Cakes/ Dessert/ Fruit Desserts/ Recipes

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

When I was a senior in college and living in Charleston, my friend Lara and I would do dinner about once a week. Lara and I had met in class {we were both creative writing majors} and both shared a passion for really good food and really good wine. Some things never change? Anyways, Lara’s specialty was this delicious homemade gnocchi with gorgonzola cream sauce and mine was this light and fluffy olive oil cake. It was my go-to dessert because it was so easy to prepare and everyone raved about it.

The original recipe for this cake is from The Vegetarian Times Cooks Mediterranean Cookbook and I’ve made it so many times over the past five years that the page is splotched, stained and hanging on by a thread. {side note that this is one of my very favorite cookbooks of all time and special because it involved my first “break” into the food writing world. In college, I snagged an online internship with the Gilded Fork — I wrote their monthly cookbook reviews and oh-my-gosh-couldn’t-believe-it ’cause they let me actually keep the cookbooks I reviewed on the site….and this was the first cookbook I ever wrote about! Who needs money when you get free cookbooks?!}

This is a simple cake and what makes it special is, you guessed it, the type of olive oil you use. Despite olive oil being a main ingredient, this cake does not actually taste like olive oil. It tastes like a lemon-scented chiffon or angel food cake — the fruitiness of the olive oil is in the background and I really feel you’d only be able to tell that it’s there if you already knew.

A few months ago, Village Press sent me some outrageously delicious extra virgin olive oil straight from New Zealand to play with. It was my first experience with New Zealand olive oil and wow….is it yummy! So light and fruity! You definitely want to use a light and fruity extra virgin olive oil in this cake. {you can buy Village Press olive oil here—it’s almost time for me to get a second bottle, myself!}

It’s the perfect little cake for tea or an afternoon snack. I have always just served this with a dusting of powdered sugar, but will probably try it with a lemon glaze next time. Either way, it’s lovely.

Every time I make this cake it reminds me of my little house on Queen street in downtown Charleston. I’d pull it out of the oven and carry it over to Lara’s house where she’d have homemade sangria ready. We’d sit kick off our flip-flops, sit on her porch and chat about classes, stories we were writing and where we wanted to be in five years. Well, I never thought I’d be sitting here writing about this cake!

But I am so glad that I am. Love you guys!

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

adapted from The Vegetarian Times Cooks Mediterranean

yields 1 cake to serve 6-8

Print this Recipe!


4 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Zest of 1 lemon

juice of 2 lemons

powdered sugar for serving


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9″ cake round—set aside.

Beat together the eggs and sugar until very pale and fluffy. For best results, use a Kitchen Aid mixer on high setting for five minutes. If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid, beat by hand until very thick.

Slowly stream in the olive oil and lemon juice into the eggs and sugar mixture and fold in with a rubber spatula.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and zest. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, making sure you get down to the bottom of the bowl so everything is incorporated well.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 45 minutes.

Let cake cool in pan slightly before inverting onto a cake plate and dusting with powdered sugar.


1 hour

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  • Heather Michelle @ A Sweet Simple Life
    September 12, 2012 at 3:52 am

    Yum! Looks heavenly and love the back story. πŸ™‚

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    September 12, 2012 at 4:04 am

    This sounds fabulous – and looks so easy!

  • Jen
    September 12, 2012 at 4:14 am

    So…at that time – where were you hoping you’d be in 5 years?!

  • Sally @ Spontaneous Hausfrau
    September 12, 2012 at 4:22 am

    I love the simplicity of this cake! My husband adores lemon desserts, so I’ll this will make him a happy man.

  • Anne
    September 12, 2012 at 4:27 am

    The back stories always make recipes taste better πŸ™‚ I think that’s why I love blogs so much!
    It’s funny how often the simplest recipes are the best!

  • Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama}
    September 12, 2012 at 4:47 am

    Wow–that is one perfect-looking cake. Beautiful! Well done. πŸ™‚

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat
    September 12, 2012 at 5:11 am

    I’d write for free cookbooks too… and for cake! πŸ˜‰

  • Molly @ RDexposed
    September 12, 2012 at 5:25 am

    And if you were still there you may have been able to catch a glimpse of Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively tying the knot! This cake could be a bribing point to get into weddings! πŸ˜‰

  • Katie
    September 12, 2012 at 5:25 am

    This looks delicious. I have always wanted to try an olive oil cake, but have been afraid to. I don’t think I can pass this one up, though!

  • Jenna
    September 12, 2012 at 5:33 am

    I’ve made this before it is delicious! I love olive oils

  • Jessie
    September 12, 2012 at 5:46 am

    Oh Charleston … in my brief time there, I lived on Bogard!

