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

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.

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 olive oil 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

Ingredients in Lemon Olive Oil Cake

To make this supremely moist lemon cake recipe with olive oil, you’ll need: 

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Eggs
  • Whole milk
  • Lemon juice and zest 
  • Limoncello (store-bought or homemade)
  • Lemon extract
  • Granulated sugar
  • All-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • Baking powder and baking soda
  • Confectioners’ sugar 

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. Or, you can make your own limoncello – but it needs 2 to 6 weeks before it can be enjoyed!

slice of lemon olive oil cake on white plate with fork

How to Make Lemon Olive Oil Cake

This recipe for Italian lemon cake 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. 

A note about the 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.

Love Olive Oil Desserts?

After making this Italian lemon olive oil cake, try making my orange olive oil cake and olive oil chocolate chip cookies next!

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!!

Recipe FAQs

Can You Use Olive Oil in Cakes?

Absolutely! Not every cake recipe is suitable for using olive oil (rather than canola or vegetable oil), but this Italian cake is perfect with olive oil!

What Makes an Olive Oil Cake Special?

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.

Does Olive Oil make a cake taste different?

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. 

What Kind of Olive Oil Should I Use for Baking?

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.

If you use a cheap olive oil, it will have a stronger, harsher flavor that will negatively affect the cake.

Do I Have To Use Alcohol?

You only use 1/4 cup of limoncello 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.

Can I make olive oil cake with other citrus fruits?

Sure thing! You can make orange olive oil cake, or play around with using grapefruit or lime zest and juice. I’m sure any kind of olive oil citrus cake would be delicious!

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4.46 from 553 votes

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

By Averie Sunshine
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
Servings: 12
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Ingredients  

  • 1 ⅓ cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk
  • 1 ½ tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup Limoncello, Gran Marnier may be substituted
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Instructions 

  • 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.

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.
Recipe adapted from Olive Oil Orange Cake. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 420kcal, Carbohydrates: 44g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 26g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 21g, Cholesterol: 49mg, Sodium: 368mg, Sugar: 43g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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!!

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 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 Buttermilk Cake with Lemon Glaze - An easy little cake with big lemon flavor!! Soft, fluffy, and foolproof if you like puckering up!!

Lemon Crinkle Cookies — Lemon crinkles are pillowy soft on the inside and chewy on the outside, with slightly crispy edges from the powdered sugar coating! 

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! 

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!!

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!!

Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread — This EASY, no-mixer homemade quick bread combines tangy lemon flavor with tender zucchini which keeps it so incredibly soft, tender, and moist! 

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

4.46 from 553 votes (501 ratings without comment)

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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.

Recipe Rating




Comments

  1. Hi!
    Can I make this in an 8 inch sheet cake tin? And if I wanted 3 sheet cakes would you say just double this recipe maybe?
    They’re only about 1.5 inches deep

    1. I really don’t know since I have only made it as written which is what I suggest that you do, especially the first time you make it and then you can guesstimate if you think the other ideas you have will work out, or not.

  2. 5 stars
    I made this over the weekend for several friends, keeping a piece for myself. I used organic cane sugar, but apart from that there were no changes. EXCELLENT!!! Everyone loved it better than the orange version I made a few months ago.

    1. Thanks for the 5 star review, Paul, and I am glad this was excellent and a total hit! I too prefer the lemon to the orange version so it’s interesting that so did you and your friends!

  3. 5 stars
    I have made this cake a dozen times and everyone loves it! It’s so easy to bake and making it the day before a dinner party is so helpful. I recently baked two and then the event got rained out so I froze an entire cake. Six weeks later and it is still stunning! Thank you Averie for this amazing recipe! I make it so often I call it the house dessert around here!

  4. 5 stars
    I have made this cake a dozen times and everyone loves it! It’s so easy to bake and making it the day before a dinner party is so helpful. I recently baked two and then the event got rained out so I froze an entire cake. Six weeks later and it is still stunning! Thank you Averie for this amazing recipe! I make it so often I call it the house dessert around here!

    1. I love this story and that it’s the “house dessert” for you! I also think it’s great that you can say firsthand that 6 weeks later out of the freezer, this cake is still stunning! This is a personal fave dessert for me (and I’ve made thousands of others!) and I love comments like yours because it basically vouches that this IS such a great cake!

