I’m guessing by now you’ve figured out that I’d gladly choose a slice of chocolate cake over just about any other, particularly if there is peanut butter involved, too. Yet, lately, all I can think about is lemon; and not just lemon cake, lemon everything. I’ve been working on a lemon tart, but it’s still not quite right yet. I’m not exactly complaining about eating all the imperfect lemon tart experiments, but still, I only want to share it if it’s perfect.
This lemon cake, though? Ohmygod. I’ve been eating it all week crumbled on top of yogurt with a handful of blackberries, and I don’t know if I can go back to a cake-less breakfast. It’s just so perfectly lemony. And full of sweet, floral honey flavor. And kind of has the texture of cornbread? But in the best way possible.
Let me explain.
Other than wedding cakes (which are my absolute favorite cakes to bake, ever) simple, 1-layer cakes like this one are my favorite cakes for everyday, no-special-occasion baking. Cake just because, if you will.
This cake starts with a base of olive oil, honey, lemon juice, and eggs. Once those are mixed, you stir in whole wheat flour, almond meal, and the mother-load of lemon zest for extra bright, bold lemon flavor. Could you use limes or grapefruit or meyer lemons or some other beautiful citrus you find at the market? YES. Please do. But, start with the lemon version and work your way up. Trust me, you are going to want more than one of these cakes in your life, anyway. It can’t hurt to make one with every citrus fruit available, just to find out which is your favorite.
Oh, and that cornmeal texture? It’s not that this cake is remotely corny, it’s just that the combination of whole wheat flour and almond meal makes for a decidedly cornbread-like texture when you bite into it. The almond meal mimics cornmeal in that toothsome, perfectly crumbly way.
Usually if a cake is crumbly it means it’s dry- probably because it was overbaked- but that’s not the case here at all. There’s plenty of moisture from the olive oil and honey- it’s not accidentally crumbly, it’s just an unexpectedly pleasant perk of this cake. It also means this cake is just dying for something creamy dolloped on top to catch all the little bits that crumble away when you slice into it. I’d say there are worse problems to have than a cake that mandates a dollop of whipped cream.
While I happily snacked on slice after slice of this cake plain, my favorite versions were dolloped with a big scoop of full-fat Greek yogurt or freshly whipped cream and showered in a handful of berries. I also imagine this could be great with a scoop of ice cream on top, but I don’t like ice cream with my cake. I know. But let’s not worry about that for now- I’ll tell you more about my weird aversion to ice cream on cake (and ice-cold cake in general) another day.
If you’ve never baked cake for no reason at all, now’s the time. It doesn’t have to be your anniversary or your cat’s birthday or your coworker’s last day for you to bake a cake. Oh no. It can just be a random Sunday, when you’re oddly craving lemon more than you’re craving chocolate. Or maybe you have friends coming over and you need something to throw in the oven before they arrive? Something that’s easy to make and tastes special, even if it’s just a single-layer, simple-ingredient cake. Something that goes just as well with a steaming mug of tea as it does with a cold glass of wine. Yes, let’s have Sunday friend dates where we eat lemon cake and sip wine. Deal? Deal.
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest from 3 lemons
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour*
- 1/2 cup almond meal**
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper or grease it with nonstick spray. Set pan aside.
- 2. Put first 6 ingredients (all wet ingredients) into a mixing bowl, and whisk to combine. Add in all remaining ingredients (all dry) and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Some small lumps in the batter are fine.
- 3. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cake is golden and cooked through. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
- 4. Let cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve cake with a dollop of full-fat Greek yogurt or whipped cream, and berries. Leftover cake also makes a great breakfast crumbled on top of a bowl of yogurt. Store leftovers at room temperature, tightly covered, for up to 5 days.
- *White whole wheat flour has a more mild flavor and delicate texture than traditional whole wheat, but with the same nutrition profile. If you only have regular whole wheat, I suggest using 1/2 cup all purpose and 1/2 cup whole wheat.
- **I love the texture almond meal gives this cake, but if you don't have any you could swap it for more white whole wheat flour, using a total of 1 1/2 cups in the recipe. I buy mine at Trader Joe's since it's consistently the cheapest, but I always see it at the regular grocery store, too.
I’ll bring the cake.