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Olive Oil Cake

April 6, 2023

A generous pour of olive oil means this (dairy-free!) lemon cake recipe is moist and tender, while both lemon zest and lemon juice make it sing with juicy, sunny goodness.


Olive Oil Cake made with lemon topped with whipped cream and berries on a plate

The Hands-Down, Game-Over Best Lemon Cake Recipe Ever.

This lemony olive oil cake recipe is positively the best. We can say that without it seeming like we’re bragging because the lemon cake recipe comes from a friend! So maybe we’re bragging a little bit, but not about how great we are, but instead about how great our friends are. Joanna from Portland’s Small Baking Co. created this recipe and was kind enough to share it with us (after we begged and begged and begged). Moist and tender, it tastes like the Italian riviera of our most sun-soaked dreams. The olive oil flavor comes through in a subtle way—just a hint of something savory that gives this otherwise simple lemon cake recipe a sophisticated flavor that belies how easy it is to throw together. If you ever get a hankering for something that’s just SO lemony, or find yourself in the glorious predicament of wondering “what can I do with lots of lemons?” (we hear this is a thing that happens to people who live in the sunbelt—you lucky ducks!), look no further than this olive oil-kissed, super lemony lemon pound cake recipe.

lemon olive oil pound cake with fresh berries and whipped cream,

3 Reasons We Love to Use Olive Oil Instead of Butter in Cakes!

The question isn’t “can I use oil instead of butter in pound cake?” the question is “why is oil so much better than butter in a cake like this?”. Because it really is! In addition to the fact that we like the flavor that olive oil gives to this cake—this lemon olive oil cake has a distinctly Mediterranean coastline vibe that we just adore—we also love it for the following reasons:

  1. Moisture. How do you make a lemon pound cake moist? Oil! Oil is 100% fat, whereas butter is about 80% fat and 20% other stuff (mostly water). Fat = moisture, and so therefore oil is a better choice! Making the cake with oil instead of butter also will help it stay tender and moist longer, so you can snack on this lemon cake for a few days and it’ll still be yummy.

  2. Health. This lemon olive oil cake still has quite a lot of sugar and white flour in it, so we’re not exactly calling it a healthy lemon cake. But it’s certainly healthier than classic lemon pound cake, which often includes quite a lot of butter. Olive oil is much healthier—it’s an unsaturated fat that’s actually good for your heart!

  3. Dietary accessibility! Making this cake with olive oil instead of butter means that this is a completely dairy-free lemon cake recipe! That means that people who have dairy intolerances can enjoy this cake, which is a major bonus as far as we’re concerned.

orange, lemon, zest, brown sugar, white sugar, flour, olive oil, eggs, salt and baking powder for olive oil cake
sugar, brown sugar, flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl for olive oil cake
eggs, olive oil and lemon zest in a bowl
lemon olive oil cake batter in a bowl

What’s In Lemon Olive Oil Cake?

So, you may have been a bit tipped off by the title of this recipe to a couple of the ingredients in this cake—it does indeed have lemons and olive oil in it. Well, actually—brace yourself—you could use a mix of citrus fruits, if you’d like to! We’ve successfully subbed clementine zest and juice for some of the lemon and the cake comes out just as lovely and delicious as it does when we use all lemon juice. So feel free to mix it up a bit! You could even use all orange juice and orange zest to make an orange olive oil cake instead. Just be sure you don’t mess with the proportions. As for the olive oil, it doesn’t have to be extra virgin. If you want the olive oil flavor to be more pronounced, use an extra virgin olive oil. If you just want the moisture that the oil brings, feel free to use olive oil that’s not extra virgin—that’ll be more budget-friendly, too. Here are all of the ingredients you’ll need to make this lemon olive oil cake:

  • All-purpose flour

  • Baking powder

  • Salt

  • White sugar

  • Brown sugar

  • Olive oil

  • Lemon juice (or clementine juice or orange juice)

  • Eggs

  • Lemon zest

olive oil pound cake batter in a cake pan
olive oil cake made with lemon baked in a loaf pan