  • Emily
    September 12, 2012 at 5:56 am

    I should be getting your book in the mail today! I’m so excited. And this cake looks so simple and amazing!

  • Joelle (on a pink typewriter)
    September 12, 2012 at 6:09 am

    I actually think I remember you posting about this when our blog first started back in the day! About time
    I make it myself.:)

  • amy walters, aDESIGNdock
    September 12, 2012 at 6:17 am

    This cake looks looks delightful…so glad you shared this lil’ lemon number.

  • Carlee
    September 12, 2012 at 6:32 am

    I have a lemon infused olive oil that would be PERFECT for this. I am going to make it this weekend!

  • Margarita
    September 12, 2012 at 6:36 am

    A lovely cake with a lovely story…. Your book should be in my mailbox today. I can’t wait!

  • bridget {bake at 350}
    September 12, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Ooo…this looks so good, Jenna! I’ve been wanting to try an olive oil cake. I think I must now.

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape
    September 12, 2012 at 7:23 am

    I love how simple this is! I’ve made something very similar in cupcake form.

  • Kim@hungryhealthygirl
    September 12, 2012 at 7:25 am

    Looks lovely and light….the perfect dessert to make for my next book club get together! I love how there are few ingredients and the simplicity of them.

  • Urban Wife
    September 12, 2012 at 7:27 am

    I love that you say it doesn’t taste like olive oil. The only time I’ve tried an olive oil cake, I was frankly disgusted because I felt like I was literally chugging olive oil. I must give this one a try!

  • Carla
    September 12, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Hi Jenna – do you know approximately how many tablespoons, ounces, or cups the juice of the lemons you used came out to?

    • jenna
      September 12, 2012 at 8:55 am

      About two tablespoons. πŸ™‚

  • Moni Meals
    September 12, 2012 at 7:47 am

    This lemon cake has certainly grabbed my attention Jenna. I can already tell it’s my kind of cake; thick, moist, dense, goes great with some milk or hot tea… I could go on and on. πŸ™‚ Really cute story too by the way- I really want to go to Charleston someday too.

  • Averie @ Averie Cooks
    September 12, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Ive never baked a cake with olive oil b/c I tend not to use it for sweet recipes (just savory) but have always been tempted to try it…and you make me want to try this cake. So pretty!

  • allie@sweetpotatobites
    September 12, 2012 at 8:14 am

    i love that this cake just has a few basic ingredients – sometimes simple is better! this does seem like the perfect afternoon snack.

  • Addy@The Journalist
    September 12, 2012 at 8:25 am

    AHHH! i am so making this today – my neighbor gifted me with a bagful of Meyer lemons….yay!

  • Dana B
    September 12, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Please tell me you’re having Lara guest blog with the recipe for that gorgonzola cream gnocchi. Oh my wow.

  • Aidan
    September 12, 2012 at 9:03 am

    This is very much like a cake I bake, but with one exception. I cut all of the liemon peel off of the fruit with a vegetable peeler, put it in the food processor with the sugar, then process it until it is a moist sugar and the lemon pel is too small to see. Then I proceed exactly as this recipe suggests. The lemon flavor is more straightforward and quite pleasant.

  • Jenn
    September 12, 2012 at 9:30 am

    We have a fabulous, locally-owned olive oil and vinegar bar/store here in Fort Wayne, IN. I even had my 40th birthday party there where we brought in our own wine and snacks and tasted everything! It was the best party I’ve ever had:)

    You should check out the website: Lori, the owner and personal friend, is great to work with and knows sooo much about olive oils. You would never believe the combinations you can make for fantastic foods and recipes! Highly recommend!! Maybe I can even bring some down to Indy with me when Polly and I come!

    • jenna
      September 12, 2012 at 9:32 am

      That sounds AMAZING!

  • Noelle
    September 12, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Looks delicious, but you really shouldn’t bake with cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. The heat destroys all the healthy properties and actually releases chemical components that can be cancer causing agents.

  • Kim @ Raising The Barre
    September 12, 2012 at 9:47 am

    MUST MAKE THIS!!! Sounds so delicious and I love that it is super easy with basic ingredients. Yummy!

  • Laura @ She Eats Well
    September 12, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Love the simplicity of this recipe!! I am sure you have checked it out, but there is a great Olive Oil place in the Ferry Building in SF. Yummy to taste!

  • Abby
    September 12, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I would work for cookbooks as well…and cake! This looks perfect for a weekend tea and cake date!

