Lemon Olive Oil Cake

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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!!

lemon olive oil cake with slice missing

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.


lemon olive oil cake slice on white plate

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. 

slice of lemon olive oil cake on white plate with fork

Lemon Olive Oil Cake Ingredients 

To make this supremely moist limoncello cake, you’ll need: 

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Eggs
  • Whole milk
  • Lemon juice and zest 
  • Limoncello 
  • 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: 

  1. Simply whisk together the wet ingredients, then add in the dry.
  2. Turn the batter into a greased and parchment-lined 9-inch springform pan.
  3. Bake the limoncello cake until golden brown and domed in the center. 
  4. 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.
  5. Dust with confectioner’s sugar just before serving. 

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!!

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.

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!!

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.

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!!

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.

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Yield: 12

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

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!!

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!!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

    1. 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.
    2. To a large bowl, add the olive oil, eggs, and whisk well to emulsify and incorporate.
    3. 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.
    4. Add the sugar and whisk to incorporate.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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

Notes

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.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 420Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 368mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 0gSugar: 43gProtein: 3g

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Originally published December 27, 2019 and republished February 18, 2022 with updated text.

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Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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Please note: I have only made the recipe as written, and cannot give advice or predict what will happen if you change something. If you have a question regarding changing, altering, or making substitutions to the recipe, please check out the FAQ page for more info.

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Comments

  1. Excellent cake! I did not have lemon extract so replaced with 1 tsp almond. Very moist and very very good. Thank you for the recipe.

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and I’m glad it was excellent with the almond extract. That’s one of my fave extracts and I am sure it was lovely in the cake!

  2. Can you replace the lemon zest, juice and limoncello for orange juice, orange zest and Grand Marnier for an orange olive oul cake ?

  3. Hello! The top of the cake cracked. Remedy? I followed directions re: pan size, temp, etc. but am wondering if placing  a cookie sheet under the pan (1/4 sheet cake size

    1. It’s not uncommon for cakes to crack, especially this one. Look at mine – it has cracks on the top! That’s what a healthy dusting of powdered sugar or a light glaze or frosting are for and can remedy that easily.

  4. Excellent recipe.  Came out great!  Very lemony and moist.  Divided batter into two 8×8 square pans that I oiled and floured. Took 46 minutes in the oven.

    Rating: 5
  5. Little bit of a contradictory question, but can I substitute the limoncello for something else (lemon syrup, or maybe more lemon juice), and what could the measurements be?!

    1. Please read the section: Do I Have To Use Alcohol?

      As I have talked about the what if’s and Can I’s in that section.

  6. Best cake ever!! Very tasty and moist on top of being easy to make. Only change I made was to add a couple spoons of butter since I’ve always made cakes with butter, but not sure if it made much difference. Olive oil is very healthy so this is another plus. Would make this again!!

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad it’s the best cake ever for you! I personally love love this cake so much too!

    1. Regular 9 inch pans are much more shallow than a 9 inch springform. Your batter will overflow in a regular 9 inch pan is my guess unless you discard a significant portion.

  7. You are correct–this cake is AMAZING! For those of you who need to make substitutions due to food allergies, I made this cake using GF Jules gluten-free all-purpose flour and I used lite coconut milk in place of whole milk. You honestly wouldn’t know if was GFDF. It is absolutely delicious. My guests couldn’t get enough of it. It doesn’t need a thing to enhance it, but the addition of Trader Joe’s Coconut Whipped Topping was very tasty. Thank you! I hadn’t had a good olive oil cake in a long time. Now I can make it any time. It couldn’t be easier!

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad you found it to be amazing! Thanks for also sharing what you did to make it GFDF, too!

      1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this was delicious and easy for you! I personally LOVE this cake as well. It’s one of my faves on my whole site!

  8. I have made this cake a few times now for my family and as a dessert for new mom friends. Everyone who has tried it, has absolutely loved it. It is so bright and fresh and in my opinion, can be eaten year round! This last time I made it I couldn’t find limoncello at the store and was out of Cointreau, so I used St. Germain (elderflower liqueur) and it came out perfectly fine. I have never used the lemon extract when I make this cake, but instead just add more zest and I don’t think it tastes any different without the extract. I will continue to use this recipe whenever I am in the mood for a non-chocolate treat!

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this is a winner every time you’ve made it, including with the St. Germain. I can imagine that being just lovely! This is my favorite lemon dessert I have on my site!

