Lemon Olive Oil Cake

This Lemon Olive Oil Cake is a cake I could eat every day…if I could eat cake every day, that is. It’s rich, not too sweet, tangy and has just a little crunch of cornmeal.

a slice cake and some lemons on a marble table.

Why this is the Best Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Olive oil cake is, essentially, a chiffon cake. Chiffon cakes are oil based cakes. Because oil stays liquid at room temperature oil based cakes are soft and moist and have a very, very tender crumb. 

If there’s too much oil in the batter the cake can have an oily, pasty texture that’s not at all pleasant. It’s imperative to have a balanced recipe. This is a balanced recipe.

To keep the style of the cake a little on the rustic side, I added just a little cornmeal to the batter for a little crunch and color.

To start the batter, the eggs are “ribboned” with the sugar. This builds a batter that bakes up with a very fine and tender crumb.


ingredients for lemon olive oil cake in glass bowls.

Ingredient Notes

  • AP Flour – All purpose flour has a medium protein content. Because of the oil and corn meal in the cake you need a little gluten from the AP flour to strengthen the cake structure.
  • Corn Meal – There is just enough corn meal in the batter to flavor and cake and add the slightest crunch.
  • Baking Powder – To keep the tangy flavor of the lemons front and center there is no acid-neutralizing baking soda in the batter. The baking powder raises the batter, but does not neutralize the acid.
  • Lemons – I developed this recipe originally with Meyer Lemons. I’ve also made it with regular lemons. Use any citrus fruit, oranges, grapefruit, lime or blood orange will work. The number of fruits will vary based on how big the fruit is and how much juice it yields. Always use 3/4 cup of juice whichever fruit you use.

How to make Lemon Olive Oil Cake

See the recipe card for detailed measurements and instructions.

dry cake ingredients in a bowl. Sugar and lemon zest in a bowl. Eggs and cake batter in a bowl.
  • Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  • Add the lemon zest to the sugar.
  • Add the eggs.
  • Whip the eggs and sugar until the mixture is aerated and lighter in color. The batter should form a “ribbon” when it’s drizzled over the surface. (This is called “ribboning”.)
Adding ingredients to a bowl of cake batter.
  • Add the olive oil to the ribboned egg mixture.
  • Add 1/3 of the flour to the batter.
  • Add 1/3 of the lemon juice to the batter. Alternate adding the flour and lemon juice.
  • Pour the batter into a prepared Bundt or tube pan.
lemon olive oil cake before and after baking.
  • Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn the cake out onto a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.


The cake is good to eat the day it is baked but is actually better the next day. Lemon Olive Oil Cake will keep, covered, at room temperature for 4-5 days. The cake can be frozen for up to a month.

More Lemony Recipes

a sliced lemon olive oil cake on a table.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

slices of lemon olive oil cake.
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4.53 from 44 reviews

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Not only does Olive Oil Cake keep well at room temperature, it actually gets better the first day or two after it's baked. This cake is so moist it doesn't need anything but sprinkle of sugar for a pretty finish.
Prep Time30 minutes
Bake Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes
18 slices
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  • 15 ounces all purpose flour (3 cups, see note)
  • 3 ounces corn meal (½ cup)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 18 ounces granulated sugar (2 ¼ cups)
  • 1 pound lemons (about 5 (see note))
  • 6 large eggs
  • 10 ounces extra virgin olive oil (1 ¼ cups)


  • Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Coat a 12 cup Bundt or tube pan with pan spray, or butter and flour.
  • Combine the flour, corn meal, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients together to distribute the baking powder, set aside.
    15 ounces all purpose flour, 3 ounces corn meal, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon table salt
  • Put the granulated sugar into a mixer bowl. Grate the lemon zest right onto the sugar and mix the zest through the sugar. Juice the lemons into a measuring cup, you should get about ¾ cup of juice. Set the lemon juice aside.
    18 ounces granulated sugar, 1 pound lemons
  • Add the eggs to the sugar. Beat the eggs and sugar together on medium speed until the eggs aerate, thicken and lighten in color.
    6 large eggs
  • With the mixer running on low, drizzle in the olive oil in a slow steady stream. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the lemon juice, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
    10 ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • Take the batter off the mixer and mix by hand to ensure there are no lumps of batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed or a toothpick inserted in the cake comes away clean, about 50-60 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the pan onto a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.
  • Serve sprinkled with a little powdered sugar

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If measuring the flour by volume use the “dip & sweep” method. That is, dip the measuring cup into the flour bin, overfill it, then sweep away the excess.
You can use any citrus fruit in place of lemons. Oranges, grapefruit, meyer lemon, lime or blood orange will work. The number of fruits will vary based on how big the fruit is and how much juice it yields. Always use 3/4 cup of juice whichever fruit you use.
The cake keeps well at room temperature for several days.


Calories: 379kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 55mg | Sodium: 185mg | Potassium: 91mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 98IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 2mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!

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  1. Thanks so much. I have high cholesterol so I’m always looking for oil cake recipes. Have a question regarding sugar to flour ratio for cakes. How much sugar could I reduce without ruining the integrity of the cake? Instead of baking the lemon juice with the cake batter, I want to pour lemon syrup ( lemon juice+sugar or confectioner sugar) on the cake instead, like your lemon pound cake recipe.