How to Make Lemon Olive Oil Cake from Scratch

Aside from being a cheery, brilliant yellow and tasting like pure, zingy sunshine, this lemon olive oil cake is also as easy as can be! You don’t need a stand mixer or electric beater or anything. All you need is a mixing bowl—yep, one bowl—and some measuring cups and you’re good to go. Here’s how to make Joanna’s beautiful lemon cake recipe:

  1. Dry ingredients! Dump them into a bowl and give them a whisk until they’re evenly mixed.

  2. Wet ingredients! Pour in the wet ingredients, including the citrus zest.

  3. Stir! Using olive oil instead of butter means that this cake is harder to over-mix than a traditional, butter-enriched pound or loaf cake recipe (meaning it’s not as prone to toughness) but it’s still good to go easy on the mixing. When the wet and dry ingredients are smoothly mixed, stop!

  4. Grease the heck out of your loaf pan. No really. Use butter or a spray to really get every nook and cranny of your loaf pan before you pour in the lemon cake batter. Sticking is such a disappointment!

  5. Bake at 350°F for about 40 minutes. But keep an eye on the cake and when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, the lemon olive oil cake is done!

lemon olive oil pound cake with fresh berries and whipped cream,
lemon olive oil pound cake with fresh berries and whipped cream,

Tools You’ll Need:

All Lemon Everything: Four Lemon Recipes for All Our Fellow Lemon Lovers

Olive Oil Cake made with lemon topped with whipped cream and berries on a plate
lemon olive oil pound cake with fresh berries and whipped cream,

Snack, Dessert, Breakfast, All of the Above? This Lemon Olive Oil Cake Is One Heck of a Multitasker

We think anytime the craving hits is the right time for this easy lemon loaf recipe. Few cake recipes can boast readiness in just about an hour, but this one can! And it keeps beautifully, so you’ll be feasting on lemon cake for days—the only barrier to its longevity is your own will power. Thank goodness Joanna from Small Baking is a nice person and shared her lovely recipe with us all! Try her recipe, and let us know how you like it, OK? Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

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Olive Oil Cake

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  40 min
  • Calories: 358


  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup (2.66 ounces) light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (from 2 lemons) (see Note)
  • 4 tablespoons lemon zest (from 4 lemons) (see Note)
  • 2 large eggs


  1. Heat oven to 350° F with a rack in the center position. Prepare a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray or butter.

  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and brown sugar.

  3. Whisk in the olive oil, lemon juice and zest and the eggs, until just combined, taking care to not over mix.

  4. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Note: You can substitute the lemon juice and zest in this recipe for orange juice and zest if desired.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories358
  • Protein4 g
  • Carbohydrates35 g
  • Total Fat26 g
  • Dietary Fiber0 g
  • Cholesterol55 mg
  • sodium123 mg
  • Total Sugars19 g

Olive Oil Cake

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Nancy

    What size loaf pan should I use? I have three different sizes.

    9 inch. Hope you enjoy Nancy!

  • Ayvee

    Hi! What did you top it with in your picture ? Greek yogurt ? Thanks!!

    Just a little whip cream!

  • Jojo

    I made this in a standard loaf pan and it turned out quite flat (~1 inch high) and very oily. Any ideas on what might have gone wrong?

    Oh no! sorry to hear that Jojo. Only thing we could think of is maybe it wasn't quite mixed enough. it won't get super fluffy like a regular cake. Olive oil cake is more dense than regular cake but certainly shouldn't be oily.

  • Carmela

    Do I use extra virgin olive oil?

    Yes, Carmela, that would be perfect!

  • Susan

    Hi! Photos show what seems to be parchment lining for loaf pan. If I line pan, do I need to butter up the paper to prevent sticking? Thanks.

    Hi Susan. Yes, we would just in case. Hope you enjoy!

  • Jenn

    I could eat this entire thing by myself it was absolutely delicious! It was so moist and you really can't go wrong with anything lemon flavored in my opinion.

    Thanks Jenn, we are glad you love it so much!