  9. My family raved about this cake. I made it for Christmas Eve dinner. It was a huge hit! My family loves lemon desserts and no one has raved about any other lemon dessert, like they did about this cake. Some folks told me that it tasted like Starbucks Lemon Loaf – as I have never had the Lemon Loaf at Starbucks, I will have to take their word for it. I made the recipe according to the directions with limoncello, the 2 tsp of lemon extract, lemon juice and lemon zest. Tasted great and was worth the effort to zest the lemons.I am going to have to make this for my sister, who is gluten-free, since I saw a review stating that I can use KA 1:1 GF flour.

    Rating: 5
  10. I have made this cake a half dozen times this summer and it NEVER fails to impress. I have even made it gluten free, with KA one for one all purpose. I always use limoncello, lemon extract (2t), lemon juice and lemon zest. It cooks up perfectly and because of the olive oil, it stays moist for several days. I actually think it is best after it sits for a day or 2.  It’s perfect with a cup of coffee in the AM, tea in the PM, or for dessert!Thank you Averie for a GREAT recipe. 

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this cake never fails to impress! I feel the same way about it, and it’s my personal #1 favorite lemon dessert on my site, and really, in any restaurant or bakery in my life for me personally.

      I am glad you always use the limoncello, lemon extract (2t), lemon juice and lemon zest and that you’ve even made it GF with KAF 1:1. Great to hear!

      And yes, it gets better after a day or two. Totally agree!

  11. Wanting to make this diary free  – do you think almond milk and/or nut pods would work with this recipe? 

    Rating: 5
    1. I don’t know…I would use coconut milk (in a carton, not can or if in a can lite not regular fat as it would be too thick) and that could work as coconut milk in a carton and/or lite in a can is about the same texture/consistency/viscosity as whole milk.

      I would not use nut milk, too fibrous and just not the right flavor, texture, etc for this recipe. LMK what you try and if it works!

    1. Yes it will just bake faster because it’s thinner so keep an eye on it earlier than indicated.

  12. I have just made this recipe and it is great. I have a few questions that I hope you can answer. What level or rack in your oven did you bake it on?
    Also the bottom and sides did not brown up as well as the top. Do you think I should have baked it longer? Did you use the convection mode in your oven?
    Thanks again for a fabulous recipe.

    1. Middle rack (always for baking unless otherwise specified)

      Also the bottom and sides did not brown up as well as the top. Do you think I should have baked it longer? = yes if it was raw in the center or you like more well done outside/sides. If it was done but just not browned, that really is personal preference.

      Did you use the convection mode in your oven? = no for baking many times I don’t because not everyone has it

      1. Thank you ever so much for the quick reply.
        I gave your recipe a 5 star ratting. I have also tried the Orange Olive Oil Cake which was also great. Thanks again.

  13. Is there a substitute for sugar in the lemon olive oil cake?

    Or can the amount of sugar be decreased?

  14. Enjoyed the easy recipe and followed it almost as listed except reduced the sugar by a half cup, ( I used cane sugar and I would have reduced more.)Did not have lemon extract but increased freshly squeezed lemon juice up to 1/2cup and 1 TBSP of lemon zest. The cake was still very sweet even without the powdered sugar on top. Used organic ingredients and had the Limoncello on hand in the freezer that was gifted last Christmas. Baked in a 9x 13 non-stick pan and cake was cooked perfectly (rose up to about 3 inches and was done at exactly around 58 minutes). I don’t like to use so many eggs in a recipe so I did not like the strong smell of eggs while it was baking. (I am not sure that the cake needs this qty.)I turned off the oven at 60 minutes and let the cake cool in the oven, for 20 minutes. Cake was very moist and lightly dense, with a beautiful crumb and outer crust. Just sorely disappointed that it had absolutely no noticeable lemon flavor that I was looking forward to unfortunately. I did not like the smell of the eggy batter baking. I will try this again without eggs and use aquafaba or another egg substitute, figure out another way to bring the lemon flavor more prominently. I would reduce the sugar to about 3/4 cup in a modification. This was an easy cake to make but not citrusy enough. Adding a handful of frozen blueberries dusted in flour in this might go quite well. Thank you for sharing your easy recipe. Wishing it were more lemony.

    Rating: 4
  15. I just baked this cake and it’s cooling down. It was so easy to make. I followed the recipe exactly. It took 60 minutes. The color is nice and browned. I will be serving it tomorrow evening, but I couldn’t wait to give my comments.

