Chocolate Olive Oil Cupcakes.

Try as I might, this was the closest I could come to justifying chocolate to a friend who was on a diet. You can put fruit on it, you can serve it plain, you can even serve it on a bed of lettuce, but the bottom line is, if a recipe has the word ‘chocolate’ in the title, you are guaranteed that at least one person will raise their palm and say they cannot eat it in the name of a diet.

Let me be honest from the jump here as I don’t want my recipe introduction to mislead: THIS IS NOT A DIET CUPCAKE. What it is, is a beautifully light yet deeply layered flavoursome cupcake you can grab and go. This recipe was justified for two reasons: one, I really wanted to play with introducing olive oil into my recipes as a main ingredient and two, I wanted to hoodwink a friend into eating cake with me.

Olive oil is fantastic. So many people see olive oil as just a pan lubricant and this breaks my heart because it gives leeway for people to pick up the cheapest they can find or even worse – substitute it for a can of that God awful 1 calorie pan spray nonsense (is there any need? Really? Unless you’re using it to grease a bundt tin, the 1 calorie oil sprays are worthless.

Olive oil has this deep fruity taste to it that when applied in different capacities, can really stand alone on its own merit. I have used olive oil and some lemon zest and those two ingredients alone as a pasta dressing before now and have had no complaints. So long as the oil is good quality, it really can act as its own flavour.

So I wanted to introduce it to a ‘sweet’ recipe because the contrast of the savouriness against the sugar sponge of a pudding is exactly the kind of flavour layering I want in a recipe. Now adding olive oil to cakes is no ground breaking procedure, I am aware of this, but I’ve found a lot of oil based cakes to be too fluffy and dry so I’ve added buttermilk to the scheme to balance the textures.

Now here go my dieting friends. There is a very specific reason I chose these cupcakes as the basis of my oil experimenting. I work in Marketing and PR. It’s all about the spin. By telling my friends that the oil is introduced as a ‘butter substitute’, they immediately assume that the absence of butter makes this dessert a healthier one as the presence of oil is less intimidating than the presence of thick, buttery fat.

Titling is important. By putting the word chocolate before olive oil in the title, it creates the illusion that the olive oil is chocolate spiked as opposed to the muffin being laced with chocolate itself. And lastly, I opted for a cupcake instead of a full cake as if you think you are only eating a ‘cupcake’, you place yourself into the mindset of eating something small, almost insignificant and that it ‘doesn’t count because it’s small’. Someone who’s eating a cupcake wouldn’t align themselves to eating cake. So there you have it.

I also want to preface this recipe by saying that there is no immediate need to use an electric mixer for this recipe. You can just as easily combine the wet ingredients in a normal bowl and combine by hand but you do want to keep the motion going as you add the dry ingredients for airing purposes. Michelle Obama and Madonna would be fantastic at baking without an electric mixer what with their impressive upper arm construction. I am gifted in no such way, therefore an electric mixer does me fine.


Preheat the oven to 180C and line a metal 12 pan cupcake tray with paper cake liners. Start by preparing your buttermilk which is simply adding a tablespoon of cider vinegar to a cup of milk and allowing to stand while you continue with your cake mix.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, pour in half a cup of extra virgin olive oil followed by 200g of white sugar. Put this on a low speed until beginning to combine. In a jug, beat together 3 eggs and pour into the mixing bowl until a grainy batter begins to form. These are done separately so that the eggs have enough air put into them before putting into the batter. Pour in a teaspoon of vanilla extract and sprinkle in a little sea salt.

In a separate bowl, combine 250g of plain flour and 35g of good coco powder before adding 1 tablespoon of baking powder and a good pinch of sea salt. Stir these together with a fork until everything has combined to a dusty, light brown colour.

Using a spoon, gradually add the bowl of dry ingredients to the bowl of the electric mixer. Once a dark batter has begun to form, pour in the buttermilk that has been sitting to one side. This will bring the batter to a thick, clay like texture. Once all has combined, turn the mixer off and begin spooning the batter into your prepared muffin paper. This batter will be heavy so will not rise a great deal so you want to fill the paper to the half way mark. Slip in the oven and bake for roughly 20 minutes or until a muffin feels springy to the touch.

Place on a wire rack to cool for roughly 15 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing to sit on the cooler rack alone for a further 15 minutes.


I like to stand my cupcakes proudly on a cake stand and dust with some icing sugar but they look beautifully cracked and chocolatey untouched and pure. Beautifully damp yet still holding that soft crumble you want from a cake body. I have had them on my kitchen table top for a maximum of 2 hours in the company of friends before they have all disappeared.

And not a single person complained about a diet.

I’m the Max Clifford of cakes.



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