I’ve never made a cake, or any baked good for that matter, with olive oil before. A majority of my cake recipes use butter as the fat.
I’ve made a few cakes with vegetable oil or shortening, but in the past I haven’t really ventured beyond these.
That all changed when I was asked to make an olive oil wedding cake! At first, I was kind of shocked.
Of all the flavors out there, that was her choice?! To be honest, I had never tried olive oil cake before. I think my initial hesitation was just me being scared of trying something new.
For starters, most classic Italian olive oil cakes are a single layer! A SINGLE LAYER!!
Since I needed to make this into an olive oil layer cake, I knew I’d have to increase the overall amount of batter.
One batch of batter needed to fill three, six-inch cake pans. I decided to master the recipe at this size, and then scale it up for the wedding cake.
Classic Olive Oil Cakes – Less Sugar, More Fat
After doing some research, I realized that olive oil cakes are less sweet than most of the cakes I make, and use a LOT of olive oil.
To emulate the traditional taste of an Italian olive oil cake, I scaled back the sugar a bit, and included a generous amount of olive oil.
Picking The Best Olive Oil For Baking
The star of this cake recipe is olive oil, so I knew I need to use a high quality olive oil!! I wanted to pick a fruity, delicious olive oil that would pair well with the lemon flavor in this cake.
By no means am I an olive oil expert, but there are a few things you should look for when picking out a bottle of olive oil at the grocery store:
- Look for dark bottles; darker glass helps protect the olive oil from sunlight, which can damage it’s nutrients and taste
- The label should say “extra virgin,” if it doesn’t, it means it’s been processed to a point that reduces it’s flavor
- There should be a best by date, and if it’s a really good olive oil, it might even include the harvest date!
- Be sure to look for some type of seal! If it’s a foreign olive oil, it should have a PDO seal (protected designation of Origin). If the olive oil is from the USA, it should have a USDA seal. I know it’s terrible to think bout, but there are counterfeit olive oils out there!
Lemon and Olive Oil – The Perfect Fruity Pair
With all of these things in mind, I went to work playing around with this recipe! I started with a classic olive oil cake recipe (thank you Bake From Scratch!).
My goal was to have the cake layers to still taste like an Italian olive oil cake…even if it was stacked and covered in buttercream!
I decided to nix the almond extract, since I didn’t want to trigger any nut allergies at the wedding.
In its place, I added in some lemon juice and zest, to brighten up the flavor. Lemon pairs so well with the fruity flavor of the olive oil!
The result? A wonderful, fruity, moist, DECADENT layer cake. Once I was happy with my lemon olive oil cake layers, I faced my next challenge. The frosting!!!
What frosting would taste best with an olive oil cake?
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Most olive oil cakes don’t have frosting at all. They’re usually finished with a brush of olive oil, or dusted with powdered sugar.
I wanted to frost the cake with something that wasn’t too sweet, but I needed to use a buttercream that would keep its shape.
The last thing I wanted was a wedding cake with bulging sides, or sliding tiers.
I ended up doing a taste test with three different frostings. I tried the cake with my classic American buttercream, my cream cheese frosting, a lemon buttercream, and combination of the lemon and cream cheese frosting.
It was an easy decision, and the winner was the lemon cream cheese frosting.
Making The Olive Oil Cake Batter
To make the lemon olive oil cake batter, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line and grease three, six-inch pans, and set aside.
Add eggs and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat the the whisk attachment for about 2 minutes. In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine the wet ingredient (milk, olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice).
Combine the remaining dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder) in another medium sized bowl.
Mix 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the egg mixture on a low speed until just incorporated, then add 1/2 of the wet ingredients.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then repeat this process. Finish by adding in remaining dry ingredients, then pour the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
Baking These Olive Oil Cake Layers
Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (or with a few moist crumbs). Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then flip onto a wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
While the cake layers bake and cool, make the frosting and candied lemon slices by following the recipes below. Both be made in advance.
Assembling This Lemon Olive Oil Cake
Once cooled, level the cake layers using a serrated knife, and assembled the cake. Cover the outside of the cake with a thin layer of frosting, to create a semi-naked look.
Decorate the base of the cake with fresh rosemary sprigs, and place candied lemon slices in a ring on top of the cake.
Unless you plan to eat the cake immediately, chill the cake in the fridge. Remove an hour before you plan to cut the cake, to allow the frosting to come to room temperature.
This cake was a huge hit at the wedding, but it would also be great for any small get together or celebration! One batch makes one six-inch layer cake, which feeds 10-12 people.
Tips for Making the Best Olive Oil Layer Cake
- Properly measure your flour. Either spoon it into the cup measure, then level with a knife or use a kitchen scale.
- Don’t overmix your batter! Mix on the speed the recipe recommends until the ingredients are just combined.
- Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature to help them mix together better.
- Don’t level your cake layers until they are completely cooled.
- Make sure your buttercream is the right consistency before frosting your cake! It will help give your cake proper structure and make it easier to decorate.
- If your cake layers turn out less than perfect, I recommend reading my cake troubleshooting guide to see where things might’ve gone awry.
Making This Olive Oil Cake in Advance and Storage Tips
- Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and make it more approachable.
- Make your frosting ahead of time too or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a weeks, or in the freezer for up to a month. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
- A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month. The frosting locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
- If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.
Let Me Know What You Think!
If you this olive oil cake recipe, please tag me @chelsweets and use the hashtag #chelsweets so I can see your beautiful creations!! 🙂
Olive Oil Cake Recipe
This lemon olive oil cake is made with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon zest and juice, and is a beautiful play on a classic Italian olive oil cake.
Olive Oil Cake Layers
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 cup (260 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. table salt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp (2 sticks)
- 1/2 cup cream cheese, room temp (4 oz)
- 5 cups powdered sugar (675 grams)
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest (zest from 1 medium lemon)
- 1 Tbsp heavy cream
- fresh rosemary sprigs
- 10 candied lemon slices
Olive Oil Cake Layers:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line and grease three, six-inch pans, and set aside.
- Add eggs and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat the the whisk attachment for about 2 minutes.
- In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine the wet ingredient (milk, olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice).
- Combine the remaining dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder) in another medium sized bowl.
- Mix 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the egg mixture on a low speed until just incorporated, then add 1/2 of the wet ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then repeat this process. Finish by adding in remaining dry ingredients.
- Pour the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
- Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (or with a few moist crumbs). Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then flip onto a wire cooling wrack to finish cooling.
- Once cooled, level the cake layers using a serrated knife, and assembled the cake.
- Cover the outside of the cake with a thin layer of frosting, to create a semi-naked look. Decorate the base of the cake with fresh rosemary sprigs, and place candied lemon sliced to the top of the cake.
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Beat the butter and cream cheese on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth.
- Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of heavy cream and lemon juice.
- Once combined, add in the lemon zest and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.
- If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Serving Size1 six inch layer cake
Amount Per Serving Calories 370Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 7gCholesterol 63mgSodium 480mgCarbohydrates 50gFiber 1gSugar 35gProtein 4g
Friday 10th of February 2023
Hi Chelsea, As soon as I mix milk and lemon juice the milk curdles. I tried with room temperature and cold milk. What am I doing wrong? Thanks
Sunday 12th of February 2023
It's ok if the milk curdles a bit! The batter will still come together and be smooth once the wet and dry ingredients are combined. Hope that helps, happy baking!
Sunday 10th of July 2022
If I doubled this would it work for 3 eight inch pans?
Sunday 10th of July 2022
That would work great! A double batch can be used to make 3, 8-inch cake layers and will the same bake time to the recipe card. Happy baking!
Saturday 4th of June 2022
Hi Chelsey! I’m about to make this cake for the second time for my grandmother’s birthday tomorrow, and I’m sure it’ll be just as much of a hit as it was the first time! However, I actually really like almond extract and was wondering if there’s any way I could still incorporate a little bit of it despite the addition of the lemon juice and zest? Would reducing the amount of lemon juice help balance the flavors? Or do you think that it really has to be one or the other? Thanks!! :)
Sunday 5th of June 2022
So happy to hear that! I think a couple tsp of almond extract would be a delicious addition to this recipe. I'd def reduce the amount of lemon juice to balance out the flavors. Maybe still add in some zest but swap out the lemon juice for more milk in the batter, and swap it for heavy cream in the frosting!
Hope it turns out great and that your grandmother loves it :) Happy baking!
Tuesday 31st of May 2022
Hello Chelsey! I am planning to make a wedding cake with this recipe as a base. I want to change the flavor with orange and orange blossom. Could I substitute the lemon juice with a mix of orange juice with a couple of tablespoons orange blossom water? I am thinking some bitter orange jam between the layers. Do you think the layers would need syrup for moisture? Thank you, hope you see it on time ?! Ps: I have used your recipes for wedding cakes before, they are awesome ?
Friday 3rd of June 2022
That sounds like a delicious combinations! I think those substitutions would work great. As for simple syrup, I always recommend it for wedding cakes, so I'd say using an orange simple syrup or an orange blossom simple syrup would be a wonderful idea. Hope the wedding cake turns out great!!
Cream Cheese Frosting: Pipeable and Delicious - Chelsweets
Wednesday 23rd of March 2022
[…] fear not!! I made a massive wedding cake with my olive oil cake recipe, and used this frosting recipe (plus some lemon zest) to frost […]