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Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Posted Sep 12 2012 6:00am

When I was a senior in college and living in Charleston, my friend Lara and I would do dinner about once a week. Lara and I had met in class {we were both creative writing majors} and both shared a passion for really good food and really good wine. Some things never change? Anyways, Lara’s specialty was this delicious homemade gnocchi with gorgonzola cream sauce and mine was this light and fluffy olive oil cake. It was my go-to dessert because it was so easy to prepare and everyone raved about it.

The original recipe for this cake is from The Vegetarian Times Cooks Mediterranean Cookbook and I’ve made it so many times over the past five years that the page is splotched, stained and hanging on by a thread. {side note that this is one of my very favorite cookbooks of all time and special because it involved my first “break” into the food writing world. In college, I snagged an online internship with the Gilded Fork — I wrote their monthly cookbook reviews and oh-my-gosh-couldn’t-believe-it ’cause they let me actually keep the cookbooks I reviewed on the site….and this was the first cookbook I ever wrote about! Who needs money when you get free cookbooks?!}

This is a simple cake and what makes it special is, you guessed it, the type of olive oil you use. Despite olive oil being a main ingredient, this cake does not actually taste like olive oil. It tastes like a lemon-scented chiffon or angel food cake — the fruitiness of the olive oil is in the background and I really feel you’d only be able to tell that it’s there if you already knew.

A few months ago, Village Press sent me some outrageously delicious extra virgin olive oil straight from New Zealand to play with. It was my first experience with New Zealand olive oil and wow….is it yummy! So light and fruity! You definitely want to use a light and fruity extra virgin olive oil in this cake. {you can buy Village Press olive oil here —it’s almost time for me to get a second bottle, myself!}

It’s the perfect little cake for tea or an afternoon snack. I have always just served this with a dusting of powdered sugar, but will probably try it with a lemon glaze next time. Either way, it’s lovely.

Every time I make this cake it reminds me of my little house on Queen street in downtown Charleston. I’d pull it out of the oven and carry it over to Lara’s house where she’d have homemade sangria ready. We’d sit kick off our flip-flops, sit on her porch and chat about classes, stories we were writing and where we wanted to be in five years. Well, I never thought I’d be sitting here writing about this cake!

But I am so glad that I am. Love you guys!

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

adapted from The Vegetarian Times Cooks Mediterranean

yields 1 cake to serve 6-8


4 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Zest of 1 lemon

juice of 2 lemons

powdered sugar for serving


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9″ cake round—set aside.

Beat together the eggs and sugar until very pale and fluffy. For best results, use a Kitchen Aid mixer on high setting for five minutes. If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid, beat by hand until very thick.

Slowly stream in the olive oil and lemon juice into the eggs and sugar mixture and fold in with a rubber spatula.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and zest. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, making sure you get down to the bottom of the bowl so everything is incorporated well.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 45 minutes.

Let cake cool in pan slightly before inverting onto a cake plate and dusting with powdered sugar.


1 hour

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