Recipe: Olive Oil and Limoncello Cake

Yesterday just as I was seriously wondering whether I’d have something interesting to make for What’s Cooking Wednesday, I received an email from Salena of The Daily Rant, aka “The Camera Fairy.”

She included a link to a recipe for Olive Oil Cake from Saveur and asked if I’d be willing to be her test kitchen; not surprisingly, Salena’s truck-driving career doesn’t give her much opportunity to bake.

Of course I accepted the challenge.

As stated on Saveur’s site, the original recipe comes from Trattoria Dalla Rosa Alda, a restaurant in the Valpolicella region in the province of Verona in northern Italy. The cake is called Pissota con l’Oio and uses a special liqueur made by Dalla Rosa Alda.

In place of this unique booze, Saveur recommends “Grand Marnier or other sweet citrus-flavored liqueur.”

Well if you’re in southern Italy like I am, “sweet citrus-flavored liqueur” means limoncello, so that’s what I used.

I also added a half teaspoon of confectioner’s sugar because when I tasted the batter, it seemed really bitter to me. You’re welcome to use your own judgment.

Olive oil & limoncello on Flickr

I’ll definitely make this cake again and maybe add even a bit more limoncello and lemon zest next time for even more lemony goodness. I’m not sure that my texture came out the way it’s supposed to, but I do love it–kind of a lemon sponge and not dry at all (like Italian cakes can sometimes be).

And now I have yet another reason to love lemons.

Grazie mille Salena!

Olive Oil & Limoncello Cake
[adapted from Saveur]

Olive oil & limoncello cake on Flickr

  • Butter & flour for preparing pan
  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp limoncello
  • 1/2 tsp confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 325Β°F (163Β°C).

2. Grease an 11-cup bundt pan with butter and dust with flour, and set aside.

3. Beat eggs and sugar together in a large mixing bowl with electric mixer until pale yellow, about 1 minute.

4. Add flour, lemon zest, oil, milk, and limoncello and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Add baking powder and confectioner’s sugar and stir until thoroughly combined.

5. Spoon batter into prepared pan and place in oven.

6. Bake until cake is deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer cake to a wire rack to let cool completely, in its pan.

7. Before serving, dust with confectioner’s sugar if you like. Incidentally, this cake goes fabulously with espresso.

Olive oil & limoncello cake on Flickr

Buon appetito!

33 Beans of Wisdom to “Recipe: Olive Oil and Limoncello Cake”
  1. Gil

    Sounds delicious! I agree with more lemon zest and limencello as you can never have too much limencello.

    I’m with you there Gil, and now that summer is almost here…’tis the season πŸ˜‰

  2. Mary

    Sounds delicious, I’ll have to try it. Like you, I often find Italian cakes very dry and I’m not crazy about the ones with all the alcoholic cream in the middle either. One thing we Americans do well is make cake.

    Agreed Mary. In fact, this cake is so moist I’m almost certain I didn’t follow the recipe correctly πŸ˜‰ Interestingly, you can’t taste the alcohol in the limoncello *at all* which is why I think that maybe a tad more would be good. I don’t like things dripping or drowning in the stuff, but I like a little kick otherwise why not just use lemon extract or something πŸ˜‰

  3. Joanne at frutto della passione

    Oooh, how cool is it that we both posted about lemon cakes today???
    I seem to be in a very lemon state of mind (think colour, not sour!!)
    Have a fabulous day.

    Joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..A little lemon goes a long way

    Lemon’s in the air! Woohoo! Your cake looks lovely as well πŸ™‚

  4. oh yum! How very different…but so Italian with the ingredients. I will definitely try b/c we’ll be in FL with an oven soon πŸ™‚

    erin :: the olive notes’s last blog post..may flowers…and showers

    This is horrible to say, but I’m actually surprised how much I like this, it being an Italian recipe originally apparently. Seriously–not dry at all! Woohoo for olive oil!

  5. 05.21.2008

    This looks excellent. And I bet it would be great with a little cornmeal/polenta mixed in to replace some of the flour, too.

    I have to admit I was eying up my almond flour….

