With the zesty lemon flavor, soft crunchy texture from cornmeal and ground almonds, plus moist richness from olive oil, here's one of my go-to desserts: lemon olive oil cake. It's gluten-free (or use all purpose flour), and can be made dairy-free. Everyone loves it and it's easy to bake. Absolutely delicious!
You might know this olive oil cake as polenta cake, cornmeal cake, or even as a lemon cake recipe. This recipe covers all of those descriptions so it's hard to pick just one. It's totally delicious and one of my favorite cakes for more than 10 years.
And one more easy dessert baked in a springform pan, try this sweet cherry cake.
Why You'll like This Recipe
- It's a crowd pleaser if you have lemon lovers.
- You can make it ahead.
- It's versatile for serving at different times.
- Dress it up or not.
- Easy, because the food processor does all the work.
- Polenta: Many bags are labelled both polenta and grits. It's basically the same thing; ground cornmeal. It is not cornmeal flour, which is fine. This is the brand I've always used. Buy regular polenta, not instant polenta, which is finer and pre-cooked for faster cooking.
- Flour: Use a good general purpose GF blend for a gluten-free lemon olive oil cake. Here is the flour I bake with. If you do not need GF, I recommend this all-purpose flour.
- Baking powder: Buy aluminum-free baking powder and check the expiration date before using. It's a leavener, helping the cake batter to rise.
- Salt: I use the fine pink sea salt but table salt is fine.
- Almonds: Raw whole almonds. By weight, you need almost a half pound. By measure, 1 ¼ cups. Weighing is better.
- Sweetener: Use cane sugar, granulated sugar, or part monk fruit blend to reduce sugar. I use half cane sugar and half monk fruit and you'd never know the difference.
- Lemon: This recipe uses the whole fruit, so use fresh lemons. If you have Meyer lemons, all the better, but regular lemons work too.
- Olive oil: For the type of olive oil, I use extra-virgin olive oil. Use a mild fruity one. It is the best choice for flavor and healthy fat. Don't substitute vegetable oil.
- Milk: Lemon olive oil cake works with both dairy milk and almond milk. If you're using homemade, unstrained almond milk, strain it for this recipe.
- Eggs: Large eggs, clean, and un-cracked.
- Extract: Almond extract amplifies the almond flavor in this marvelous lemony cake recipe.
Please see the recipe card for measurements.
Chef's Tip: What is the most accurate way to measure in baking? Using a digital kitchen scale. It's an inexpensive and invaluable kitchen tool for more than baking. Because baking is chemistry, a digital scale is the only way to get accuracy and insure that the recipe you're making comes out right.
Substitutions and Variations
The only possibility I've never tested is using almond flour instead of whole raw almonds. Since you're using a food processor that grinds the almonds into the batter, there's really no reason, unless you want to try it. Swap 7.5 ounces of almond flour (2 cups + 3 tablespoons) for raw whole almonds. It's best to weigh it with a digital kitchen scale.
For a vegan lemon cake, try making it with an egg substitute such as flax eggs, aquafaba, or chia see eggs. See this guide for help.
For another terrific sauce to serve with lemon olive oil cake, try this homemade strawberry coulis recipe.
Using a food processor makes this cake easy as it does all of the work for you. You need a 9" springform pan and parchment paper to bake this olive oil cake. Here are step-by-step photos so you know what the process looks like.
Set-up: Pre-heat the oven to 325°F. Spray the springform pan with non-stick (here is the brand I use) and add a round of parchment paper to the bottom.
Step 1: In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.
Step 2: Add the almonds and sugar to the workbowl. Pulse to process to grind together, about 30 seconds. It will have a coarse, sandy texture.
Step 3: Add the lemon juice and the whole lemon half and process 45 seconds. Scrape down the workbowl with a rubber spatula.
Step 4: Add the wet ingredients: olive oil, eggs, milk and almond extract and process for 1 ½ minutes until the batter is smooth.
Step 5: Pour cake batter into the prepared pan pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until the top is light golden brown and the top springs back when gently touched with your fingertips. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then release the spring and cool on a wire rack.
