Life changing. That is how I would describe my first bite of this Lemon Olive Oil Cake. It’s simply one of the best things ever.
I have made many a cakes in my recipe blogging “career” but I think this is the only time the saying ‘simple is best‘ has hit me this hard on the head. It’s all thanks to this Lemon Olive Oil Cake. It’s literally one of the simplest cakes I have ever made, but it also delivers one of the most incredible cakes I’ve ever eaten.
Now I understand why there was a time this type of cake was all over my Instagram feed. It’s literally the type of no-fuss cake you’ll want to make over and over the entire year, whether for yourself or for a loved one. It’s the type of cake you’d confidently bring to a gathering (if that becomes a thing again), and while it would look incredibly unassuming beside the layered cakes, I think it has the capability to surprise people the most just because its humble looks is completely at odds with the effect it packs.
Maybe I’m only saying this because I’m biased toward lemon desserts, but this cake! This cake is just downright unforgettable. In fact, I was surprised myself by how good it was, considering it’s just really so plain-looking. All the magic is in the first taste. You get that really nice tartness from the lemon glaze, with a delightful but more subdued lemon flavor in the cake itself. The liqueur adds this sort of lush quality to the cake. Coupled with that delicate, tender, melt-in-the-mouth crumb, this Lemon Olive Oil Cake is really quite hypnotic.
Enough talk, just make this cake already!
Truth be told, this was my first olive oil cake. I made this a while back and after trying out a handful of other olive oil cake recipes this recipe is still the OG for me. It has the best crumb and the best flavor among other similar olive oil cake recipes I tried. I suppose you can say I became obsessed with trying out different olive oil cake recipes, enough that I actually spent time researching what brand of extra-virgin olive oil is best for making such cakes.
After trying out a couple of olive oils in a couple of recipes after this, I have to say my favorite one is the Classic Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Cobram Estates. It’s got a violet label, and its flavor is a bit more neutral as opposed to the popular “fruity” olive oil choices. I think a neutral EVOO is the way to go when you’re making an olive oil-based dessert. You get the chemical benefits of the olive oil in terms of making your cakes soft, tender, and moist, but you don’t get any of the strong olive oil aftertastes, allowing the flavor of the cake itself to shine.
Now if you have time and resource, you can absolutely try out different brands of olive oils. I hear some sellers of olive oil cakes swear by Goya, but for me personally, my search is over. I’m extremely happy with the Cobram Estates one, with its pop up pourer and everything. I think it’s fairly-priced as well, considering its quality. Right now it’s at Php 600 for 750 mL, and when a product is as good as this I don’t mind shelling out the money. I’m putting it in my mouth and in the mouths of the people I love, after all.
Speaking of obsessions, you know my obsession with pairing baked goods/main dishes with drinks? Well of course I wanted to do a pairing for this cake as well. I figured I wanted to do something with the same liqueur I used in the cake and ended up trying out this Spanish Coffee recipe from the A Couple Cooks blog.
Now I am not new to coffee with liqueur. I vividly remember my first experience of it, drinking some pretty good Irish Coffee in a pub in San Francisco in the middle of the day. Of course, I ended up having to walk off the slight tipsiness it caused lol, but I thought: Spanish Coffee with three kinds of liquor and coffee? I can handle that.
Unfortunately, it was not my type. It was REALLY strong– much stronger than a cup of Irish Coffee, I have to say. I mean, there’s a time and place to enjoy a strong drink but I think it’s not with my coffee, and it’s not with this cake. Nonetheless, I’ve provided the link because I’m sure some of you will be curious about it. So TLDR, you can skip the drink but you ought to try this cake.
Maybe it’ll be life-changing for you too.
- MAKE SURE TO GREASE THE SPRINGFORM PAN. You want a nice even coat of oil (or shortening, which is my preference when greasing pans) around the pan, then place a round of parchment at the bottom to make transferring the cake to a cake stand much easier. The last thing you want is for this beautiful Lemon Olive Cake to stick to the pan after all the work and the waiting you’ve put in! Use a 9-inch springform pan that’s 3 inches high because as you can see, it’s a very thick cake. The recipe makes a lot of batter. I also suggest placing the pan in a baking tray to catch spills and prevent too much browning at the bottom.
- USE GOOD EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL. My personal pick for EVOO is the Classic Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Cobram Estates. It’s got a violet label, and its flavor is a bit more neutral as opposed to the popular “fruity” olive oil choices. I think a neutral EVOO is the way to go when you’re making an olive oil-based dessert. You get the chemical benefits of the olive oil in terms of making your cakes soft, tender, and moist, but you don’t get any of the strong olive oil aftertastes, allowing the flavor of the cake itself to shine.