  • Judith
    September 12, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Jenna, Just when I think you can’t get any better, you post a recipe featuring 1 of my fave ingredients, lemon. I absolutely love any thing with lemon involved, and have 2 single subject cook books re the topic.

    Just got and read the book in a day, loved it.
    You are destined for more wonderful things in your life!
    looking forward to Sunday at Omnivore, Judith

  • Caroline L.
    September 12, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Food that comes with a story is the best! This looks so delicious – light and fluffy… I want to make some, bring it to a friend’s house, and just chat all day! πŸ™‚

  • Andrea
    September 12, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Gorgeous. This would be a good addition to an italian-themed dinner, I think? A light cake with a little olive oil from the heart of italy to follow all those lovely pasta-y carbs?

  • Julia {the roasted root}
    September 12, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I’ve tried two olive oil cakes and loved both of them! Your lemon version with the confectioner’s sugar on top looks great! I have a lemon-infused oil at home that would work perfectly in this recipe!

  • Angela @ Happy Fit Mama
    September 12, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    I’ve seen recipes for Olive Oil cake and was intrigued but wondered abou the taste. I love anything lemon so this might be something I have to try.

  • Kathleen @ fittitudefreedom
    September 12, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    I just love lemons & olive oil so this recipe is a must try for me. Thanks for sharing and I hope mine looks as good as yours. I can’t wait to taste!

  • Tara@Sugar Spice and Bacon
    September 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Yum! This is totally my type of dessert! Definitely trying this one out soon!

  • Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
    September 12, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    So simple, yet so elegant and no doubt delicious. I love lemon anything! Just need to get my hands on some really good olive oil…

  • Tracy
    September 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    The cake sounds delicious!

    I read your book today and loved it!! Well done! I guess we have to wait for you to live more of your life for the next book?!?

  • Suzanne de Cornelia
    September 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Sounds delicious. Love anything with lemon, and also that it’s one layer and small.

    Will substitute honey for the sugar–and find a unique flour in the Whole Food bins–and use fresh honey-glazed fruit on top.

    Imagine either fresh lavender or rosemary added to it would be great too depending on what fruit topping added. Can never leave a recipe alone. πŸ˜‰

    Just got a yummy ‘365’ brand ‘Madame Fleur’ Rose at Whole Foods…made in France. Thinking this little basic cake recipe with that wine added & maybe raspberries and rose petals would be great too….

  • Roxana | Roxana's Home Baking
    September 12, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    this cake looks so light! i have read about olive oil cake but have never made or ate one. i’ll probably make yours once i get my hands on some good cold pressed olive oil
    thanks for sharing Jenna

  • Emily @ Life on Food
    September 12, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Her dinner and your cake. What a great evening experience.

  • Marissa@ohhhsolovely
    September 12, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    this looks delicious…and your pics are just awesome! i’d love to know your tips & tricks!

  • Ksenija @ Health Ninja
    September 13, 2012 at 12:11 am

    What a beautiful color! I bet it tastes amazing – though a lot of people are not that fond of olive oil in sweet bakery.

  • Lesley
    September 13, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Looks absolutely perfect. What great pictures!

  • Sonal
    September 13, 2012 at 2:25 am

    This cake looks so light and perfect for tea time! πŸ™‚ Lemon on top makes it fancy.

  • Jeannie
    September 13, 2012 at 7:12 am

    Served this for dessert last night and packed in lunch boxes today! Taste, texture and color were amazing. Thank-you for such an easy, yummy treat.

  • Katy
    September 13, 2012 at 10:33 am

    And now I know what I’ll be making this evening! Yum! Cute story, too! πŸ™‚

  • Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy
    September 13, 2012 at 11:00 am

    I love lemon cake. It is such a simple and fresh flavour!

  • Megan
    September 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    This cake sounds fabulous! And so simple πŸ™‚

    I’m actually moving to Charleston in a few weeks and I think this is the PERFECT recipe to break in the new kitchen when I get there!

  • Kari@Loaves and Dishes
    September 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    When I was a kid, lemon was not what I wanted in a dessert; now that I have matured(or at least gotten older), I adore lemon desserts. I also loooove fruity olive oils. This cake is sooo up my (more mature)alley.

  • tanya1234
    September 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    i will give it a try

  • Breanna
    September 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    I stopped at my local bookstore last night and was devastated that they did not have your book. So I made sure they ordered some copies :). Can’t wait to start reading!

    • jenna
      September 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm

      Thank you, Breanna!!

  • Sarah
    September 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    just wanted to say that i’m reading your book and am finding myself thinking about it during the day…your writing style is very enjoyable! even though i “know” what happens as I’ve been reading your blog for 5+ years, i’m finding myself eager to know what happens next in your journey. bravo!

