Simple Lemon Cake with Olive Oil

So, I made this simple lemon cake with olive oil for the ninth episode of my oil-based baking series with Colavita Olive Oil, and I could not be more excited about it. I was inspired to make the cake in the first place after participating in the global Bakers Against Racism bake sale, as one of the women (the lovely pastry chef at King, to be exact) selling her baked goods along side me sold just such a cake and it knocked my socks off. I begged her to share the recipe with me, assuming the texture and moistness of the cake must come from some complicated process involving stiffly beaten whipped egg whites or a long time spent whipping egg yolks and sugar. And much to my surprise (and delight) she explained that the recipe was from the restaurant, Maialino, in NYC, was a genius recipe of Food52’s (that she had tweaked a bit) and, wait for it, COULD NOT BE EASIER. Yes, peeps, an easy peasy recipe and then some. And because that is my favorite kind, I immediately made loads of tweaks and changes in order to make it my own – removing all the booze (keeping it family-friendly, peeps) adding buttermilk, reducing the olive oil a tad, a couple of yolks, and loads of lemon zest and juice – and named it the simple lemon cake with olive oil.

Simple Olive Oil Buttermilk Cake recipe

But you know what I did not change (or at least did not change all that much . . . )? The assembly – because it is my favorite kind. a) It is like practically one-bowl –  I mean yes, there are two bowls, but one just holds the dry ingredients and I’m not even interested in counting it; and, b) You use only a whisk – no flexible spatula – which I love. Finally, you can watch me make this simple lemon cake here but be warned: I have tweaked the recipe slightly since I filmed the video – but only slightly.

And now a final word of warning: cake is very dense and very olive oil-y. You can even see just how dense and ever present the olive oil is by looking closely at the photographs. So, if you are not in the mood for a VERY olive oil forward cake, then this is not the cake for you . . .

Simple Olive Oil Buttermilk Cake recipe
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5 from 2 votes

Simple Lemon Cake with Olive Oil

Recipe Author Jessie Sheehan


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 -3 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups Colavita Olive Oil
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with two0inch sides with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
  • In a large bowl, rub the zest into the two sugars with your fingertips. Whisk in the olive oil, buttermilk, eggs, yolks, vanilla and lemon juice.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until combined. It’s okay if the batter is lumpy.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about one hour, until the top is nicely browned (the cake cracks a bit around the edges as it bakes, don't worry) and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let cool until you can safely touch the pan, about a half an hour.
  • Release the cake from the pan by running a knife around the edge and invert the cake onto the rack. Let cool for two hours before slicing and serving. The cake will keep for at least 3 days on the counter, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.

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6 replies on “Simple Lemon Cake with Olive Oil”

5 stars
Looks and sounds amazing, have been following the Maialino recipe a while! Do you think this can work as a layer cake, paired with (German) buttercream? I know it will be lush all on its own, but want to make an occasion cake and love the idea of olive oil layers with either chocolate or vanilla custard creme.

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