- I HIGHLY RECOMMEND PURCHASING THE LIQUEUR FOR THIS RECIPE. The original recipe uses Limoncello and sadly I do not have that one in my collection yet. I am excited to make this again once I acquire Limoncello, but a good substitute for this lemon liqueur is an orange one– the most popular among bakers being Grand Mariner. My suggestion is to buy a 50 mL mini for the recipe if you don’t want to invest in a big bottle. I am told Grand Marnier tastes better than Cointreau, but since I only had Cointreau it’s what I used and it tasted pretty amazing. It adds sort of this lush flavor to the cake. It’s hard to explain but know that it makes the cake better.
- MAKE SURE ALL THE LIQUID INGREDIENTS ARE WELL COMBINED. Especially when you’re emulsifying the eggs with the olive oil, make sure to whisk vigorously with a whisk until the mixture is totally homogenous. The same goes after adding in the milk, lemon zest, juice, extract, liqueur, and sugar. Mix them together really really well. We do not want the oil to be separating from the mixture while the cake is baking.
- DO NOT MIX MORE THAN NECESSARY ONCE THE DRY INGREDIENTS GO IN. When you’re mixing the liquid ingredients together, it’s okay to whisk the mixture quite a bit, but it’s different once the dry ingredients go in. Over-mixing flour in the batter will cause extra gluten formation and make the cake tough, which is a no-no! So with this cake, once you add in the dry ingredients, start by folding it in with a spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure no flour pockets are stuck there. I personally found it a little difficult to properly distribute the dry ingredients into the batter using a spatula because the batter is so runny, so I switched to a whisk. Using the whisk, I just mixed until most of the really big dry ingredient lumps evened out, but the batter was still slightly lumpy and not completely smooth. You want to avoid over-mixing cake batter so this should be enough.
- START CHECKING YOUR CAKE AT THE 60-MINUTE MARK. Since ovens vary, you will want to start checking your cake at the earliest baking time indicated in the recipe. This cake bakes at a low temperature for a long time and since there’s a lot of batter, it’s impossible to give an exact time it will finish baking in YOUR oven, but in mine it took around 65 minutes. Once it’s done, the cake will brown around the edges significantly more and that’s normal, but mostly it will look golden on top and slightly domed in the center. The best way to tell if the cake is ready is to stick a toothpick or tester in the center of the cake and see if it comes out with just a few moist crumbs. I prefer this in olive oil cakes rather than baking until the tester tests completely clean. Take it out of the oven and cool before adding finishing touches.
- YOU CAN SKIP THE GLAZE IN FAVOR OF A DUSTING OF CONFECTIONERS’ SUGAR. Just know that you’ll be missing out on the extra tartness the lemon glaze adds to the cake. I honestly think the glaze makes the cake even tastier compared to just confectioners’ sugar, but it’s up to you!
Lemon Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Glaze
For the cake
- 1⅓ cups best quality extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1¼ cups whole milk, at room temperature
- 1½ tablespoons grated lemon zest
- ¼ cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup lemon or orange liqueur , such as Limoncello or Gran Marnier
- 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon extract
- 1¾ cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
For the glaze
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 Tablespoon milk
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Make the cake
- Preheat oven to 325ºF (165ºC). Cut out a circle of parchment paper and line the base of a 9-inch springform pan that’s 3 inches high. Grease the parchment paper and the insides of the pan very well. Place pan into a baking tray.
- In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the olive oil and eggs to emulsify. Make sure the ingredients are well-combined before proceeding.
- Add in the milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, liqueur, and lemon extract. Whisk to incorporate. Finally, add in the sugar and whisk to fully incorporate.
- In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Dump everything into the liquid mixture and use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as you mix, and stop once you no longer see any dry ingredients in the batter. (If you have difficulty distributing the dry ingredients properly, switch to a whisk and mix gently just until most of the big lumps of dry ingredients have evened out.) Do not mix more than you need to! The batter will be thin and slightly lumpy, and there will be a lot of batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for about 60 to 75 minutes. Since ovens vary, start checking at the 60 minute mark to avoid over-baking the cake. Cake is ready when golden on top, a bit domed in the center, and toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. (I prefer this to a tester that comes out completely clean.)
- Allow cake to cool in the springform pan for about 1 hour, then run a knife around the pan if necessary before releasing. Allow cake to finish cooling on a wire rack.
Make the glaze
- Once cake is cool, whisk confectioners' sugar, milk, and lemon juice together in a small bowl until smooth. (You can add more sugar if you like a thicker glaze. I prefer this fairly thin kind of glaze.) Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake, allowing it to drip over the edges. Leave to set a few minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with Spanish Coffee (recipe below), if desired.
Watch how it's made
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