve of fruit. Cut the orange segments out of their membranes. Repeat with two of your other oranges. Break up the orange segments with your fingers as you cut them up and let them fall into a separate bowl. Don’t stress too much about cutting away all of the membrane that holds the segments together—just get what you can.

  3. Halve your remaining orange and squeeze juice from one half into a measuring cup. You will have about 1/8 cup or so of juice.

  4. Whisk together the juice, yogurt, olive oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

  5. Add dry ingredients and whisk until there are no lumps.

  6. Fold in orange segments but do not over mix.

  7. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool for at least 10 minutes before removing it from the pan.