This Greek Lemon Olive Oil Cake from our favorite cookbook author, Koula Barydakis, is perfectly moist and full of zesty lemon flavor. It can be eaten as a dessert, breakfast or a snack and has been a hit with both our friends and family.
Koula’s Lemon Olive Oil Cake Memories from Childhood
When I was a child, baking this lemon olive oil cake was a family affair. Back then, there was no grocery store to buy flour, eggs or lemons. Our land was our supermarket. My grandfather harvested the wheat to make the flour; the olive oil came from olives picked from the trees in our yard; eggs came from our own free-roaming, herb-eating chickens. Whenever we needed a lemon, we would walk out the door and pick one. All of us would gather the sticks, branches and logs for the wood burning oven. I would help my mom mix the ingredients for the cake and wait with anticipation as it baked in the oven.
Eating often involved more family and friends who were invited over for dinner, followed by a piece of cake served with mountain tea, coffee, wine, or moonshine (raki). The fresh flavors of all the ingredients, along with loving celebration, created a feeling that could only be described as magical.
Although you may not be picking your own olives or harvesting your wheat, I hope that you too will enjoy magical moments making this traditional olive oil cake and sharing it with your family and friends.
Kali Orexi! (Greek for Bon Appetit!”)
What kind of olive oil should I use for baking?
Different olive oils have quite varying flavors from grassy to buttery to peppery and bitter. It is hard for some people to fathom ever baking with olive oil because of it’s perceived flavor profile, but the trick it to chose the right olive oil for the job. To begin with I always use extra virgin olive oil for everything I do from sautéing to baking to frying (we can talk about the frying with olive oil debate in another article). When I bake with olive oil, what I am baking always determines which olive oil I would consider using. If I am making something savory such as focaccia or pizza dough, I don’t have too much concern about which type of olive oil I use. As long as I am using a good extra virgin olive oil, the taste is going to be amazing no matter the flavor profile of the oil. When I am making a sweet product such as this lemon olive oil cake then I try to get something less bitter and more with a buttery essence.
Can dessert be healthy?
The Mediterranean Diet includes hundreds, if not thousands of different desserts from all the countries of the Mediterranean. From Italian cannoli to Greek Baklava to the stuffed kunafa from Egypt, desserts abound throughout the Mediterranean. Many Mediterranean desserts are super sweet, often drenched in honey and covered with nuts. Even though there are so many desserts, the main dessert eaten throughout the Mediterranean is still a simple piece of fruit. Sweeter, baked desserts are eaten much less often and are not eaten in large quantities. The baklava you would get in a very traditional Greek restaurant serving Greek people is often a quarter to half the size of the baklava you get in an American restaurant. Desserts are savored over time and often served with tea, coffee or occasionally moonshine. Most of the desserts of the Mediterranean are made with local and often very healthy ingredients. This olive oil cake has a cup of very healthy extra virgin olive oil which is an anti-inflammatory and full of antioxidants. It also has sugar in it which can have the opposite effect in the inflammatory response. What I tell people is enjoy your dessert in small quantities and don’t make it a daily thing unless your dessert is a piece of fruit. The most important thing is enjoy, celebrate and savor every bite!
Greek Lemon Olive Oil Cake
Moist and fluffy olive oil cake flavored with lemon zest and Greek yogurt. Cake that not only tastes good, but makes you feel good as well.
Koula Barydakis was born into a long tradition of eating and living Mediterranean on the Greek island of Crete. She is a chef who has worked in many of the top restaurants in Crete and in Greek Town in Toronto, Canada. Koula is the co-author of “Foods of Crete, Traditional Recipes of the Healthiest People in the World” and is currently completing her second cookbook. Koula teaches cooking classes to tourists in Crete and has been hired to teach classes in other countries as well.