Olive Oil Cornmeal Cake

"Made with a dash each of vanilla, honey, and buttermilk, this cornmeal and flour batter produces a lightly sweet, moist but crumbly cake. Traditionally in Italy, cakes like this were often baked with lard and studded with cut grapes, raisins, or pine nuts. Once out of the oven, this version is brushed with more olive oil and topped with rosemary—also traditional—releasing an herbaceous, fruity perfume."
-- @stacy_adimando

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Reprinted from Piatti by Stacy Adimando with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019.

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  • Recipe Card
Prep time 15mins
Cook time 25mins
Serves or Makes: 8-10

Recipe Card

For the Cake


  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

For the Garnish


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary, fresh, or crumbled chive flowers or fresh thyme
  • Flaked sea salt
  • Black pepper, freshly ground


  • Step 1

    Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  • Step 2

    Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, add the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk briefly to combine.

  • Step 3

    In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Pour the butter into a large heat-proof bowl and let cool slightly. Add 4 tablespoons olive oil, the sugar and honey. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla until incorporated. Whisk in the milk and buttermilk until incorporated. Gradually add the cornmeal mixture, stirring the batter with a spatula until mostly smooth.

  • Step 4

    Set a 9-inch cake pan in the oven with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil in it. Once the butter melts, remove the pan and tilt it until the bottom and a little of the sides are coated with the fats.

  • Step 5

    Stir the cornmeal batter well and pour it into the hot pan. Spread to fill evenly. Bake until golden brown in places and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes.

  • Step 6

    Garnish the cake: Brush with the olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary, lots of flaky sea salt and a little pepper. Let cool slightly. Cut into wedges or squares and serve hot or warm for best results. (It’s also perfectly good at room temperature.) Once cooled, store in an airtight container or wrapped tightly with plastic wrap for up to 4 days.