An easy recipe for Lemon Olive Oil Cake that also happens to be vegan and full of whole, unprocessed ingredients. Use whole wheat pastry flour for a tender cake with a nutritious boost!

I love talking about food with foodies.

I had a conversation with my friend Alisha, and she told me about an Olive Oil Cake that was so good, it “haunted her dreams.” Would I be up for the challenge of creating a similar cake?

I immediately agreed, knowing my baking would be restrained by Alisha’s vegan diet. She also mentioned that a cake made with as many whole, unprocessed ingredients as possible would be preferred. And, if I could have it done in time for spring, all the better.

Lemon olive oil cake on a cooling rack.

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Can you use Olive Oil to bake a cake?

When you bake with oil instead of butter in a cake recipe, you don’t have to wait for butter to soften. You can immediately, easily, cream oil and sugar together.

Extra virgin olive oil has a stronger flavor than other olive oils, so choose an oil with a mild taste when you’re baking.

Lemon olive oil cake on a cooling rack.

How to Make Vegan Buttermilk

Whisk together unsweetened non-dairy milk, such as unsweetened almond milk, with lemon juice and let it set aside to curdle.

In this recipe, I also added lemon zest to the buttermilk for an extra lemony boost.

Lemon olive oil cake slices on two plates.

Baking with Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

I used 100% whole wheat pastry flour in my recipe for the most nutrition and a nutty flavor. You could also use 50% whole wheat pastry flour and 50% all-purpose flour.

However, whole wheat flour is NOT the same as whole wheat pastry flour. All of your baked goods will be heavier and denser if you use regular whole wheat flour.

White glaze being drizzled over a lemon olive oil cake.

Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado sugar, also known as “sugar in the raw,” is an unprocessed form of sugar. You can substitute 1 cup of regular granulated sugar for the 1 cup of Turbinado in this recipe.

Lemon olive oil cake.

Lemon Olive Oil Cake (Vegan)

This easy recipe for Lemon Olive Oil Cake is the ultimate spring and summer dessert! This loaf cake also happens to be a vegan dessert, making it a thoughtful addition to a potluck or picnic menu.
4.93 from 28 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Servings 8 slices
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Calories 321

Ingredients 

For the cake:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (see note 1)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar (see note 2)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (see note 3)
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions 

To make the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch loaf pan with parchment paper and coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  • To make vegan buttermilk, in a small bowl whisk together almond milk, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Set aside to blend for 5 minutes
  • Meanwhile, whisk together sugar and olive oil in a large bowl until creamy. Whisk in buttermilk mixture.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Fold into buttermilk mixture and stir until just incorporated.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean with a few crumbs attached, about 45 minutes. 
  • Remove from oven and cool at least 10 minutes in the pan. Remove to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet and cool completely.

To make the glaze:

  • Whisk together remaining powdered sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla until smooth. Pour over cooled cake, allowing excess to drip off the cake onto the baking sheet beneath.

Notes

  1. Unsweetened almond milk: This works one-for-one as a substitute for regular cow's milk in this and nearly any baking recipe. Here, I combine the plant-based milk with lemon juice to create a vegan buttermilk replacement. (In case you missed it, here's my non-vegan buttermilk swap!)
  2. Turbinado sugar: This sweetener is less processed than regular granulated sugar. The latter may or may not be vegan, depending on the brand and how its processed, so I formulated this olive oil cake recipe to use partially-refined turbinado. Some of the molasses from the sugarcane remains in the mix for turbinado sugar, so it has a subtle caramel flavor that plays nicely in this vegan dessert recipe.
  3. Olive oil: No need to splurge on the super-fancy and flavorful olive-green finishing oils. Mild-flavored, light olive oil is ideal for baking.
  4. Yield: My Lemon Olive Oil Cake recipe makes eight generous slices.
  5. Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
  6. Freezer: The cooled loaf (frosted or unfrosted) can be wrapped in a double-layer of freezer plastic, dated, labeled, and frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 321kcalCarbohydrates: 56gProtein: 4gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 325mgPotassium: 120mgFiber: 3gSugar: 34gVitamin A: 3IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 52mgIron: 1mg
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Comments

  1. This cake was very good! It had a good rise and texture. The glaze made the cade. I poked holes in the cake so the glaze would seep into itl.5 stars

