Lemon Olive Oil Cake — My new FAVORITE lemon dessert of all time!! Lemon zest, juice, extract, and Limoncello add so much AMAZING lemon flavor to this EASY, ridiculously moist no-mixer cake that’s unique and INCREDIBLE!!
Easiest Lemon Olive Oil Cake
This easy, one-bowl, no-mixer cake is a my new favorite lemon dessert. That’s a huge statement because this Copycat Starbucks Lemon Loaf with hundreds of glowing reviews is very hard to beat.
After blogging for over ten years and making hundreds of cakes, this was only my second time baking with olive oil. The first was this Olive Oil Orange Cake, and after making that one, I knew I had to make a lemon version.
The olive oil lemon cake itself if not overly sweet, which I appreciated since it’s rich from the olive oil.
This is an excellent cake for holiday parties and events. It is a talking piece kind of cake rather than just another chocolate cake that we’ve all had a zillion times. Unique and different in the best possible way.
It would be the perfect cake to serve after a fancier dinner party with equally rich or luxurious food. I liken the cake to cakes served in fancy restaurants. They are never sugar bombs – even the chocolate ones. They are more refined and tend to have unique flavor pairings that you don’t encounter often.
Why Bother Baking with Olive Oil?
If you’ve never tried baking with olive oil, you’re missing out! I have always preferred oil in cake rather than butter.
Oil is 100% fat whereas butter is about 80% fat. That extra 20% of fat simply keeps oil-based cakes softer and moister than butter cakes. You can’t argue with science.
Olive oil cakes are supremely soft, tender, and exceedingly moist without being too heavy or dense.
You can literally almost see the moistness oozing from the cake, but it doesn’t taste greasy and it stays moist for days. The cake is just as good a week later as it is on the first day which never happens with cakes, and it’s even more moist.
What I tasted more than anything was the lovely lemon flavor without being too tart or overpowering. The cake has lemon incorporated four ways: lemon zest, lemon juice, Limoncello liqueur, and lemon extract.
Lemon Olive Oil Cake Ingredients
To make this supremely moist limoncello cake, you’ll need:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Whole milk
- Lemon juice and zest
- Lemon extract
- Granulated sugar
- All-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- Baking powder and baking soda
- Confectioners’ sugar
How to Make Lemon Olive Oil Cake
This lemon cake recipe with olive oil is incredibly easy to make! Here’s a look at how it comes together:
- Simply whisk together the wet ingredients, then add in the dry.
- Turn the batter into a greased and parchment-lined 9-inch springform pan.
- Bake the limoncello cake until golden brown and domed in the center.
- The cake needs to cool for 1 hour in the pan, then you can release it and let it finish cooling on a wire rack.
- Dust with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.
Can You Taste The Olive Oil?
Personally wouldn’t have known it was specifically olive oil based on taste alone. Olive oil has quite a distinct flavor in comparison to canola or vegetable oil, and I went into the cake thinking I’d be able to taste the olive oil specifically and prominently but it wasn’t like that. Very subtly, yes, but not distinctly.
What Kind of Olive Oil Should I Use?
I used Trader Joe’s Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil and while I’m sure the flavor of the cake will change depending on the exact brand and type of oil used, I recommend a quality extra-virgin olive oil here. Something you’d dip bread in, cook chicken in, or use in a homemade salad dressing.
Do I Have To Use Alcohol?
You only use 1/4 cup in the entire cake, which doesn’t sound like much but it’s also something I wouldn’t skip. It adds a luxurious flavor that’s so elegant tasting.
If you don’t drink alcohol for whatever the reason, I cannot say how the cake will taste or turn out if you, for example, just use 1/4 cup water in its place or use an extra 1/4 cup lemon juice <— that worries me more because of the extra acidity in the lemon juice coupled with the baking soda/powder and I’m not sure what will happen.
My thoughts are that during baking, the potency of the actual alcohol bakes off and what you’re left with is simply the flavor. Again, it’s only 1/4 cup divided between a cake that will easily feed 12 so each person is maybe getting 1/2 teaspoon. Cough syrup has more.
Do I Have to Use a Springform Pan?
Yes! Do NOT make this cake in a regular 9-inch cake pan. Most are only about 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep and this cake rises to about 2 1/2 to 3 inches on the sides and nearly 4 inches in the center. It will overflow in a regular 9-inch pan.
