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Can I use olive oil instead of vegetable oil in cake mix?

Using olive oil instead of vegetable oil in cake mix is a common substitution that many bakers make. While you can use olive oil in place of vegetable oil, there are some important considerations when making this swap.

Quick Answer

Yes, you can use olive oil instead of vegetable oil in cake mixes. The olive oil will provide a similar texture and moisture to traditional vegetable oil. However, olive oil has a stronger flavor that may come through in the final cake. If using a mild olive oil and doctoring up the cake mix with ingredients like cocoa powder or spices, the olive oil flavor likely won’t be detectable.

Olive Oil vs. Vegetable Oil in Baking

Vegetable oil is flavorless and has a high smoke point, which makes it well-suited for baking. Olive oil imparts a fruity, grassy flavor and has a lower smoke point. However, using a mild olive oil can minimize the olive flavor. And since cakes are baked at moderate temperatures, the lower smoke point of olive oil isn’t a big concern.

One difference is that olive oil is 100% fat, while vegetable oil blends contain some unsaturated fat. This may affect texture slightly, but not drastically. The main factor is that olive oil’s flavor profile stands out more compared to neutral vegetable oil.

Tips for Using Olive Oil in Cake Mix

Here are some tips for successfully using olive oil in boxed cake mixes:

  • Use a mild, light olive oil. Extra virgin and virgin olive oils have the strongest flavor.
  • Opt for a cake mix with lots of other flavors like chocolate or spice mixes. This helps mask any olive oil flavor.
  • Replace only a portion of the vegetable oil with olive oil to dilute the flavor.
  • Add a couple tablespoons of water along with the olive oil to maintain moisture.
  • Underbake slightly. Olive oil cakes can dry out faster than vegetable oil cakes.

How Much Olive Oil to Use

Most cake mixes call for 1/3 cup vegetable oil. You can substitute olive oil directly using a 1:1 ratio. However, a better approach is to use a combo such as:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil + 1/4 cup vegetable oil

This dilutes the olive oil flavor but still provides needed fat and moisture.

Best Types of Cake Mixes for Olive Oil

Some cake mixes work better with olive oil than others. The best options include:

  • Chocolate cake mix – cocoa masks any olive oil taste
  • Carrot cake mix – spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger pair well
  • Banana cake mix – banana flavor dominates
  • Red velvet cake mix – cocoa and vinegar flavors are very strong
  • Funfetti cake mix – sprinkles and vanilla extract help cover olive oil flavor

Cake mixes that are less ideal for olive oil include white, yellow, and angel food. With these light cakes, olive oil flavor is more likely to come through.

Olive Oil Cake Mix Recipe

Here is a recipe for a homemade olive oil chocolate cake mix that really allows the olive oil to shine:

Ingredient Amount
All-purpose flour 2 1/4 cups
Cocoa powder 3/4 cup
Sugar 2 cups
Baking soda 1 1/2 teaspoons
Baking powder 1 1/2 teaspoons
Salt 1 teaspoon
Extra virgin olive oil 1/2 cup
Milk 1 1/4 cups
Eggs 2
Vanilla 1 teaspoon

To make the cake: Whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients until just blended. Pour into a greased cake pan and bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar or top with chocolate frosting.

The Benefits of Olive Oil in Cake

Using olive oil in cakes offers a few advantages:

  • Olive oil gives a dense, moist crumb.
  • It makes cakes extra soft and tender.
  • Olive oil provides healthy monounsaturated fats.
  • The flavor pairs nicely with citrus, spice, and chocolate.

So while vegetable oil may be more traditional, olive oil can be an intriguing alternative in certain cakes. Just adjust recipes and mixes accordingly to balance out the olive oil’s distinctive taste.

Common Questions

Can I substitute olive oil 1:1 for vegetable oil?

It’s best to use a partial substitution, replacing just half or a quarter of the vegetable oil called for with olive oil. This prevents the olive flavor from becoming too pronounced.

Does olive oil make cake mix moist?

Yes, olive oil keeps cakes very moist thanks to its high fat content. Be sure to also substitute in a bit of water when swapping out some vegetable oil for olive oil.

Does olive oil work well in white cake?

White and yellow cakes are more delicate, so olive oil flavor may come through more. Stick to just 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil substituted for vegetable oil.

Can you use extra virgin olive oil in cake mixes?

Extra virgin olive oil has a very distinctive taste, so it’s recommended to use a light or mild olive oil. But if using cocoa, spices, or strongly flavored cake mixes, a small amount of extra virgin olive oil can work.


Olive oil can be substituted in part or whole for vegetable oil in cake mixes. For best results, use a mild olive oil, combine it with some vegetable oil, and opt for strongly flavored cake mixes like chocolate or carrot cake. With the right adjustments, olive oil can add moisture and richness to box cake mixes and frostings.