Light and tender yet beautifully moist, this is the best Lemon Olive Oil Cake recipe! Bursting with fruity olive oil and lemon flavor, you can eat this cake as is—no toppings needed. But if you’re feeling fancy, top it off with some gorgeous whipped cream and some candied citrus. 

Olive oil cake set on parchment on a wood board.

Healthy-ish Olive Oil Cake

First and foremost, cake is cake. So it’s never going to be healthy. BUT, around here we’re all about healthy-ish, which means making smart ingredient swaps to easily up the nutrition factor without sacrificing on flavor. 

This recipe for healthy-ish olive oil cake uses 100% whole-wheat flour and only olive oil—no butter. Heart-healthy fat and whole-grains! 

Slices of cake on brown plates topped with whipped cream and candied citrus

Tips for making the best lemon olive oil cake

  • Use good quality olive oil: other than lemon zest and a splash of vanilla, olive oil cake gets a majority of its flavor from olive oil, which means it’s imperative to use good quality olive oil. More than anything, make sure you’re using extra-virgin olive oil. 
  • Don’t over- or under-bake: this might seem obvious, but let’s give it a bit of attention. First of all, like anything, bake this cake to your personal preference.
    Do you prefer your cakes and quick breads to be more dense and moist? Bake towards the shorter end of the time range given.
    Prefer your cakes to be, well, more cake like (tall, sturdy, baked properly)? Bake the cake towards the middle or end of the time range listed.
    Avoid baking this cake longer than the range given (unless your toothpick is still coming out covered in batter!), olive oil cakes are known for being deliciously moist and you don’t want to bake that moisture out!
  • Whip it, whip it real good: whipping whole eggs (not just whites) with sugar helps to create an olive oil cake that’s airy and fine textured while still being pretty sturdy. Sturdy is important here since a batter made with olive oil is heavier than one made with whipped butter.
  • Give it a crunchy crust: any and all cakes can benefit from a bit of crunchy texture in my opinion. Right before baking, I sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the batter to create a nice sugary crust once baked. If you don’t want that added bit of sugar try sprinkling sliced almonds over top for a finish that’s both crunchy and stunning. 
slice of cake set on its side on a piece of parchment paper

How to make olive oil cake

  1. Start by whipping the eggs in a stand mixer until foamy. Meanwhile, whisk together the white whole-wheat flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Add the sugar, lemon zest and vanilla and whip, on high speed, until thick, gorgeous (!!), fluffy, and pale in color. It should be stunning!! 
  3. Slowly drizzle in the oil. 
  4. Mix in half of the flour, followed by the milk, and finally the remaining flour. 
  5. Pour the batter into a greased springform pan, sprinkle with sugar, and bake until the top is deep golden brown. 
Overhead image of ingredients measured out and in small bowls

Why use a springform pan?

Part of the appeal of this cake is its height. And since we work hard to achieve height—whipping the eggs and sugar—we want to maintain the height while baking. A springform pan, with its tall sides, is the ideal vehicle for baking this cake. It encourages height and ensures no overflow of batter.

Using a springform pan also protects the crusty top—inverting this cake, like you would have to with a normal cake pan, would destroy the top. The ability to simply loosen the sides and lift away is what makes a springform pan so user-friendly for a home baker.

If you know your springform pan isn’t overly nonstick, go ahead and line the bottom of the pan with some parchment paper.

If you’re really adamant about using a regular cake pan, there are some things to keep in mind. First, I would skip the sugary top (or be OK with it cracking and crumbling off when inverting). Second, be sure to place a baking sheet on the rack right below the cake to catch any batter that may overflow. And third, in an attempt to avoid overflow, be sure to use a cake pan with tall sides.

Olive oil being drizzled over a dollop of whipped cream on top of a slice of cake

How to serve olive oil cake: topping ideas

  • Berries
  • Whipped cream or whipped mascarpone cream
  • Fresh rosemary 
  • Cranberry glaze or cranberry curd 
  • Lemon curd 
  • Confectioners’ sugar (aka powdered sugar)

How to store olive oil cake & how long does it last?

  • Up to 1 day: cover cake with foil and store at room temperature.
  • 1–3 days: wrap the cake in plastic wrap and store at room temperature .
  • Up to 5 days: wrap the cake in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. 
Piece of cake set on a plate topped with whipped cream

Variations on this Lemon Olive Oil Cake

  • Triple Citrus: use a combination of lemon, lime and orange zest instead of just lemon zest. 
  • Citrus & Herb: add some minced fresh rosemary to the batter for a little herby note. 
  • Almond Olive Oil Cake: use almond extract in place of the vanilla extract and sprinkle sliced almonds over the batter before baking. 

You may also like…

dollop of whipped cream on top of a slice of cake

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Don’t forget, if you make this Olive Oil Cake, leave a comment and rating below!

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Lemon Olive Oil Cake

  • Author: Lauren Grant
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 ⅓ hours + cooling time
  • Yield: 1 (9-inch cake); 8–10 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian/Mediterranean

Description

The ultimate Lemon Olive Oil Cake! It’s tender, moist, and bursting with flavor from fruity olive oil and lemon zest. This cake is made with good olive oil, whole-wheat flour, and features a crusty, sugary top.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 ¾ cups (8 ounces) white whole-wheat flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon table salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar + more for top
  • 2 tablespoons minced lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup whole milk

Toppings, optional:


Instructions

Heat oven to 350ºF with rack set in middle position. Grease 9-inch springform pan (if your springform pan is prone to leaking, wrap the base in a piece of foil).

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl; set aside.

Using stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip eggs on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. With mixer running, add sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla. 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 stream in oil; mix 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add half of the flour; mix until incorporated, about 1 minute, scraping down side of bowl as needed. Add milk and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Add remaining flour mixture and mix just until incorporated, about 1 minute, scraping down side of bowl as needed.

Transfer batter to prepared pan; evenly sprinkle top with about 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake cake until top is deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with few crumbs attached, 48–55 minutes.

Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Loosen and remove side of pan; let cake cool completely, about 1½ hours. Loosen cake from the pan base, transfer to a serving plate, and cut into wedges; serve. 

Optional, top servings with whipped cream, candied lemon wedges, and a drizzle of good-quality olive oil.



Notes

Under-bake by 3 minutes or so if you like it dense and moist. Bake it the full amount of time if you like it more cake-like (still moist!).

Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Keywords: olive oil cake, lemon olive oil cake, healthy cake

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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    1. Hi Aj! Great question—I haven’t tested this, but here is what I recommend from my experience baking with coconut sugar:
      – use 1 1/2 cups coconut sugar to replace 1 cup white sugar.
      – grind the coconut sugar into a fine powder using a spice grinder (this is important for texture and even distribution throughout the batter).
      – the cake will likely be darker in color and a bit toastier in flavor.

      Let me know how it goes!