Lemon Olive Oil Cake


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Meyer Lemon Upside Down Cake on a white cake plate

Lemon olive oil cake has been bringing a little poppy seed sunshine to our kitchen this week. Baking it like a classic upside down cake gives it a fresh, pretty top that makes it look a lot more fancy (read: complicated) than it actually is!

lemons sliced in half

We’re having that sort of spring weather here in Kansas City that makes you feel downright itchy for summer. It’s so rainy and cold that all the newly planted flowers and leggy tomato plants look like they might call it quits and dive back down into the dirt.

lemon Cake on a white cake plate

But the sun will come. The grill is ready for Memorial Day, and in the meantime, it’s bright and sunny in the kitchen thanks to this pretty little Lemon Olive Oil cake.

a slice of Meyer Lemon Upside Down Cake on a white plate

It’s really a super simple, moist pound cake based on this delicious one from the New York Times but with a little extra love. There’s no butter in the cake (just a little in the topping), but you won’t even miss it because buttermilk and olive oil give the batter a super soft, rich texture.

close up of lemon cake

Thanks to that great moisture in the batter, this is a cake you can make ahead and store in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Let it come to room temperature before serving and it tastes just as good as the day you make it.

zesting lemons

Bring on the sunshine!

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lemon olive oil cake on a white cake plate
4.34 from 3 votes

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Baking this lemon and olive oil cake in the classic method of upside down cakes makes for a pretty presentation. Simple, light and fresh, this cake stores well in the fridge for a 2-3 days, making it a perfect afternoon pick-me-up alongside a cup of tea or coffee.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 10


  • 8" or 9" Cake Pan
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Whisk


For Topping:

  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 2/3 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Lemon, very thinly sliced (see note)

For Cake:

  • Zest of 2 Large Lemons
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Buttermilk
  • 3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Poppy Seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2/3 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil


  • Heat oven to 350 F / 177 C degrees.
  • Place butter in the center of a 9-inch cake pan (an 8-inch pan will work too) and set the pan in the oven. Leave the pan in the oven for a few minutes, and remove it as soon as the butter melts. Swirl the pan so that the butter coats the bottom of the pan.
  • Sprinkle light brown sugar over the top of the melted butter, breaking up any large pieces with your fingers. Place lemon slices in a single layer over brown sugar. (Be a little artistic here - this will be the top of the cake!)
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine lemon zest and sugar and rub with your fingers until it looks like wet sand. Whisk in buttermilk, lemon juice, and eggs until evenly combined.
  • In a second bowl, combine flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in three increments, stirring between each addition. Add oil and whisk to combine.
  • Pour batter over lemon slices in prepared pan.
  • Bake until center is set, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cake cool at room temperature before inverting the pan over a plate or cutting board. Slice and serve!
  • Cake will stay moist if stored in the fridge, covered, for 2 to 3 days.


Meyer lemons are slightly sweeter and have less bitter pith than regular lemons. Any type of lemon will work for this recipe though. Just make sure to slice the lemon for the top of the cake very thin so that they can soak up all of the sweet topping and will be tender enough to eat. Cake recipe adapted from Melissa Clark's Lemon Pound Cake via The New York Times.


Calories: 419kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 63mg | Sodium: 300mg | Potassium: 169mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 35g | Vitamin A: 236IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 87mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $4.00
Calories: 419
Keyword: cake, lemon recipe, summer
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Before all this rain hit, we got some serious time in at the playground. Molly and Clara are suddenly so brave!

Molly and Clara Sliding

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Lemon Olive Oil Cake - Baking this lemon and olive oil cake in the classic method of upside down cakes makes for a pretty presentation. Simple, light and fresh, this cake stores well in the fridge for a 2-3 days, making it a perfect afternoon dessert pick-me-up alongside a cup of tea or coffee.
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at InquiringChef.com. She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

4.34 from 3 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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