  6. 05.21.2008

    Mmm…limoncello cake!! What could be better???? Yes, more limocello and lemon zest….that sounds good πŸ˜‰

    Have to try that.

    My MΓ©lange’s last blog post..European Finds at Brimfield

    Please do Robin; let me know how you like it!

  7. 05.21.2008

    it must be the “Sweet Tooth” edition of WCW!
    This looks very good and a slice of that with some coffee…sounds fantastic.

    Norma-ann’s last blog post..Angel Food Cake with Strawberries (and Mint)

    We have lots of Sweet Tooth editions it seems…no complaints here! Thanks for coming by Norma-ann πŸ™‚

  8. 05.21.2008

    Lemontastic cake! It’s the olive oil that makes it so moist. I love, love cakes made with olive oil and this one sounds great. Maybe a slice served with some fresh berries and more Lemoncello drizzled over the top?

    amanda’s last blog post..Shameless

    I’d like to try more cakes with olive oil…if you have any recipes to share, Amanda, please do! And I love the berries and drizzle idea…yum!

  9. Giosue DiMeglio

    Oh thank you!!! My grandmother used to make this incredible pound cake with lemon zest in it …. mmmmm. I forwarded this to my sister, she’s the baker. I hope I get to try this soon. Ciao

    Hope you enjoy it! I’m about to have a piece for my afternoon snack….

  10. 05.21.2008

    Yum. Sounds great. Will you bring this to the next CWS?

    Cherrye’s last blog post..Calabrian Womens Summit – 2008

    Hmmm…I just might and give you and Peppe a night off from the oven πŸ˜‰

  11. I wish my stuff was here already from the States. I can’t wait to start baking. I love this combo.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Enough with this rain, You’ve Got Mail, SJP on the cover of Vogue

    I hope it gets here before the summer heats up! Not that *that* stops me from baking πŸ˜‰

  12. 05.21.2008

    Oh, I so love olive oil cakes! And anything with lemon. I have to get some limoncello.

    Ironically, my recipe includes Grand Marnier

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday – Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler

    Hah, Norma-ann’s recipe has Grand Marnier in too…must be something in the air πŸ˜‰

  13. 05.21.2008

    I’m definitely giving this a try. I’m always on the lookout for plain (as opposed to dripping with goo) lemon pound cakes, though I really need to find a cake no one else in the house likes so that maybe — just maybe — some would be left the next day.

    sisiggy’s last blog post..…With the dogs

    Oh no goo here! Maybe you should double the recipe and then hide a cake πŸ˜‰

  14. 05.21.2008

    Well it look like we all had the same idea today. This looks great! I love lemon anything.

    Shan’s last blog post..what’s cooking wednesday – candy bar brownies

    Great minds Shan! πŸ™‚

  15. 05.21.2008

    Looks yummy and easy. That you can change the liqueurs to get different flavors is a plus too.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Ice Tea For Me’s last blog post..what’s cooking wednesday – fettuccini with caramelized bacon and onions

    I like the versatility as well; I know some people make different “cello”s if you will with different fruits…they’d be great in this πŸ™‚

  16. Your cake looks so lovely. I love limencello. What a nice combo.

    simply…gluten-free’s last blog post..Wedding Daze

    Cake and booze are always good in my book πŸ˜‰ Glad you enjoyed!

  17. 05.22.2008

    Yum! I must try this!

    Jill’s last blog post..Nespola

    Let me know what you think Jill!

  18. eleftheria

    I do love lemons!! After olives (my first great love) the second one is lemons!! We have a 35-40 year old lemon tree here in our summer house in greece and just seeing it in bloom and smelling the leaves.. yet alone all the lemons we get out of it…is amazing!!!

    What a great tree you have there! I’m an olive lover too πŸ™‚

  19. 05.22.2008

    Oh, life is so unfair that I don’t get to taste this cake!! I think the Limoncello was a great idea! And I like your idea of almond flour.

    Thank you SO much for making this – I miss cooking a LOT when I’m on the road and although I love eating out, having breakfast, lunch and dinner in restaurants (albeit all over the country) can be a little boring after a while.