Tips for Making Lemon Olive Oil Cake
Limoncello substitute: I realize you may not want to buy a bottle of Limoncello just for this recipe, and you can substitute an orange-flavored liqueur like Gran Marnier.
Bake time: This limoncello cake bakes in a fairly cool oven for a long duration, low and slow. Start checking your cake at 60 minutes, but due to oven and climate variances it could take as long as 75 minutes or so to bake; watch you cake and not the clock.
Topping the cake: I dusted the cake with confectioners’ sugar rather than making a glaze or frosting and it was perfect. You could make a glaze with confectioners’ sugar and Limoncello and I may try that next time, but simply dusting the cake with confectioners’ sugar was fast, easy, and tasted just right.
Pin This Recipe
- 1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup Limoncello (Gran Marnier may be substituted)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon extract
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
- Preheat oven to 325F, add a circle of parchment paper to the base of a 9-inch springform pan, and spray the parchment paper and the sides of the pan very well with cooking spray; set aside. Do not make this cake in a regular 9-inch cake pan. Most are only about 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep and this cake rises to about 2 1/2 to 3 inches on the sides and nearly 4 inches in the center. It will overflow in a regular 9-inch pan.
- To a large bowl, add the olive oil, eggs, and whisk well to emulsify and incorporate.
- Add the milk, lemon zest, lemon juice (I was able to get sufficient zest and juice from one very large ripe lemon), Limoncello, lemon extract, and whisk to incorporate.
- Add the sugar and whisk to incorporate.
- Add the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and whisk until just incorporated; don’t overmix. The batter in on the thin side; this is normal.
- Turn batter out into prepared pan, place pan on a baking sheet as insurance against a leaky springform pan, and bake for about 68 to 75 minutes. Start checking after 60 minutes since all ovens vary. Cake will be golden browned and domed in the center when done, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
- Allow cake to cool in the springform pan for about 1 hour before releasing it and allowing the cake to finish cooling on a wire rack.
- Dust with confectioners’ sugar prior to serving. Cake will keep airtight at room temp for 1 week and although I haven't tried it, I think this cake would freeze very well for up to 3 months.
Adapted from Olive Oil Orange Cake
1. This cake bakes in a fairly cool oven for a long duration, low and slow. Start checking your cake at 60 minutes but due to oven and climate variances, it could take as long as 75 minutes or so to bake; watch you cake and not the clock.
2. Don’t be alarmed if a small circular patch on the top of the cake appears to be burning somewhat early on in the baking process, or at any time while baking. Ultimately it doesn’t darken much more. This may or may not happen to you (it happened to me to a lesser degree with this lemon cake and was more pronounced with the Olive Oil Orange Cake (probably because there is more natural sugar in that cake) and possibly this is just what happens in my oven, but I am pointing it out as nothing to worry about.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 420Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 368mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 0gSugar: 43gProtein: 3g
More Lemon Desserts:
The Best Lemon Loaf (Better-Than-Starbucks Copycat) – Took years but I finally recreated it!! Easy, no mixer, no cake mix, dangerously good, and SPOT ON!!
Lemon Lemonies – Like brownies, but made with lemon and white chocolate! Dense, chewy, not cakey and packed with big, bold lemon flavor!
Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Lemon Glaze – An easy little cake with big lemon flavor! Soft, fluffy, and foolproof if you like puckering up!
Lemon Coconut White Chocolate Gooey Bars — If you like traditional lemon bars, you’ll LOVE this EASY recipe for soft, chewy, and oh-so-gooey lemon bars!! Loaded with white chocolate and coconut!!
Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting – Soft, fluffy, moist, very lemony cupcakes from scratch! Easy one-bowl, no-mixer recipe for cupcakes that taste like they’re from a bakery!
The Best Lemon Bars – Truly the best lemon bars I’ve ever had!
Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies – Packed with big, bold lemon flavor for all you lemon lovers! They’re soft, chewy and not at all cakey!
Softbatch Glazed Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies – Big, bold lemon flavor packed into super soft cookies thanks to the cream cheese!! Tangy-sweet perfection! Lemon lovers are going to adore these easy cookies!!
Baked Lemon Donuts with Lemon Glaze – They taste like the Starbucks lemon loaf, but in donut (or mini muffin) form!! Easy, no mixer recipe with a tart-yet-sweet lemon glaze that’s PERFECT! Lemon lovers will adore them!!
Originally published December 27, 2019 and republished February 18, 2022 with updated text.