    Rating: 5
    1. This is a really dense cake and I fear that a loaf pan is just not the correct pan for the job unless you fill them very shallowly because it may not bake through otherwise without burning on the top/sides. So I recommended making as written for optimal results.

  16. I have really gotten into baking during quarantine, so I decided to try this recipe. My parents love lemon flavoured desserts, so I knew this recipe had would win them over! I didn’t change anything about the recipe. It took mine 60 minutes to bake because my oven is older and runs super hot.  Everyone loved it!! It was so moist but not wet. The lemon flavour was not too mouth puckering, either (I used 1tsp lemon extract). 

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad that everyone loved this cake! It’s one of my personal fave cakes on my site!

  17. Hi! I want to do this recipe so badly cause i just love how it looks but could you please explain something to me? When you say 1 1/3 cup does it mean 1 cup and then 1/3 of a cup of there is another measurement? Im sorry for the stupid question, where i live we use grams :)

  18. It was a success ! I think it’s a perfect treat to have with coffee in the morning! And olive oil makes it more healthy:) I made it again and covered the top with thin lemon slices before baking, worked great and made each piece even more lemony and the cake looks beautiful. Also I subbed Lemonsello with rum and it worked out! Thank you!

    Rating: 5
  19. Everyone loved it! I think it’s a perfect treat to have with coffee in the morning! And olive oil makes it more healthy:) I made it again and covered the top with thin lemon slices before baking, worked great and made each piece even more lemony and the cake looks beautiful. Also I subbed Lemonsello with rum and it worked out! Thank you!

    Rating: 4
    1. Glad everyone loved this and I am sure the thin lemon slices add an extra beautiful touch!

  20. I made this cake for my Mom’s 90th birthday. It was delicious, everyone loved it! Will definitely make again. 

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this came out great and that you will definitely make it again!

      Happy 90th birthday to you mom, this will be a memorable year, that is for sure!

      1. Mad this delicious cake again for my Mom’s 92nd birthday celebration..still her favorite. 

        Rating: 5
      2. Happy birthday to your mom and I am glad to hear this is her favorite cake! How lovely for me to know that!

  21. Made this cake today. Wish I could include a picture. It came out well, however, the center is a bit mushy. I can taste the alcohol and I really don’t care for it. I did bake it the full 75 minutes and it smelled amazing coming out of the oven. Just wish it was a bit more fluffy rather than mushy. I think maybe I needed to do just one cup of oil instead? Either way, I will be experimenting with this recipe again. Maybe next time I’ll do the orange and omit the liqueur.  

    Rating: 4
    1. If you can taste the alcohol and it had a very soft texture (mushy) I am fairly certain you needed to bake it a bit longer. It’s a very dense cake, so it will always seem super moist, but just based on what you wrote, another 5-15 minutes may not have hurt. Glad you will experiment again and yes you can omit liquor and I suggest a longer bake time too. All ingredients, climates, ovens, etc vary.

    1. Not sure since I have only made it like this and it’s not common at all to have a 5-inch cake pan springform style if you were to halve the recipe. I would make as written and know that you can freeze it or give extra to a neighbor, family, etc.

  22. I just made this cake and it is fantastic!!Only adjustments I made were as follows:1. Swapped lemon extract for vanilla as I didn’t have any lemon 2. Reduced the sugar to just 1 cup and this was still just the right sweetness for us3. Drizzled limoncello on top when the cakes come out of the oven so it falls into all the cracks of the cake and makes it that much more lemony! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. Will be making it again and again and again!

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad that it turned out fantastic and that you were able to get away with vanilla extract and less sugar, too! I’ve always wondered if less is possible but have never experimented. Thanks for sharing your results.

      I’m sure the limoncello on top was great too!

      Glad you’ll be making this again and again!

  23. I made this yesterday – super moist and tastes so fresh with the lemon (love the yellow color of the cake!) Next time I would add another teaspoon of extract and more zest to really boost the level of lemon flavor (I only used 1t of lemon extract ) Thank for sharing the recipe – Happy New Year!

    Rating: 5
  24. OK!! I love that you love lemons. I love them as well. I used to eat them. However, I am very new to baking so what is Limoncello? HELP

    1. I’ve been making my own Limoncello for a few years now. It’s easy, but requires some time to peel the lemons without getting any pith (the white part). My lovely neighbor gives me tons of lemons. You can google how to make it.