Lemon olive oil cake is a simple, elegant cake that’s incredibly moist with a delicious lemon flavor. It’s perfect for dessert, afternoon tea or brunch and stays moist and tender for days.
This lemon olive oil cake is the type of back pocket recipe that you can make whenever. It has a beautiful lemon flavor without being too sweet or too rich, and the cake crumb is extremely tender without being too heavy or dense. It’s quick and easy to make with simple, everyday ingredients. Best of all, it stays moist on your counter for days – so I’ll often slice myself a piece for breakfast days after making this recipe.
Baking with Olive Oil
I typically bake with butter, but olive oil is a staple in many classic Italian desserts. The flavor of the oil works well with desserts that aren’t overly sweet and keeps cakes and pastries moist for much longer than butter. Don’t think of it as a substitute for butter though, since the oil can provide flavor to the dessert. It pairs particularly well with citrus and almond. But don’t worry, your cake won’t taste like salad dressing. As well, commercially prepared butter is about 20% water. Therefore, it is not a simple 1 to 1 substitution between butter and olive oil.
My Favorite Lemon Olive Oil Cake Recipe
I’ve tried many olive oil cake recipes – some with ground almonds, some with Grand Marnier – but this is my favorite. It’s embarrassingly easy to make and the lemon flavor really shines on its own. You can serve it with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or whipped cream and berries. I’ve even experimented topping it with cream cheese frosting, but the cake is so delicious that I think the simplest version is best. It’s very moist without being heavy or dense.
The recipe starts with beating together your eggs, sugar and lemon zest. This step is key the ensure the cake rises nicely and stays light in texture. You’ll need to whip the eggs and sugar for about 5 minutes, or until they’re white in color and about triple the volume you started with. Then you’ll drizzle in the olive oil and lemon juice with the mixer on low speed. You’ll gently mix in the dry ingredients a little at a time, alternating with the milk – and in no time, your cake batter is done. It’s not an overly thick batter, which is expected.
Important Baking Tips
- Make sure to use a 9-inch pan with high sides – at least 2 inches (about 5 cm). I typically use a springform pan because it has high sides. If your springform tends to leak/doesn’t have that tight of seal, then wrap the outside in aluminum foil.
- If you only have pans with short sides (such as sandwich tins, where the sides are only about 1 – 1.5 inches) – bake in two 8-inch round pans for about 30 minutes at 350F, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Choose a high-quality olive oil, but you don’t need to go overboard here. One of the higher quality brands from your local grocery store is just fine.
- I recommend using an olive oil that isn’t too strong in flavor – especially if this is the first time you’re making this recipe. Some people do prefer using extra-virgin olive oil with a more robust flavor, but that’s a bit of personal preference.
- Use freshly squeezed lemon juice, not something from a bottle. You’ll need 2-3 lemons in total for this recipe. Always zest your lemons first, them squeeze the juice. This
Note – the batter will taste much more like olive oil than the cake after its baked.
Incredibly moist with a delicious lemon flavor – this olive oil cake is perfect for any occasion. And if you love lemon desserts, make sure to try these other favorites:
Lemon Olive Oil Cake
- 9-inch round cake pan with high sides (at least 2 inches)*
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest*
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil* I don't recommend choosing anything labeled "Robust" or "Strong" in flavor
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 cup whole milk
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.
- Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round (23 cm) cake pan. Ensure the cake has sides that are at least 2 inches (5 cm) high. I typically use a springform pan.*
- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a separate large bowl beat the eggs, sugar and lemon zest for about 5 minutes. It should look white in color and be about triple in volume when you're done.
- With the mixer on low speed beat in the oil, vanilla extract and lemon juice.
- Mix in about ½ of the flour mixture, followed by about ½ of the milk. Repeat the process until everything is mixed in.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake in the preheated oven on the middle rack for 45-50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Gently trace around the edges of the cake with a thin, sharp knife. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes. If using a regular cake tin, gently invert the pan and let the cake cool on a wire rack. If using a springform pan, unclamp the outer ring of the pan.
- When the cake is fully cooled, optionally sift ½ teaspoon of powdered sugar on top of the cake and/or top with whipped cream and berries.
- Make sure your pan has high sides - at least 2 inches (5 cm). I typically use a springform pan. If your pan does not have high sides (such as many sandwich tins) bake the cake in 2 sandwich tins for about 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- You'll need 2-3 lemons in total to get 2 tablespoons of lemon zest and ¼ cup lemon juice. Always zest your lemons first, then squeeze the juice. Do not use lemon juice from a bottle, as it can be too bitter.
- I found most people preferred the flavor of this cake using a light flavored olive oil. The cake batter will taste far more of olive oil than the baked cake. I do not recommend using anything labeled robust or strong.
- Store cake in an airtight container at room temperature for 4-5 days, or in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- Nutrition information is an estimate only and based on 1 piece of cake, assuming the cake is sliced into 12 equal pieces.