  2. I’ve made this 3 times now and I think this one is the best! Doubled the recipe and baked in a bundt pan for 40 min. Used half sprouted whole wheat flour and equal parts of “00” italian flour and bread flour. For the oil I used half meyer lemon EVOO and half avocado oil. Total of 1 cup cane sugar and almost doubled the lemon zest. SOOO tender and mildly sweet but the glaze makes up for any lack (use almond extract in the glaze). This is definitely a keeper!!5 stars

  3. I have this cake in the oven right now and it smells amazing!! I added in some fresh blueberries and almond extract, curious to see what it will taste like 🥰 Very excited to try my first olive oil cake after years of seeing them on my timeline!! Thanks for the recipe 💗

  4. Hi there, I have had my eye on this recipe for months. I am hosting a bridal shower for my sister in law, and have been tasked with making muffins and cupcakes. Do you think I could make this recipe in a muffin tin? Or as mini Bundt cakes? Thank you in advanced for your help with this!

    1. Hi Jessica, yes you absolutely can. The baking time needs to be adjusted, though, and off the top of my head I don’t know what it would be. If you are a confident baker, you could just check them as you go (start with 10 minutes or something, check them every 2 minutes after that, or something like that). When is your event? We could try to figure it out before you need to know, if we have enough time. Please write me at hello@culinaryhill.com or reply to this comment and let me know your timeline. Thank you! :) -Meggan

  5. Could I use a lemon extract instead of the fresh lemons you think? I want to make this for my moms bday since she loves lemon :) thanks!!

    1. Hi Emma! I’m not sure, I think so but it would probably be less, not an equal swap. If the lemon extract has a good flavor, it should be fine. How do you feel about tasting the raw batter? If you are okay with that, maybe try 1/2 teaspoon of extract and see how it tastes. I feel like I would probably do 1 teaspoon, but without knowing for sure or trying it myself, I’m scared to ruin your cake. But you can definitely try it. Thanks! -Meggan

    1. Hi Rebecca, I’m not sure! I don’t have a lot of experience with oat flour in general and not in this recipe specifically. You could try it if you want to. I will cross my fingers that it goes well and doesn’t ruin your day! 🥴 -Meggan

  6. I’ve made this cake three times now, and it’s delicious. I LOVE lemon stuff. My personal notes would be: 1. I used a lightly greased 8×8 pan instead of a loaf pan for no particular reason, but I kind of like cutting it up into 16 tiny squares. 2. Perhaps because of the pan difference, I also found that the cake was ready in closer to 30-35 minutes. 3. I used 1/2 cup of sugar instead of 3/4, and an extra tablespoon or two of lemon juice (I don’t think these were the reasons behind the different baking times, though, because the first time I made the recipe I followed it exactly, including the loaf pan). And 4: I omit the vanilla extract from the icing. I used it the first time (and the second, but then threw it out and remade it), but it adds a weird and unnecessary alcohol flavor (and yes, it was pure extract). When I left it out, the glaze was just pure lemon, no underlying flavors. The recipe is a keeper, though!5 stars

  7. Have made this cake several times and is one of my faves. I tend to use half the powdered sugar for glaze and go a bit heavier on the zest. Big flavour.5 stars

    1. So great Maggie! I never tried making cupcakes with this recipe. Sounds like a future baking project! Take care and thanks. -Meggan

  8. Mmmm! I made this over the weekend and yuuum. I love lemon stuff.

    I only used 1/2cu of sugar and it worked just fine with the sugary glaze. I added an extra Tbsp or so of lemon juice to both the cake and the glaze. I also took a chance at using 3/4tsp of baking soda and also baking powder, because I wanted try to make the cake a little taller/less dense than it looked in the photo. It worked!

    The only thing I didn’t love is that it was hard to eat as a “finger cake” (i.e., standing there eating the entire thing slice by slice with your hands). It was crumbly and definitely a fork-and-plate cake. But maybe that was from my substitutions -? At any rate, yum.4 stars

  9. I did end up adding the lavender buds. It was really good. I added in 2 tsp of the buds to the cake mix after folding everything together. I also put some (about 1/4 tsp) into the icing mixture too. It was very delicate and tasty. On a second tasting, I served it with strawberry ice cream and it really pulled out the lavender flavor. It was an amazing combination!
    P.S. I subbed in extra tbsp of lemon juice to the cake mix and I still think it could take more (or zest) for stronger lemon punch.

