Fresh, delicate and simple, this lemon olive oil cake is full of citrus flavor and subtle floral notes. It’s a quick and easy dessert that is modest, yet elegant. Plus, you can serve it any time of the day!

lemon olive oil cake with a few slices cut out and one on its side.


 

Some of my favorite desserts are those that are simple, yet flavorful. I’ve recently been loving this lemon olive oil cake. I usually already have the ingredients in my kitchen so it’s quick to whip up last minute. The tender texture is complemented by a zesty flavor that isn’t too sweet!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Simple, yet flavorful. This cake is citrus forward with the aroma of olive oil. For such an easy recipe, this cake has an unforgettable taste.
  • Perfect for any time of day. Whether it’s with a hot cup of coffee in the morning or as dessert with friends, you’ll find plenty of reasons to eat this cake!
  • Super moist. The olive oil helps the cake remain moist for days, which means it’s perfect for baking ahead of time.
  • Easy-to-find ingredients. Most likely you already have them in your kitchen!

Ingredient Notes

bowls of ingredients to make lemon olive oil cake.
  • Lemon: Use freshly squeezed lemon juice and zest for the best flavor. I do not recommend bottled lemon juice.
  • Olive oil: Choose a good-quality extra virgin olive oil. The better quality you choose, the more tasty the cake will be! Cheap varieties will create an unpleasant and harsh taste.
  • Milk: For a moist texture, I suggest using full-fat milk. In a pinch, low-fat can be substituted.
  • Baking powder and baking soda: These leavening agents help the cake rise. Check that they are fresh and not expired.

Refer to the recipe card for ingredient details and measurements.

Recipe Variations

Try orange instead of lemon. This easy citrus swap makes for an equally delicious cake! Use orange zest and fresh orange juice for this variations.

Add some mix-ins. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped nuts to the batter. I suggest almonds, but any nut will do! Dried fruit is also a good option (I suggest about 1/2 cup).

Top it with icing. Whisk together 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2-3 tablespoons milk or cream. After the cake has cooled, poor the icing over the top and garnish with lemon zest.

Brush the cake with limoncello. This lemon liquor will add an extra layer of citrus flavor to every bite! Brush it on top of the cake while it’s still warm. You can also use Grand Marnier for a hint of orange.

How to Make Lemon Olive Oil Cake

photo collage demonstrating how to make lemon olive oil cake in a mixing bowl.
  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients–flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  2. Combine sugar and lemon zest. Rub the zest into the sugar to increase the citrus flavor.
  3. Add eggs and beat until well combined. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the olive oil.
  4. Add half the dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix just until combined.
photo collage demonstrating how to make lemon olive oil cake in a mixing bowl and springform pan.
  1. Then mix in the milk and lemon juice. Finish by mixing in the remaining dry ingredients. Do not over-mix.
  2. Transfer batter to a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 F for 50 to 55 minutes. Cool completely and dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Expert Tips

Choose good quality ingredients for the best flavor. Use fresh lemon and extra virgin olive oil (the best you are able to buy). I personally love Partanna. My sister turned me on to it. I reserve it for recipes where I really want to savor the flavor, such as focaccia bread.

Taste the olive oil before using it in the recipe. If it tastes good on its own, then you will love it in the cake! A good way to gauge the oil is if you’d use it in a salad dressing or for dipping artisan bread in, then it will work well in a cake.

Weigh your ingredients with a kitchen scale. It’s much more accurate than using measuring cups. If you don’t have a scale, spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level with a knife (don’t pack it down).

slice of lemon olive oil cake dusted with confectioners' sugar and garnished with a lemon slice.

Make Ahead and Storage Tips

Store covered at room temperature for up to 5 days. Make sure the cake is completely cooled first so not to trap any moisture.

Freeze for up to 3 months. Wrap the cooled cake in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Store in the freezer and defrost in the refrigerator before bringing to room temperature. Add a fresh dusting of confectioners’ sugar for presentation.

Make ahead the cake and serve it the next day. The extra day lets the flavors mingle together and yield a better taste. This cake also stays extra moist thanks to the olive oil!

Recipe FAQ

What does olive oil do to a cake?

It adds healthy fats and moisture while keeping the texture light and tender. The floral notes create a unique taste.

Can I use a different pan?

This recipe also works in a 9×5-inch loaf pan (similar baking time) or two 6-inch round cake pans (bake 25 to 35 minutes). I have not tried a cupcake tin, but I imagine it would work too!

Does this recipe work in a regular 9-inch round cake pan?

No, there is too much batter and it will likely overflow while in the oven. It’s highly recommended that you use a springform pan.

What to serve with lemon olive oil cake

A slice pairs well with a dollop of whipped cream, fresh fruit or a scoop of ice cream. Personally I like it with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and a cup of hot tea or coffee.

slice of lemon olive oil cake with a bite taken off the end.

Did you love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below and if you REALLY loved it, consider leaving a comment further down the page.

lemon olive oil cake with a few slices cut out and one on its side.

Get the Recipe: Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Fresh, delicate and simple, lemon olive oil cake is full of citrus flavor and subtle floral notes. It's quick and easy to make from scratch!
5 (12 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ¼ cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, strained
  • 1 cup (240 ml) good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 1 ¼ cups (295 ml) whole milk, room temperature
  • Powdered sugar for dusting on top

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350℉. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil, dust with flour and set aside.
  • Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a mixing bowl and hand mixer), add sugar and lemon zest. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar (this increases the citrus flavor).
  • Add eggs and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Mix until combined, about 1 more minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  • Add half the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Mix in the milk and lemon juice, then remaining flour mixture. Do not overmix.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350℉ for 50 to 55 minutes.
  • Cool cake in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to release the sides. Cool completely, dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Notes

Olive oil: Use a good-quality extra virgin olive oil. If you like the taste of it on its own, then you will like the taste of the cake!
Fresh lemon juice is best. I do not recommend bottled lemon juice since it doesn’t have nearly as much flavor.
Store covered at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Freeze cake after it has cooled completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before bringing to room temperature.
Serving: 1slice, Calories: 364kcal, Carbohydrates: 43g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 14g, Trans Fat: 0.004g, Cholesterol: 44mg, Sodium: 266mg, Potassium: 108mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 26g, Vitamin A: 102IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 54mg, Iron: 1mg

Adapted from NYT Cooking.

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