    Although, my current trip is taking me up to the Atlantic Provinces of Canada (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador) this weekend and we’ll be there just in time for Lobsterpalooza 2008 ( which I am very much looking forward to!!!

    So thanks again for being the test kitchen and providing us with yet another great WCW treat!!!


    Salena’s last blog post..I Might Have To Be Put In Restraints For Our Next Conversation

    Any time Salena! I’m going to try this with different liqueurs eventually…I think Cointreau and some orange zest would be nice too πŸ™‚

  20. 05.22.2008

    I think you have done things properly, I can’t even imagine how one could make a cake with almost a full cup of olive oil into a dry cake!

    steffan’s last blog post..Quick Recipe: Broccoli with Olives

    Apparently olive oil isn’t what many Italians are using in their cakes then, because you wouldn’t believe the dryness…funny my grandmother used it for *everything* else (but she made really good cakes without it) πŸ˜‰

  21. 05.24.2008

    I just wanted you to know that I not only read and drooled over this recipe when you posted it, but also that my true love and I went out and bought a small bottle (what they call a “nip” — just about three tablespoons, I think) of limoncello last night just so I could make it next.

    “Wait, why do you want this?” my true love asked while we waited for the nip to be located in our local posh convenience store.

    “Because Michelle in Italy just posted a recipe of a cake made in a bundt-type pan with limoncello and olive oil and dusted with powdered sugar.”

    I don’t know how to transcribe the yummy noises he made.

    I continued. “You know that really good lemon sorbet we love, the one that’s so intensely lemony that it almost makes you thirsty?”


    “Well, besides a whole lemons, this is what else is in that.”


    Right. Can’t wait.

    If you like a strong lemony flavor, Sara, you might want to throw even some lemon juice or lemon extract or something in; there was just a hint in this recipe as written, but I’d like more. Let me know what you come up with!

  22. 05.25.2008


    My brain (which itself, incidentally, from some angles now looks like a dessert into which someone has dipped a spoon) read “ΒΌ t lemon zest” as “ΒΌ C lemon zest” (possibly because of brain damage, or possibly because of a logic fault, because who on earth only uses ΒΌ t of lemon zest for anything bigger than a demitasse of espresso?) which then automatically translated into “grated zest and rind + a little pulp and juice of one whole lemon, regardless of precise measurement.” Also, a “nip” of limoncello turned out to be 4 T, not 3 T, but what am I going to do with an extra T of limoncello sitting around in my pantry? So you know where that went — all the sooner to recycle the bottle, of course. πŸ˜‰

    It’s in the oven now. I will let you know how it comes out.

  23. 05.25.2008

    Okay, the verdict: yum. πŸ™‚

    Not possessing a proper bundt pan, I baked mine in a tube pan. With all the extra moisture, and possibly just the vagaries of my own oven, I ended up baking it another ten minutes before the tester came back dry. The resulting cake is light and fluffy, moist, not terribly sweet, nicely accented but not overpowered by the powdered sugar sprinkled on top, and the flavor is mostly just pure cakey cakeness, but each bite comes with a noseful of the most heavenly aroma, and that’s where most of the lemon went. It’s what I expected, a very grown-up, sophisticated kind of cake, and yes, I think it would be delicious with espresso. I think it would also be lovely served with a little pinch of fresh fruit, one or two thinly sliced strawberries or a few raspberries for example.

    Thanks, Michelle! A winner, for sure.

    Yes fresh berries would definitely go well with this. So glad you liked it! Thank Salena as she’s the one who found the recipe! I’m actually thinking of making this again today. I’ve recently received quite a few neighborly gifts so I must return the favors….

  24. 05.25.2008

    Interesting. This is like the torcolo that every Umbrian makes and eats for breakfast, merenda and dessert. Except for the lemon. Which I happen to love. Going to make it.

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Help for bee and hornet stings– maybe

    Calabrians (at least those around me) really don’t bake many cakes, even for party desserts; is the torcolo good?

