Lemon Olive Oil Cake
This lemon olive oil cake is a rich pound cake with a lovely light lemon flavor and an irresistible caramelized lemon topping. It’s simple to make with common pantry staples.
It’s a wonderful cake for a brunch or a luncheon. The batter and method also work really well with other citrus fruits (see my orange olive oil cake for an example).
Here are some notes to help in selecting your ingredients:
- The choice of olive oil can have a big impact on the end result of this cake. I find it’s best to choose a more neutral/buttery flavored olive oil vs a vibrant/fruity one.
- I use dark brown sugar for the lemon topping because I like its depth of flavor. However, light brown sugar also works well if that’s what you have on hand.
- You don’t have to peel the lemons for the topping – their skins soften up and taste almost caramelized after the bake. The lemons are the best part of the cake!
- The cake itself has a mild lemon flavor which works well because of the more intense caramelized lemon pieces at the top. If you prefer a strong lemon flavor in the cake, add a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract to the batter.
- If you’d like, you can add rosemary, thyme, ginger, or other spices to the cake as a variation.
How It’s Made
Start by melting butter and brown sugar at the bottom of an 8″ round cake pan. To do that, add them (uncooked) to the pan and then place the pan in your hot oven for five minutes or so until they melt. Swirl the pan a little bit when it comes out of the oven to evenly distribute the butter/sugar mixture.
Next, place thin lemon slices at the bottom of your cake pan in that pool of melted butter and brown sugar. (You’ll invert everything when the cake is done so the lemons end up on top.)
After placing lemon slices, thoroughly grease the sides of your cake pan with a little olive oil or an oil baking spray.
Next, beat sugar and eggs until they thicken and turn a pale yellow. Have patience with this. It takes a few minutes, even with an electric mixer.
Add in milk and vanilla and then the olive oil, a little bit at a time. Mix only until just combined.
Add a mixture of all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) and again, mix until just combined.
Finally, fold in fresh lemon zest.
Pour the cake batter on top of the lemon slices. The cake doesn’t rise much, so the batter will come almost to the top of the pan.
After baking, remove the cake from the oven and wait about ten minutes before you invert it.
Tip: If you let the cake cool too long before inverting, the lemon topping will harden at the bottom of the pan and will become impossible to remove. Only wait 10 minutes!
Optionally, dust with powdered sugar.
Expert Tips and FAQs
I have also made this cake in a loaf pan and it comes out wonderful that way.
You can keep it at room temperature for about five days.
It is great all on its own or with a glass of cold milk. But, it would also be great with some fresh lemon sorbet.
Lemon Olive Oil Cake
Lemon Topping Ingredients
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into small pieces
- 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 lemon washed and thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest zest of about one lemon
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar optional, for dusting over cooled cake
Lemon Topping Instructions
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Place butter and brown sugar into the bottom of an 8" round cake pan and place into the oven for about 5 minutes or until the sugar and butter are melted. Swirl the pan to evenly distribute the melted ingredients over the bottom.
- Quickly arrange lemon slices on the melted butter/sugar – a little overlap is fine.
- Thoroughly grease the sides of the pan.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and eggs until thick and pale yellow.
- Mix in milk and vanilla until just combined.
- Mix in olive oil a little bit at a time until just combined.
- Mix in dry ingredients a little bit at a time until just combined.
- Fold in lemon zest.
- Pour batter over lemon slices.
- Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 40 minutes into the bake, check to see if the top is getting overly brown. If so, cover with foil for the remainder of the bake.
- Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a board. Transfer to a cooling rack.
- When cool, optionally dust with powdered sugar, slice, and serve.
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