    • jenna
      September 13, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      Thank you so much, Sarah!

  • Mich
    September 13, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I love how much “Italy” is captured in this recipe. Lemons and olive oil= heavenly combo.

  • Kate
    September 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Made this after work yesterday, since I just so happened to have a bunch of meyer lemons that I have been wondering what to do with, and brought it to a dinner party. Everyone really enjoyed it and I think the leftovers today tasted even better! Thanks so much for this great recipe!

    Side note: I am really looking forward to picking up your book, I am hearing nothing but wonderful things about it! Congratulations Jenna!

  • Emily
    September 13, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    I made this yesterday after reading the post- it is so yummy and the whole family loves it! You are always my go-to person for recipes that I know will be great, thanks!!

  • Laura
    September 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Yum, yum and triple yum. And, btw, to this today I am more excited by cookbooks I get to review than I am by any money from my blog. So I hear ya!

  • Candace
    September 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Honest to goodness, this cake is in my oven right now. I needed a quiet Friday in after a busy work week, and this is going to be the best treat!

  • Grace
    September 14, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    I’m still waiting ~patiently~ for your book to arrive- pre ordered MONTHS AGO from amazon.. but still have to wait for shipment to Australia :””(

    But at least I have this cake in the oven … if it’s as tasty as the batter was πŸ˜€ and half as good as it smells right now I’ll be quite happily distracted over the weekend and hope i’ll get a surprise in the mail on Monday!

    Thanks for the gorgeous story behind this one too Jenna – makes the make that much sweeter!

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  • Sheryl
    September 16, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Jenna…I made this cake and loved it, took to work, was gone in no time and several asked for the recipe…is def a keeper and will make again…i used meyer lemon and was perfect lemon flavor…thanks for sharing

  • laura
    September 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    This cake is AWESOME!! Made it today for after Sunday dinner. What a hit!! Thanks for sharing.

  • Michelle Reynolds
    September 17, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I made this last night and it was DELICIOUS!! The crust that forms on the outside is a perfect compliment to the moistness of the cake. This is my new favorite cake!

  • stevie
    September 18, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    tried this for my in laws and I was a little hesitant at first but I did a lemon glaze and the powdered sugar on top, and it was a huge hit, thanks jenna!

  • Rebecca
    September 18, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    I thought this cake looked wonderful so I tried to recreate but I’m wondering if the recipe is correct with 2 lemons? I came up with 1/2 cup lemon juice and used it all and my cake bater was quite thing and so is my cake. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly, not sure what other ideas you could have for me to why it didnt turn out?

  • Lynn
    September 27, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Really delicious. I’ll make this again.

  • Shibi
    October 12, 2012 at 5:23 am

    I was on the hunt for a good Olive oil the day since I saw this post and finally got hold of some good quality Olive oil. The cake was sooooo good, I am planning to make it again. Thanks Jenna for this wonderful recipe!!!

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  • Adam
    October 23, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Just had to offer thanks for this recipe! I’d never even heard of Olive Oil cake before but searching for gluten free recipes I stumbled across this and its very easy to make and tastes wonderful. I’ve made several variations with other fruit flavors than citrus and so far the only one surpassing lemon/clementine has been rhubarb. I use a mix of almond, potato, and amaranth flours and also substitute 1/4 cup sweet rice flour and -1/4 cup sugar as I find a full cup of sugar a bit sweet.

  • Joe
    November 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Love olive oil cakes, though I must admit I’ve start to cheap and use some of the flavored oils (especially blood orange) instead of fresh fruit. Just so dang hard to find them year round!

  • Ally
    November 30, 2012 at 1:07 am

    Hi, I live in a place where lemons are very very small, so could you please give exact measurements for the juice?? Like ml or tablespoons etc and the amount of zest in tablespoons. Thanks so much! This recipe sounds great and I can’t wait to try it, but not until I have the right measurements.. πŸ™

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  • emme
    December 28, 2012 at 6:22 am

    Agreed, an exact measurement of lemon juice would be helpful. (It is baking, after all.) I made this last night and it turned out so tart and dense, I think due to too much lemon juice. I would recommend to use the zest of 2 lemons, and the juice of 1. Either way, won’t be making this again.

  • Peggy
    December 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I read the comments and decided to use a zest of one lemon (prob could use two – or did I use two), and used about 3Tb lemon juice ( I got about half a cup of lemon juice from my two lemons I think). Also I put the timer on for 45mins…about 15 mins before the timer was up I smelled the cake. Good thing I took it out when I did…it was already a little over done. Forgot baking times vary…I should have realized 45mins for a cake in my oven is really too long.