  5. 5 stars
    I love this cake! For a dinner party, I decided to split it into two layers and with parchment lining the sides, not the bottom, I layered lower cake layer, mascarpone whipped cream, lemon curd, fresh strawberries, upper cake layer, mascarpone whipped cream, lemon curd and strawberries, then finished with a light sugar glaze on top. Put it in the fridge for about 4 hours. Then, to serve, I released the springform ring, lifted it to a cake serving plate and showed it to the guests for oohs and aahs. It was fabulous, with all of the flavors and textures complementing each other. Almost everyone had seconds! Wish I could post a picture (of course I took one).

  6. 5 stars
    I love this cake! For a dinner party, I decided to split it into two layers and with parchment lining the sides, not the bottom, I layered lower cake layer, mascarpone whipped cream, lemon curd, fresh strawberries, upper cake layer, mascarpone whipped cream, lemon curd and strawberries, then finished with a light sugar glaze on top. Put it in the fridge for about 4 hours. Then, to serve, I released the springform ring, lifted it to a cake serving plate and showed it to the guests for oohs and aahs. It was fabulous, with all of the flavors and textures complementing each other. Almost everyone had seconds! Wish I could post a picture (of course I took one).

    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and I am glad that this was met with oohs and ahhs by your guests! It sounds like you really outdid yourself and amped this cake up with the lemon curd, berries, mascarpone whipped cream and all! Wow!

  7. 5 stars
    First off, I LOVED this cake, it’s my new favorite as well! However, I did find that the cake stuck to the springform pan sides even though I used a parchment circle on the bottom and sprayed the sides and bottom very liberally, as directed. Once I released the cake from the springform pan, it nearly tore my cake in half from the sides sticking so much. Any tips on preventing this next time? Because my cake looked so damaged, I decided to make a cream cheese whipped cream frosting (1 block cream cheese, 2 cups whipping cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1tsp vanilla and 1/2tsp lemon extract) to cover up the damage and it was a great frosting to go with this cake, not too sweet or stiff. The cake looked beautiful with this frosting and some raspberries for decoration, and I got so many compliments at the potluck I brought it to.

  8. 5 stars
    First off, I LOVED this cake, it’s my new favorite as well! However, I did find that the cake stuck to the springform pan sides even though I used a parchment circle on the bottom and sprayed the sides and bottom very liberally, as directed. Once I released the cake from the springform pan, it nearly tore my cake in half from the sides sticking so much. Any tips on preventing this next time? Because my cake looked so damaged, I decided to make a cream cheese whipped cream frosting (1 block cream cheese, 2 cups whipping cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1tsp vanilla and 1/2tsp lemon extract) to cover up the damage and it was a great frosting to go with this cake, not too sweet or stiff. The cake looked beautiful with this frosting and some raspberries for decoration, and I got so many compliments at the potluck I brought it to.

    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and I am glad that you loved the cake and it’s your new favorite! And that you got so many compliments at the potluck you brought it to!

      I am glad you were able to doctor up your cake after a near mishap. I don’t know what to say about the springform pan situation other than some ‘nonstick pans’ aren’t very nonstick!

      This is the one I have, use, and swear by. https://amzn.to/3JQV1il I just looked and Amazon told me I bought it in 2015. So it’s been a keeper. I would just buy that one and spray extremely liberally. I have never had a problem with sticking with this recipe nor any others in that pan.

      1. Thank you! I made this cake a second time and let it sit for an hour and a half after baking (instead of an hour), then ran around the edges with a knife before releasing the springform pan. That worked much better. :)

  9. 5 stars
    I made this a few weeks ago and it was SO unbelievably delicious!
    I want to make it again the weekend to bring to a Super Bowl gathering…but to make it a little less “formal”, I want to make it into “mini cakes” using a muffin tin. Any tips for that? Would you simply turn up the heat and decrease the baking time?
    Thanks so much, this cake is definitely a new favorite around here!!

  10. 5 stars
    I made this a few weeks ago and it was SO unbelievably delicious!
    I want to make it again the weekend to bring to a Super Bowl gathering…but to make it a little less “formal”, I want to make it into “mini cakes” using a muffin tin. Any tips for that? Would you simply turn up the heat and decrease the baking time?
    Thanks so much, this cake is definitely a new favorite around here!!

    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and I am glad this was delicious when you made it! I hope you were able to make it again for Superbowl. I have only made it as written but if you baked it in smaller ramekins it would likely work but you’d have to play around with baking time depending on size. Temp remains the same, but it’s time that would vary.

  11. 5 stars
    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.

  12. 5 stars
    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.

    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!

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

  14. 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.

  15. 5 stars
    Mad this delicious cake again for my Mom’s 92nd birthday celebration..still her favorite.