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Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Much as I love my butter cakes, this Meyer 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.

meyer lemon olive oil cake 7a

There are a million olive oil cake recipes on the internet (and that might not be an exaggeration. There could actually be a million) and I’m sure some are better than others. This is a good one, if I do say so myself.

My recipe came about because I had a bunch of Meyer Lemons in the fridge that were going to go bad if I didn’t do something with them. It was my turn to host book group and I needed to bake something to serve. I hadn’t posted an olive oil cake recipe yet, so decided it was time to use the Meyer Lemons and create a new olive oil cake recipe.

Olive oil cake is, essentially, a chiffon cake. Chiffon cakes are oil based cakes, no butter in the batter. Because oil stays liquid at room temperature oil based cakes are soft and moist and have a very, very tender crumb. The problem with chiffon style cakes is that 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.

I started my recipe knowing I would use both the zest and the juice from the Meyer Lemons. Most of the flavor comes from the oils in the zest and most of the tang comes from the acidic juice. In order to keep the tangy flavor front and center I decided not to use acid-neutralizing baking soda. Instead I used baking powder to leaven the cake. To keep the style of the cake a little on the rustic side, I planned to add just a little cornmeal to the batter for a little crunch and color.

The first attempt at the recipe was not bad, but the texture was more like corn bread than cake. I’d added a little too much corn meal and not enough oil. Also, I’d separated the eggs and whipped the whites which made the crumb too open. This should be a slightly dense cake, like a pound cake. While it was an acceptable cake, it was not good enough. Back to the drawing board. (Of course, that meant I had to buy even more Meyer Lemons, oh well.)

For the second cake I changed the mixing method. I “ribboned” the eggs with the sugar, then added the oil, dry ingredients and lemon juice. “Ribboning” means you whisk the whole eggs with the sugar until they aerate and lighten in color. When you lift the whisk and drizzle the eggs into the bowl they’ll leave a “ribbon” on the surface. Hence the term, “ribbon” the eggs. You can see that in the photo below (despite the terrible lighting-I was baking at night).

how to ribbon eggs

The second cake was much better. With just a 1/2 cup of cornmeal I got the crunch and the nice yellow color that I wanted but the texture was still tender and cakey. Adding an extra 1/4 cup of olive oil made the cake very moist with a barely discernible olive oil flavor in the background.

Bake the cake in a 12 cup Bundt or tube pan. The batter may not bake up properly in a round or loaf shaped pan. It is a very wet batter and might not have enough structure without the opening in the middle of the pan.

meyer lemon olive oil cake 2a

meyer lemon olive oil cake 3a

meyer lemon olive oil cake 6a

meyer lemon olive oil cake 8aNot 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. Of course you could plate it with some fresh berries for a fancier presentation.

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Yield: 12-16
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

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. Of course you could plate it with some fresh berries for a fancier presentation.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (15 oz, 420g) All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup (2.75 oz, 80g) corn meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 lb (about 5) Meyer Lemons, zest and juice
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups (17 oz, 475g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 oz, 300 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 12 cup Bundt or tube pan with pan spray, or butter and flour.
  2. Combine the flour, corn meal, salt and baking powder in a small bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients together to distribute the baking powder, set aside.
  3. Put the granulated sugar into a mixer bowl. Grate the lemon zest right onto the sugar and mix the zest through the sugar (see note). Juice the lemons into a measuring cup, you should get about 3/4 cup of juice (see note). Add the eggs to the sugar. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until the eggs aerate, thicken and lighten in color.
  4. With the mixer still running, drizzle in the olive oil. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the lemon juice
  5. Take the batter off the mixer and mix by hand to ensure there are no lumps in the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake until the cake springs back lightly when 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.
  7. Serve sprinkled with a little powdered sugar

Notes

The sugar will absorb the oils in the zest so you'll get more flavor from the zest.

If you don't get enough juice from the Meyer lemons you can add regular lemon juice or orange juice to bring the amount to 3/4 cup.

The cake keeps well at room temperature for several days.

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Did you make this recipe?

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Claudia Betancourt

Sunday 16th of August 2020

Hi, I want to cook this cake at high altitud, (9.000 ft), what changes have I do? Thank you

Eileen Gray

Sunday 16th of August 2020

Wish I could help you, but sorry, I'm not an expert in high altitude baking.

Monali Mohapatra

Wednesday 8th of January 2020

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?

Eileen Gray

Thursday 9th of January 2020

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!

Zapladybug

Wednesday 6th of November 2019

For how long should I bake the cake? Do you have an estimate? I’m using a conventional oven at 350. Thanks.

Eileen Gray

Wednesday 6th of November 2019

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!

Paula

Wednesday 13th of March 2019

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.

Eileen

Wednesday 13th of March 2019

Oh, I wish I had prolific Meyer Lemon trees. Lucky you. So glad you enjoyed the cake.

Michele

Saturday 16th of February 2019

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!

Eileen

Saturday 16th of February 2019

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.