  25. 05.25.2008

    I had this cake with my morning latte and it was fabulous! Here’s a pic (though given how overcast it is around here today, I had to use flash and the result wasn’t terribly aesthetic).

    The pic is lovey Jana–I’m so happy I could play even a bitty role in the celebration. Happy birthday!

  26. 05.28.2008

    Oh, I want to make this right now! This looks beautiful! I know already it tastes superb!!

    Marie’s last blog post..I’M BACK!!!!!

    Please let me know if you make it Marie–I think you’ll love it πŸ™‚

  27. 06.22.2008

    Could you add a “print” button here? I would like to print the recipe, but I don’t want the comments printed too!? It probably tastes delicious!

    Robbert’s last blog post..Taxateurs aangepakt voor hypotheekfraude

    I’ll have to figure out how to do that Robbert…right now, I suppose I’d suggest copying and pasting to something like Word?

  28. 07.26.2008

    Am here to add my 2 beanie bit…First of all, thanks for stopping by. Was inspiring, to say the least, to read your comments. Immediately bookmarked this recipe & have made note of your alterations. Must have tasted absolutely delicious. YUM YUM YUM Micehelle…thank you!

    Deeba’s last blog post..IN THE PLUM OF THINGS…A sweet tale of sauce & ice-cream

    Thanks so much for coming over Deeba…and keep cooking!

  29. TJ

    I made this cake last night but I made several changes. First, I ran out of EVOO, so I used butter. Instead of milk, I decided to use the juice from the lemon I zested. I should’ve used two lemons because I only came up with 1/3 cup (added water to make up the difference). I prepared it the traditional way — sift together all dry ingredients, cream butter with the sugar, add eggs one at a time — and I mixed the wet and dry ingredients by hand the traditional way (start and end with flour, alternate with lemon juice). I added an extra 2 tablespoons of limoncello to the mixture. And instead of dusting with confectioner’s sugar, I made a water-based glaze with 6 tablespoons of limoncello. I baked it in a 9×13-inch pan so that I could cut it into squares.

    You know what? In spite of 12 tablespoons of limoncello, there’s no alcoholic taste at all – just pure lemon. But I’ll add more lemon juice and more lemon zest next time. The cake was very light and moist (but not pudding moist, which is just fine with me). And it does go well with espresso. I just had it for breakfast. Thanks for the recipe πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing your adjustments TJ; I’m sure the texture would be a bit different with butter instead of olive oil–sounds delicious either way πŸ™‚ I was wondering how much limoncello we’d have to put in to taste it, too, b/c I couldn’t taste it *at all.* Glad you enjoyed!

  30. TJ

    Hi again, Michelle. I made this cake again the other night – and this time I used olive oil. And you’re right, the texture is different. The cake is much lighter; even the batter was lighter. I could taste the olive oil – a bit strange, but it’s something I could get used to. This time, I just dusted with confectioner’s sugar and I baked it in a 9-inch round pan. Cooking time at 375 C was around 20 to 25minutes. (BTW, cooking time for the 9×13 pan was around 12 mins only – the batter is spread much more thinly than in the round pan.) Two lemons didn’t make 2/3 cup – I’ll use three lemons next time. And with more lemon zest from the two lemons, the cake was a more tart. Reduced the amount of limoncello from 12 to 8 tablespoons – could’ve made the cake lighter, I don’t know. Still as delicious as ever, but in an olive oil kind of way πŸ™‚ Thanks again!

    Ooh fabulous TJ! Thanks so much for sharing this!

  31. Natalie

    Can I ask if that’s 2 tbsp baking powder or 2 tsp of the same?

    It was 2 tbsp baking powder in the original recipe, and that worked for me (although it wasn’t as dense as the recipe promised); the original recipe is through the link to Saveur, though, and I just looked and I see through the comments that they changed theirs from 2 tbsp to 1 since I copied it.

  32. 11.06.2010

    Real nice! Made this with my daughter yesterday!

    Greets from Amsterdam!

  33. 11.15.2010

    I WILL be making this cake tonight! OMG I can’t wait!
    Thanks, for sharing!

    I hope you enjoy it, Deborah!



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