This light, 10-ingredient lemon cake recipe is lightly sweet and bright - the perfect treat to enjoy with an afternoon tea or coffee.
“This not-too-sweet, very simple cake is perfect for that ‘it’s four o’clock and I need a little something with a cup of coffee’ moment,” says Julia Turshen about this lemon cake recipe, and I completely agree. I’ve had a little slice of this lemon olive oil cake every day this week, and it’s been delightful.
This easy lemon cake recipe comes from the book Small Victories by Julia Turshen. If you think you’re not familiar with her work, you probably actually are, as she’s co-authored books with Gweneth Paltrow and Mario Batali, to name a few.
I am head-over-heels for her easy lemon cake recipe. It’s made with just 10 simple ingredients, it’s light and fluffy, and the citrus flavor makes it incredibly fresh. I think you’ll love it too.
Lemon Olive Oil Cake Recipe Ingredients
I couldn’t believe that this moist, flavorful cake had only 10 ingredients! And even better, the ingredients are accessible – you likely already have all of them in your pantry. Here’s what’s in it:
- All-purpose flour forms the base of the batter.
- Finely ground almonds (or almond flour) give this cake a wonderful moist crumb. If you don’t have almonds, almost any ground nut will work instead!
- Baking powder helps it rise.
- Salt brings the bright, sweet flavors to the foreground.
- Eggs add moisture and richness.
- Olive oil gives it fruity notes that highlight the citrus flavor.
- Granulated sugar sweetens it up.
- Vanilla extract adds depth of flavor.
- Lemon juice and zest make it vibrant & bright.
- And a dusting of powdered sugar gives it a nice sweet finish.
Lemon Cake Recipe Variations
What I love about the recipes in Small Victories is that Julia has spin-off ideas for each one. (I know how all of you love recipe options, and I do too!) Her original Afternoon Cake recipe calls for orange, but since she said any citrus would work, I made a lemon cake… for obvious reasons.
Here are the other spin offs she suggests:
- Switch the citrus. Orange, lemon, clementine, tangerine, blood orange, and grapefruit zest all work very well.
- Make a lemon poppyseed cake by using lemon zest and juice and adding 1 tablespoon poppy seeds to the batter.
- Enhance the almond flavor. Julia’s recipe uses finely ground almonds, but she says you can substitute nearly any nut. If you do use ground almonds, add ½ teaspoon almond extract to the batter for a more intense almond flavor.
- Add a swirl. Just before you put the cake in the oven, dot the top with ¼ cup raspberry jam and use a fork or the tip of a paring knife to swirl in the jam.
- Make it nut-free. Omit the ground nuts and add an extra 1/2 cup flour to batter.
Let me know what variations you try! I’m dying to make the jam spin off next.
Lemon Cake Recipe Tips
Each recipe also comes with a little tip (the titular small victory). Here’s a tip she shared for cutting parchment paper to fit in a round pan, which is much easier than the way I used to do it:
Rip off a piece of parchment that’s a bit bigger than your pan. Fold it into a square. Then, fold it in half to make a triangle and fold it in half again to make an even more narrow triangle. Next, place the tip of the triangle in the center of the pan. Use scissors to cut off the excess parchment that extends beyond the pan. Finally, unfold the parchment and, voila, you have a perfect circle that fits into your pan.
And a tip from me: Serve this lemon olive oil cake with dollops of coconut cream (or whipped cream) for an extra treat. It’s a lovely creamy contrast to the moist, bright cake.
Click here to check out this sweet book 🙂
More Favorite Afternoon Treats
If you love this lemon cake recipe, make one of these sweet treats next:
- Best Carrot Cake
- Apple Cake
- Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- Thumbprint Cookies
- Chocolate Zucchini Bread
- Healthy Banana Bread
- Blueberry Scones
- Pumpkin Muffins
- 1 cup [120 g] all-purpose flour (I used spelt)
- ½ cup [50 g] almond flour or finely ground almonds (see Note)
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup [120 ml] extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup [100 g] granulated sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus ¼ cup [60 ml] fresh lemon juice
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- Preheat your oven to 350°F [180°C]. Use your hands to butter the bottom and sides of an 8-in [20-cm] cake pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. For good measure, butter the parchment paper. Set the pan aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until the whites and yolks are fully combined. Add the olive oil and granulated sugar and whisk until the sugar is dissolved (test by rubbing some of the mixture between two fingers). Whisk in the vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Whisk in the flour mixture.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, being sure to use a rubber spatula to get it all out of the bowl. Hold the pan just a little bit above the counter and then drop it on the counter to eliminate any air bubbles.
- Bake until the cake is beautifully golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the cake, still in its pan, to a wire rack and let it cool completely. Once cool, use a dinner knife to loosen the edges of the cake from the pan and invert it onto your work surface (you might need to give the pan a little whack). Peel off and discard the parchment. Invert the cake one more time onto a serving platter so the flat side is down and the domed side is up.
- Just before serving, dust the cake with powdered sugar.
Feel free to SUBSTITUTE ANY CITRUS in place of the orange. Clementine, tangerine, blood orange, and grapefruit zest all work very well.
FOR A LEMON–POPPY SEED CAKE, use lemon zest and juice instead of orange and add 1 Tbsp poppy seeds to the batter.
If you’re using ground almonds, add ½ tsp ALMOND EXTRACT to the batter for a more intense almond flavor.
Just before you put the cake in the oven, dot the top with ¼ cup [80 g] RASPBERRY JAM and use a fork or the tip of a paring knife to swirl in the jam.