Who woulda thunk that using olive oil in a cake, of all things, would work out so beautifully and deliciously?! Certainly not me! I’m a huge fan of olive oil. In savory dishes. But…. this Lemon Olive Oil Cake changed everything I thought I knew about how and when and where to use olive oil. Clearly olive oil is the perfect addition to a cake recipe, creating a light crumb with a distinctive but not overpowering olive oil taste. Oh, and add a crunchy layer of sugar on top and lots of lemon flavor and you’ve got yourself one fine cake, my friends!
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Butter vs. Oil in Baking
Typically, cakes call for butter as one of their first ingredients. That’s because cakes, like most other baked goods, need fat to give the cake structure. Butter also, as we know, adds richness, wonderful flavor, and moisture to cakes. You may have seen or made cake recipes that call for vegetable oil. For sure, the boxed cake mixes use vegetable oil as their source of fat. This makes it super easy to assemble a cake batter as there’s no creaming of butter and sugar needed and certainly no waiting for butter to come to room temperature before beginning.
One of the other really nice advantages to using oil in cakes instead of butter is that the baked cake will hold onto its moisture for longer. Butter-based cakes tend to dry out the next day. Oil-based cakes, on the other hand, remain moist for up to 3 days after being baked. If there happens to be, by any chance, any leftover cake, this is great news!
Why Olive Oil in a Cake Works
So, we know that oil can play a role in cake baking. But olive oil?! It’s got a distinct flavor and is typically used in savory dishes. In this cake, however, the olive oil adds a layer of flavor you didn’t know you were missing before! The right kind of olive oil (aka, a high-quality, extra-virgin variety) brings a fruity flavor to the cake. And, believe it or not, the flavor of the olive oil can be detected in here, which is what we want, however, it’s definitely not overpowering.
And if you’ve learned anything about me from following along, you’ve learned at the very least that I am a huge lover of all things lemon! Typically, olive oil cakes include some lemon to enrich the olive oil flavor, but not to provide lemon flavor, if that makes sense. I, of course, want both! So, lots of lemon flavor is added here to make the olive oil flavor come through but also to have a lemony layer as well. That’s a win all around, if you ask me!
Tips for Making Lemon Olive Oil Cake
- Use a high quality extra-virgin olive oil for this cake. It’ll help intensify the flavor of the cake so the olive oil is noticeable, but not too overpowering. You’ll be surprised by the subtle fruity flavor produced by the olive oil plus the lemon. Per Cook’s Illustrated’s recommendation (one of my most trusted of cooking sites), I used California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil which can be found in most supermarkets or, of course, on amazon.com
- This recipe requires a Springform pan. If yours tends to leak, wrap the outside in foil, pressed tightly to the pan. Or, place a baking sheet on the oven floor, on the lower oven rack, or underneath the Springform to catch any drips
- The macerated berries and whipped mascarpone are totally optional. But, totally worthwhile. And, to be honest, they don’t require much effort, besides buying the ingredients if you don’t already have them. I know for me, I don’t typically have mascarpone sitting in my fridge on the regular… But, these additions are really nice finishers to this cake and elevate this dessert to new levels
Useful Kitchen Tools Used in this Recipe
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Olive oil is the perfect addition to a cake recipe, creating a light crumb with a distinctive but not overpowering olive oil taste and lots of moisture without lots of density. Lots of lemon flavor and a crunchy layer of sugar on top make this cake so delicious!
For the Macerated Berries (optional):
- 1 cup berries, such as blackberries, strawberries, and/or blueberries, washed and patted dry
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the Lemon Olive Oil Cake:
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- ¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- ¾ cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice of one large lemon)
- ¾ cup milk
For the Whipped Mascarpone (optional):
- ½ cup mascarpone cheese, stirred until smooth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- Prepare the Macerated Berries (optional): Combine berries with sugar and lemon juice. Let stand for 30-60 minutes while you make the cake
- Prepare the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch springform pan and set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt together in bowl. Using a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip eggs on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Add 1¼ cups sugar and lemon zest, increase speed to high, and whip until mixture is fluffy and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and, with mixer running, slowly pour in oil. Mix until oil is fully incorporated, about 1 minute. Add half of flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl as needed. Add lemon juice and milk and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until just incorporated, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl as needed. Transfer batter to prepared pan; sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over entire surface. Bake until cake is deep golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out with few crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove side of pan and let cake cool completely, about 1 ½ hours
- Prepare Whipped Mascarpone (optional): Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip, starting on low speed and gradually increasing speed, until mixture is light and fluffy, about 1 minute
- Serve: Slice cake and top with a dollop of whipped mascarpone and a spoonful of macerated berries
- Leftover cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to three days. Store whipped mascarpone and berries separately in tightly sealed containers in the fridge for up to 3 days
- Cake recipe adapted from CooksIllustrated.com
- Category: Cake
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: American, Mediterranean
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