  • Rossi @ A Baking Girl
    January 15, 2013 at 10:42 am

    A fellow Charleston girl myself, it’s really cool to here you talk about Queen Street and downtown. This cake sounds lovely as well! Do you think Greek olive oil might be too heavy (it’s all I have at my house)?

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  • Kirsten
    February 1, 2013 at 11:00 am

    This looks amazing, Jenna! Yes, we can bake with olive oil!

  • Mia
    March 15, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    I LOVE IT!!! I’m on my third square as I speak!!! lol I was looking for a recipe using olive oil, as I am trying to substitute using healthier ingredients when I bake and cook. This is perfect. I love lemons. The smell, the taste, the beautiful color of them. I baked this in a ceramic baking dish and just cut them into squares right in the dish. As another poster wrote, I didn’t need the full 45 mins either. I decided to check on my cake 34 mins into baking and it was ready to come out. I let it cool and while it cooled, I prepared a honey-lemon glaze to go on top of it and sprinkled some slivered almonds over it as well. Perfecto!!!!!!!!!!! It’s nice and light and I know will go well with the cup of tea I am preparing. I also substituted the sugar with honey & Stevia in the raw. I used the juice of 1 1/2 lemons and it has a nice zingy lemony kick to it.

    Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I will be back to check out more of your culinary selections.

    Ciao! for now.

    • Zulma
      October 9, 2013 at 1:40 pm

      Hiii!! How did you substitute the sugar with the honey and stevia?? I would love to know the measurements and if you could give me a tip on how to substitute sugar with stevia in baking.. Thanks!!

  • Mia
    March 15, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Also, as I was preparing it, I had to read over the ingredients again, as I was surprised no milk or water was needed. I kept thinking, how will this be battery, if there is no liquid. To my surprise the eggs and the sugar from the honey and Stevia, whipped up into a nice fluffy, frothy base for the dry ingredients. Never thought I could make a cake without any liquid. Lovin’ it!!!!!!!!!

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  • Janet
    July 14, 2013 at 6:47 am

    This cake sounds amazing! I need to make a lemon birthday cake. Do you think I could make several layers and use lemon curd in between layers and an Italian or Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting? Thank you.

  • vera
    September 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    ran out of butter so googled something with no butter..came upon this is fabulous, I cut the sugar added some orange rind and juice to the lemons,,lots of nuts..doubled the recipe ..made chocolate icing for one. mayby try vanilla instead of lemon next time.

  • Zulma
    October 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    I tried it and it came out great!! Really moist, delicate and yummy..

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    March 26, 2014 at 5:17 am

    Just put this cam in the oven. I used Meyer lemons and my kitchen smells great. Thanks for the recipe!

  • tina
    March 27, 2014 at 4:02 am

    I made this …was a hit. Served it with tarragon ice cream and roasted apricots. The cake was moist and had great flavor.

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  • Jennifer
    May 28, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I made this and for some reason it stuck to my cake pan. I put butter all over and dusted the cake pan with flour like you said to do so I don’t understand how the cake still could of stuck. Plus 45 minutes in my oven did not seem like ENOUGH time. I need some advice on what to do with this or how to make it better for next time because I really want to make this cake!!

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  • Amanda
    March 27, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Can I use gluten free flour with this recipe ?


  • Cyndi
    April 3, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    I’m so sad. I was so excited to try this recipe and when the timer went off after the 45 minute baking time, the cake is WAAAAAAY overdone. πŸ™

  • Theresa Poitras
    April 28, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    I even use olive oil in my packaged cakes. Adds a very nice flavor layer. But then I really like olive oil.

  • Lorena
    August 7, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Making this special recipe yet again for friends coming over tonight… Grilled shrimp appetizer. White wine poached salmon with ginger rice. Beet salad with a light citrus vinaigrette dressing. This cake for a light dessert with fresh peaches and blueberry sauce. Totally healthy and satisfying. Thank you so much for one of my favorite go-to recipes!

  • Katerina
    February 24, 2021 at 8:05 am

    Hi there,

    This cake looks delicious! Question… is this cake vegan?

    Thank you.

  • Kathy
    April 3, 2021 at 4:37 pm

    This cake is delicious. Made a delicious dessert for Easter dinner. I got about 1/2 cup of juice from 2 lemons, but that’s fine with me, because I like it very lemony. Perhaps you should suggest a range of cooking times. I checked it after 40 minutes and it was already done, perhaps too done. I will start checking at 30 minutes next time.