    1. I think lemon and lavender were made to be together. I love lavender-flavored lemonade so I don’t see any reason that this cake could not benefit from some lavender buds. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it turns out. And, I will put it on my list of recipes to test. Thanks for the question! Take care.

  10. Hi. I would like to make the lemon olive oil cake but I can’t find the whole wheat pastry flour. It si ok if I substitute it with whole wheat flour?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Rosie, YES! You can do a mix of 50% whole wheat flour and 50% all-purpose flour if you’d like. If you go straight whole wheat flour, the cake will be a lot denser (I’m not sure exactly how well it will rise or if the baking time should be adjusted, but ultimately it should taste fine). Thanks! Good luck!

  11. I made this cake for my birthday and everyone, I mean everyone enjoyed it. We couldn’t stop eating it. I am making it for my mom’s birthday next week per her request.5 stars

    1. Bethany, thank you so much for this! I love hearing a good success story especially when we’re talking about a vegan olive oil cake. :D Take care!

  12. This was my first vegan cake. A total success. However, next time I think I will double the lemon juice and diminish the almond milk. That way the cake will have a more lemony flavor.  Hope this will work. Thanks again for the wonderful recipe.  4 stars

    1. Sounds like a good plan Charo! More lemon is always better. I should probably retest this myself and try to boost the lemony flavor so more. Thanks for the suggestion and take care!

    2. Can you substitute water for almond milk? Also, what kind of olive oil? Can it be full flavor extra virgin or does it need to be a lighter flavor?5 stars

  13. I made this. I was in a hurry so I used a cake pan, to shorten the cooking time. Served it at a picnic. My friends loved it. One friend requested that I make it again for his birthday. I think that was probably the first time he’s ever knowingly had a vegan cake, so to request it again was really good. It is dense, so it would be better as a loaf (vs. cake pan) but it was still very nice, and a surprisingly nice golden color. It went over well. My other friend noticed how moist it was, and was surprised that it only had a third a cup of oil total.5 stars

    1. This is so great! Thank you! Reminds me that I need to make it again, too. It’s a pretty good cake for being vegan/whole food ingredients. I appreciate your thoughtful comment and I’m glad your friends enjoyed it too! Take care and thanks again.

  14. Vegan buttermilk, genius! I love this healthified cake. I could use a little more health in my life in the coming year. :)5 stars

    1. We could all use a little more health, ha ha! Thanks Lizzy! I am sure your cake will automatically taste better than mine because… well… you’re SugarHero!

  15. I sure could use a slice of this right about now :) I really want to try an olive oil cake – this one will be it!5 stars

  16. Oh gosh this would be perfect with a nice coffee. I love citrus cakes of any type and although i am not vegan i love giving new recipes a try.5 stars

    1. You should definitely try this Mariana, vegan or not! It’s surprisingly good. And since it’s vegan that means you can eat twice as much right?? LOL

  17. Very impressively healthy, Meggan … perfect for the post-Christmas health-drive, of course, but also for any other time of year. Merry Christmas and hope you and family are well! :-)5 stars

    1. Thank you so much Helen, perfect for after the holidays and all year long! I miss you! XO

  18. I love the combination of lemon and olive on cooked veggies, but never thought to use it in a cake! This sounds like it’s wonderfully moist and flavorful!5 stars

    1. Thanks Kathleen, I am sure you will love this recipe! Take care and talk to you soon. :D

  19. You’ve done a great job “veganizing” this cake Meggan! Looks beautiful and I’m sure it is delicious! Love the use of whole wheat and the vegan buttermilk! These recipes take time to develop, but once done it is totally worth it!5 stars

    1. Thank you so much Mira! Totally worth it. Plus making it for a friend made it so enjoyable. I do well with positive constraints like that. :D Thank you again and take care my dear!

  20. I love using whole wheat flour, but never thought of using it in a cake, love this idea. This cake looks so moist and yummy, I want to eat it all. With a big pot of tea.5 stars

    1. Obviously all the tea! It’s so moist and tender despite whole wheat anything, ha ha. Thank you Janette and take care!