  2. Love this recipe! I used almond flour instead of corn meal and it was delish. Definitely better the next day. I only needed to use three lemons though to get enough juice.

    Eileen, how would you recommend modifying this to make with oranges? My friends have given me a bag filled with fresh picked Valencia oranges from their tree and I’d love to bake a cake with them!

    1. As long as you use the same amount of juice (3/4 cup) you can use oranges. You can use the zest from the number of oranges it takes to get 3/4 cup of juice.

  3. I am new to baking and love the way you lay out the science of it all. I have baked a few of your cakes and they where all exceptional. I know I probably missed it but was wondering exactly how much zest to you use ?

  4. Hi Eileen,
    First of all Thank you very much for writing about the fundamentals of baking ingredients. We may find billions of recipes for a single cake but nobody explains the basis of choosing the ingredients and there measures.
    I am very very new to the baking world and had only one successful attempt of baking a chocolate cake out of many failed attempts. That’s where i decided i will first understand the fundamentals and try new things.
    My question is, in most of the cake recipes you use cake flour but here you have used All purpose flour. Because we are using Olive oil which anyways will make the cake moist, so you used all purpose flour to give structure.
    Is my understanding correct?

    1. Yes! The olive oil makes the cake super tender. Also the corn meal doesn’t contribute to the structure as the flour does. The lemon juice also tenderizes the cake. Because we have the oil, corn meal and juice tenderizing the cake we need the all purpose flour to give it enough structure. Thanks for the question!

    1. The time was listed at the top of the card, but I’ve also added it to the steps to make it clear. It takes about an hour to bake, but start checking at about 45-50 minutes since the time can vary. Go more by the “spring back” test than by the amount of time. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Just sampled the cake I made Monday night. Delicious! I’m always looking for dairy free recipes and this is definitely my new Meyer lemon “go to” cake. Since everyone in my area has had prolific Meyer lemon trees this year, I’ll definitely be sharing the recipe iwith neighbors.

  6. I just made this cake last night and it came out so deliciously! Perhaps a little under done in the very middle but the flour/cornmeal combo is very forgiving with this. I’ll lower the temp next time as the sides were beginning to burn—I have a vintage gas stove and perhaps it runs a little hot. The zest with the sugar is genius. You can taste the olive oil, the lemons and the cornmeal separately as they all come together in a well-balanced mouthful. Therefore, I would emphasize the importance of using the highest quality of ingredients. It’s almost works as a savory cake.which makes it interesting to taste and keeps you coming back for more. It’s fun and enjoyable and very original. I love it. I will make it again. Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much, Michele. It’s one of my favorites for all the reasons you mentioned. Do you have a thermometer in your oven? I found out last year that my oven was running almost 50 degrees hot and had to have it re-calibrated.

  7. Hi Eileen Gray!! When using a Bundt Pan to bake this cake how can I the outside of the crust a golden brown color instead of a dark brown crust?

    1. Hi Dolores! As I mention in the post, because the batter is quite loose it might not bake up as well in a loaf pan. In a Bundt pan, the batter is baking both from the outside and middle (because of the hole in the middle of the pan). In a Bundt pan, the middle of the cake sets fairly quickly. In a loaf or round cake pan the center of the batter bakes much more slowly. If such a loose batter takes too long to set in the oven it might not be able to hold the air bubbles and it may collapse in the middle. I haven’t tried it so I can’t be 100% sure, but I’d use a Bundt or other tube style cake pan if possible.

  8. Are we supposed to use the zest from all the lemons? That seems like a lot of zest, just wanted to check

    1. Hi Donna, yes I used the zest from all the lemons. With any citrus fruits, you get the most flavor from the zest because that’s where the oils are. Make sure to use just the thin yellow layer on the outside, not the white pith underneath. The pith is bitter. Mix the zest in with the sugar because the sugar will absorb the oils and carry the flavor through the cake. If you use a microplane to zest the lemons the bits are very tiny and you won’t notice them when you eat the cake.

      1. Thanks for the quick reply! I was just about to make the cake when I got your response. I made it late last night and just tried it this morning—it’s fantastic! So moist and that slight crunch from the cornmeal is the perfect touch. Doesn’t even need any powdered sugar on top. Excellent recipe, thanks!

        1. Thanks, Donna. What I love best about this cake is that it actually gets better for a couple of days after it’s made. Enjoy, and thanks for the feedback.

    1. Thanks, Angela. I’ll certainly never give up baking with butter, but olive oil does give the cake a nice moistness and a lovely flavor.

    1. Hi Lois. It would depend on the filling. It is a fairly wet batter so anything heavy might end up sinking as it bakes.

  9. 5 stars
    This looks amazing – we don’t get any exciting lemons over here so I think I would up the zest as our supermarket lemons are a bit meh! Going on my to make this!

    1. Great! I hope you like it Claire. You’re right to increase the lemon zest if your lemons aren’t that great – since most of the flavor comes from the oils in the zest. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  10. Wow this cakes looks perfect to me, nicely moist and light in the middle with a crunch to the outside! x #recipeoftheweek