Lemon, Poppy Seed & Olive Oil Cake

March 14, 2018
5 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Makes 1 Bundt cake
Author Notes

This is an adaptation of an old favorite: Maialino's Olive Oil Cake. The original includes Grand Marnier, orange juice, and orange zest. This version opts for limoncello, lemon juice, lemon zest, and lots of poppy seeds. If you can't find limoncello, you can substitute lemon juice, but the flavor won't be as punchy. Top with a lemony glaze or powdered sugar or nothing at all. Maybe serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche. Or, the morning after, toast a slice and smear with butter. —Emma Laperruque

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, soft, for the pan
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 5 lemons, zested
  • 6 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup limoncello
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Generously butter a Bundt pan (we used a 10-cup capacity). Add a scoop of flour and tap around the pan to distribute, then shake out any excess.
  2. Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a bowl. Pinch together with your fingertips until the sugar starts to blush yellow and is super fragrant. (This releases the oils and amps up the flavor.) Add the flour, poppy seeds, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Whisk until smooth. In another bowl, combine the olive oil, milk, eggs, lemon juice, and limoncello. Whisk until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, until a thin serrated knife inserted in the middle comes out clean and the top is bouncy to the touch.
  4. Wait until the pan is cool enough to pick up without burning yourself, then flip onto a plate or cake stand. Let cool completely—at least a few hours—before glazing or powdered sugaring.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Analida Braeger
    Analida Braeger
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
  • eb
  • Emily M
    Emily M
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

26 Reviews

eb April 3, 2023
Incredible, adaptable recipe! I made in a ring pan and cooked an extra half hour, the outside was crisp and the inside was moist and lemony. Cut the sugar about 15% because I remembered from the original recipe that it's a very sweet cake, and still felt it was very sweet. I'd consider cutting the sugar by 50% next time—the beautiful lemony flavor is the real star anyway!
Emily M. May 1, 2022
Very excited to make this cake! Would it be ok to leave out the poppy seeds?
[email protected] September 17, 2020
Hi Emma - I’m super excited to make this cake but can you tell me if I can make it the day before I plan to serve it? Should I take it out of the pan and store it in the fridge? Please let me know! Thank you!!
Emma L. September 18, 2020
Hi danielle56! You can definitely make it the day before you serve it. I would take it out of the pan, wrap it well, and store at room temp.
[email protected] September 18, 2020
Thank you!!!
Michellevm September 17, 2020
Hi Emma, I will be making this recipe for the first time and I'm very excited. Two questions though, the sugar used in this recipe calls for granulated or powdered? and the amount of lemons used is 5 or 55 lemons? wasn't sure if the lemons part was just a typo or not. And can any glaze recipe be used for this? Thank you!
Emma L. September 17, 2020
Hi, yay! The sugar in the cake is granulated. And 5 lemons, not 55! Updating both accordingly, thanks for the catch!
rosecedar June 20, 2020
For those of you who need weight measurements - there is a solution! There are many online tools that will enable you to quickly do the conversions. For example: https://www.thecalculatorsite.com/cooking/cups-grams.php. And if you have a "smart speaker" in your kitchen, you can simply ask as you go along with your recipe. I just asked my speaker "how much does a cup of sugar weigh," and I got an immediate answer: 200g.
rommy September 16, 2018
the combination of flavors of lemon and olive oil give a unique flavor to the cake.
Emma L. September 16, 2018
Claire May 15, 2018
I agree, won't be making this cake, says she regretfully, as cups are not something I can understand. How big is a cup? A coffee cup, tea cup, mug, expresso cup? Please rebake this and give us the weight. I have my ingredients at the ready!
Penny May 15, 2018
Hear hear! Most of the rest of the world uses metric measurements. There are so many recipes on this site that one can’t use if one doesn’t live in the UAS!
Penny May 15, 2018
Jeremywduvall August 26, 2021
As mentioned above, you may use a converter like this one: https://www.thecalculatorsite.com/cooking/cups-grams.php
Stephen W. May 12, 2018
This is the most beautiful bundt pan! Where can I get it?
Emma L. May 14, 2018
Here's our Shop link: https://food52.com/shop/products/3577-nordic-ware-heritage-bundt-pan
Rej-Kat April 27, 2018
Absolutely amazing recipe, so happy I tried it!
Emma L. May 14, 2018
Analida B. March 27, 2018
This looks like a lovely cake to make for Easter! I make a sweet olive oil bread for Christmas https://ethnicspoon.com/sweet-olive-oil-bread/
Mickey0627 March 18, 2018
I have this beautiful Bundt pan, but the one time I used it, the cake wouldn't come out. I oiled and floured it because I don't like to use the non-stick sprays- I really don't want to ingest propellant. Any suggestions on how to use this pan and get the cake out in one piece? Thanks for your help!
Emma L. March 18, 2018
Hi Mickey0627—bundt pans can definitely be tricky with all their nooks and crannies! We used butter and flour here, and it worked like a charm. I'd recommend greasing with butter over oil, for a more even coating. Also important: to let the cake cool for a bit before turning it out. I wait until the pan is slightly warm to the touch. Hope this helps!
Mickey0627 March 18, 2018
Thanks! I'll give it a try.
pmporter May 12, 2018
In the kitchens where I've worked we always used a mixture of melted butter with flour, applied with a pastry brush. (For chocolate cakes, butter and cocoa powder.)
Emma L. May 14, 2018
Great tip—thanks, pmporter!
Penny March 16, 2018
Any hope of metric measures for this recipe?
Emma L. March 18, 2018
Hi Penny, unfortunately this recipe wasn't tested with those measurements. Appreciate your note that this is something you're looking for, though.