A Springtime Recipe for You

lemon verbena olive oil cake

This is a picture of the tarragon version, but the only difference is the herb you use. You could also make a lovely version with lemon thyme.

If you've never used really fruity extra virgin olive oil as the fat component of a cake, stop what you're doing and pay attention.  If you don't like the taste of really fruity extra virgin olive oil, move along; there is nothing here for you today.  For those of you who began to salivate at the first mention of olive oil, read on.  This one's for you.

While I often think of lemons as a winter fruit--something to give me a little burst of sunshine in the cold, dark days of December and January, adding an herbal note fast-forwards them to Springtime.  I've always made these with plain old lemons, but if you have some Meyer lemons just lying about, by all means snap them up and use them.  You could also substitute grapefruit juice or orange juice.  Change up the herbs, if you want to, as well.  Mint, tarragon, thyme, lavender--or even use judicious amounts of rosemary or sage.

The template is simple citrus+herbs+separated egg foam method.

Here's how it goes

Lemon Verbena Olive Oil Cake

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 1/2 large lemons (just under 1/4 cup juice)
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 15 leaves lemon verbena, minced
  • 5 egg yolks
  • heavy pinch of salt
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cake flour, sifted

Combine the olive oil and the lemon juice and set aside in a liquid measure.

With the whip attachment, whip yolks, salt and 1/2 sugar until very light, thick and billowy.

Still whisking on medium speed, slowly stream in the oil/juice mixture.  Whisk in the zest and lemon verbena leaves.

Whisk the whites with the other half of the sugar to medium peaks.

Fold the whites and the sifted flour together gently but thoroughly.  The batter should be very light and poufy.

Spoon into a greased 8" cake pan and smooth the top a little.  Sprinkle with some sugar--white or demerara, whatever you have--bake at 350 degrees until light golden brown on top and well risen.  Depending on your oven, this could take between 20-35 minutes.  Keep an eye on it, but don't open the oven or your lovely cake won't rise as high as it could.  At the restaurant, we used to bake these in extra-mini loaf pans--probably about 2" wide by 4" long by maybe 1" deep, and they took 16 minutes to bake, just for reference.

Serve this little guy warm or at room temperature.  He's quite lovely if you hit him with some powdered sugar.  The cake will hold a day or two at room temperature.  To make sure he stayed nice and moist, we used to make a lemon verbena simple syrup to brush onto him before reheating.

This recipe doubles very easily, so if you want to make a larger cake, feel free to double up.  And that's really all I have to say about that.


  1. informalblathering says

    Ooh, this sounds good. Lemon and herbs are awesome together! And I’ve always been a fan of olive oil in pastry – I still make my apple pie with my mom’s olive oil crust recipe, and it’s gooood.

  2. says

    I’ve been experimenting with using olive oil in cakes, I love the way it keeps the cake nice and moist. Would you recommend ordinary olive oil or a fancy extra-virgin for this?

    • says

      Hi, Sam! What kind of olive oil you use is really dependent upon your palate and your wallet! If you like strong, fruity olive oil, by all means break out your extra virgin oil. If you would rather the oil just be there to keep things moist and hang out in the background, a lighter olive oil would be fine. I love the fruitiness of extra virgin, so that’s what I go with, but you could even substitute a neutral vegetable oil and let the lemon shine on its own. 🙂

    • says

      I think if you could find a very fruity chocolate and pair it with a fruity olive oil that it might be a lovely and unexpected treat. My vote is go orange w/the citrus. Will be interested to hear if you experiment and how it turns out!

    • says

      Hi, Natasha! I found lemon verbena at the farmers’ market. I’ve never seen it in our “regular” grocery store. Lemon thyme is a reasonable sub. if you can’t find the lemon verbena.

  3. says

    This is soooo marvelous! I love the sound of citrusy-herby cake and I already have an idea of what I’d like to use.

    I keep falling further and further behind with my blog readings so I hope you don’t think I’ve fallen off the face of the earth! I’m still very much a devoted follower, oh Pastry Teacher! 😎


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