Timing will depend on your ovens and whether conventional or convection. Convection bakes faster, so keep an eye on it near the end. If you have a choice of modes, use conventional for this recipe.
Lemon olive oil cake works as a simple dessert dusted with powdered sugar (also called confectioners' sugar) or powdered monk fruit blend. It makes a nice snack cake in the afternoon with a cup of tea and with brunch because it's not overly sweet.
Lemon olive oil cake can be made two days ahead, wrapped with plastic wrap, and refrigerated. I think it would freeze well, but it never lasts that long. This cake lasts 3-4 days after baking, well wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated.
How to Dress it Up
Three options to dress up olive oil cake for a special occasion, add fresh juicy berries and:
- An easy lemon glaze or lemon icing (recipe below).
- Softly whipped cream sweetened with sugar and vanilla or almond extract. What I use is a squirt of this syrup as it blends in easily.
- Another sauce idea is this berry sauce, smooth or chunky.
Simple Lemon Glaze or Lemon Icing
If you want to make the lemon glaze (icing) like in the main photo, mix 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar with fresh squeezed lemon juice until its the consistency you want. It takes 2-4 tablespoons of lemon juice. Sifting the powdered sugar through a fine-mesh sieve or strainer gets rid of lumps in the powdered sugar.
To reduce the tartness, whisk in 1-2 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter (dairy or plant). Taste it first and decide.
If you are making the icing ahead of time and refrigerating, it gets stiff with the cold temperature. Let it warm up a bit on the counter before serving and re-whisk.
If you'd like, add a little almond extract or vanilla extract.
Chef's Note: I really wanted to do a no-sugar lemon glaze and tested it with a monk fruit blend. It was disappointedly grainy. I will be testing with another product soon and will update the recipe if the results are good.
Olive oil cake tastes rich and moist, you'd never think it tastes like olive oil with its wonderful flavor.
I always choose extra virgin olive oil for it's marvelous flavor and high quality, but don't use a fancy, expensive, finishing EVOO. A quality extra virgin olive oil is fine.
Yes, oil cakes (like this lemon olive oil cake) are more moist because butter has a percentage of water in it (about 18%) and oil is 100% fat, so an oil cake is more moist because of the higher fat content.
Powdered sugar sprinkled through a small strainer, a dollop whipped cream sweetened with sugar and either vanilla or almond extract, and fresh berries are nice. Another option, a powdered sugar or powdered monk fruit glaze is terrific, tastes the same, and no sugar. See how to make it above!
More Lemon Recipes
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Lemon Olive OIl Cake (gluten free)
- ½ cup gluten-free cornmeal/grits 3 ounces
- ½ cup all purpose gluten-free flour blend I use King Arthur's, 2.4 ounces
- 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 7 ½ ounces whole raw almonds 1 ¼ cups
- 1 cup unrefined natural raw sugar OR half or all granular monk fruit/allulose blend
- 1 large lemon
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk or dairy milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- powdered sugar to finish before serving
- fresh berries
- whipped cream
- lemon glaze (icing) recipe below
- Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9” springform pan with non-stick spray and line with a parchment round cut to fit the bottom. In a medium bowl, whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt together.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel knife, pulse the almonds and sugar for about 30 seconds. They should have a coarse, sandy texture.
- Cut lemon in half. Juice one half to get 1 ½ tablespoons; discard rind and add juice to the food processor. Pick the seeds from the other lemon half, cut lemon half into four pieces and add to the food processor. Process for 45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl with a flexible spatula. Add oil, almond milk, eggs and almond extract. Process for 1 ½ minutes. Add the cornmeal/flour mixture and give it a few long pulses to combine.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until golden and firm to the touch but still springs back a bit. A cake tester or toothpick comes out with just moist crumbs attached. Timing depends on your ovens.
- Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then run a thin bladed knife around the inside edge of the pan. Release the spring, remove the bottom pan and parchment and cool on a wire rack. Let cool completely. Serve as desired with berries, whipped cream, whipped coconut milk or plain. The cake will hold for two days wrapped well and refrigerated.