Ode to Nigella: Chocolate Olive Oil Cake


I have always admired Nigella Lawson & followed her cooking show fiercely. I was single & living in a tiny Bachelor apartment midtown when I first caught wind of her prowess. I would look forward to coming home from work and tune into a long string of cooking shows, hers was my absolute favorite. It was the highlight of a very long day. I particularly enjoyed the part right before the closing credits where she always reaches for a late night fridge snack. That was me, too. I found her real, honest & relatable. I also find no one does chocolate quite like her, not even close. This gluten free chocolate olive oil cake underwent a simple modification to cut out white sugar… I added pure, raw maple syrup from the East Lynn Farmers Market. The result was delectable: moist, fudgy & with a subtle hint of maple. I have pledged to cut out sugar as I’m well aware how closely linked sugar & chronic inflammation are. I love desserts & continue to enjoy them, albeit “healthyfied” (does that word even exist?) It should. I was delighted when I read the recipe called for olive oil as opposed to canola oil or vegetable oil (which I’ve also given up).

If you live on the east end of Toronto, there’s a quaint old-school Italian grocery store I had the pleasure to come across. It’s called “Vincenzo’s” and they have olive oil on tap from the southern part of Italy, the town of Puglia. Olive oil never tasted better. I will always & forever go to Mary & her mother and get that beautiful olive oil on tap. How different food tastes when it doesn’t come in a package! It’s walking distance to my house and the kids love visiting them, too.

But back to this rich, chocolatey mound of goodness we call cake. I loved it warm, cold out of the fridge (a la Nigella), with coconut ice cream, with fresh raspberries, & with sliced almonds (as shown in the pictures). It’s perfection. Thank you, Nigella, for coming up with the perfect measurements- always.

Makes 1 Cake

  • cup regular olive oil (plus more for greasing)
  • 6 tablespoons good-quality unsweetened cocoa (sifted) * I used raw cacao
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons best vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups almond meal (almond flour)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 cup superfine sugar * I used 1 cup pure maple syrup, you could also try brown cane sugar 
  • 3 large eggs


  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 22 or 23 cm/ 9inch springform tin with a little oil and line the base with baking parchment.
  2. Measure and sift the unsweetened cacao  into a bowl or jug and whisk in the boiling water until you have a smooth, chocolatey, still runny (but only just) paste. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then set aside to cool a little.
  3. In another smallish bowl, combine the almond meal with the baking soda and pinch of salt.
  4. Put the maple syrup (or sugar), olive oil and eggs into the bowl of a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment (or other bowl and whisk arrangement of your choice) and beat together vigorously for about 3 minutes until you have a pale-primrose, aerated and thickened cream.
  5. Turn the speed down a little and pour in the cacao mixture, beating as you go, and when all is scraped in you can slowly tip in the ground almond (or flour) mixture.
  6. Scrape down, and stir a little with a spatula, then pour this dark, liquid batter into the prepared tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the sides are set and the very centre, on top, still looks slightly damp. A cake tester should come up mainly clean but with a few sticky chocolate crumbs clinging to it.
  7. Let it cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, still in its tin, and then ease the sides of the cake with a small metal spatula and spring it out of the tin. Leave to cool completely or eat while still warm with some ice cream, as a pudding.