This year, March 20 is the first day of spring! What better way to usher in this long-awaited season than with a moist, flavorful, and delicious Italian Lemon Olive Oil Cake? Do not let the olive oil scare you away from this recipe—I promise you will not be disappointed! The cake tastes delicious on its own, but adding a lemon curd filling or lemon vanilla cream cheese frosting, or both, will make the treat a favorite at every occasion.
For the Cake:
1 cup extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
1 1/3 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
For the Lemon Curd Filling (optional):
3 large eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 1-tablespoon chunks
For the Lemon Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (optional):
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar, may need 1/4 cup more depending on consistency
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla or vanilla beans, optional
If desired, begin with the lemon curd by placing a saucepan with a few inches of water over medium heat. The exact amount of water does not matter. Bring the water to a simmer. Then crack the eggs over a medium sized metal mixing bowl. Add the sugar and lemon juice to the eggs and place the bowl over the pan containing the simmering water. Whisk the mixture continuously for eight to ten minutes until it foams and becomes thick, hot, and smooth.
Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk the lemon zest and unsalted butter into the liquid mixture. Continue to whisk the mixture constantly until the butter melts and incorporates into the lemon curd. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and push the plastic wrap onto the surface of the lemon curd. Refrigerate the lemon curd for at least one hour before serving.
The recipe makes approximately one and a half cups of lemon curd, so measure it before adding the filling to the cake. Alternatively, of course, a cup of store-bought lemon curd can be used.
To make the cake, start by preheating the oven to three hundred and twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit (one hundred and sixty-three degrees Celsius). Cream the oil, eggs, whole milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest together in a large mixing bowl for about two minutes. Then, in a medium sized bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture.
Next, spray two nine-inch or three eight-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the batter into the baking pans. Bake two nine-inch pans for thirty to thirty-five minutes, and bake three eight-inch pans for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans on a wire rack for about fifteen minutes after removing them from the oven, and then remove them from the pans onto the wire racks. Allow the cakes to cool completely until they are at room temperature before frosting them.
To make the frosting, cream together the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl for four-five minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape the sides as needed. Then cream the powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon zest into the mixture.
To assemble the cake when using two nine-inch pans, start by frosting the first cake layer. Then spread lemon curd on it and place the second layer on top of the first and frost it.
To assemble the cake when using three eight-inch pans, start by frosting the first layer, and then spread half a cup of lemon curd on top. Place the second layer on the first and frost it. Spread the remaining lemon curd on the second layer before frosting the third layer. Let the cake chill in the refrigerator for twenty to thirty minutes. Garnish the cake with lemon zest, lemon slices, berries, or mint.
This delicious cake recipe is one of my personal favorites and was given to me by a friend. Perfect for any event, adding the lemon curd filling and lemon vanilla cream cheese frosting will make the cake look and taste irresistible! I recommend adding a crumb coat if frosting the cake as the frosting will most likely be full of crumbs if only one layer is used. To add a crumb coat, simply frost the cake with a very thin layer of icing before letting it chill in the refrigerator for at least twenty minutes prior to adding the final layer of frosting. See the link below for further instructions on how to apply the crumb coat. Enjoy!
Chef John. “Chef John’s Lighter Lemon Curd.” Allrecipes.com, https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/234533/chef-johns-lighter-lemon-curd/.
Hamel, PJ. “How (and why) to crumb coat a cake.” King Arthur Baking Company, 19 Aug. 2019, https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2019/08/19/how-and-why-to-crumb-coat-a-cake.
Photo Credits: Isabel Rogers