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Italian Lemon Cake

Prepare to be wowed by the exceptional flavors of this Italian Lemon Cake with olive oil. With just one bite, you’ll find yourself transported to wonderful Italy!

This simple but delectable cake has the perfect balance of zesty lemon and rich olive oil and is sure to become a favorite amongst your family and friends!

Italian Lemon Cake with a slice removed on a black wire cooling rack with lemons in the background.
Exceptionally moist and light!

Italian Lemon cake is also known as “torta di limone” and is much loved by my family. We love the citrusy aroma and bright flavor. It’s exceptionally good because of the light but moist texture created by using olive oil instead of butter. 

In Italian bakeries all over the world, you’ll find celebration cakes like the classic Rum Cake, or delicious Cannoli Cake. However, in Italian kitchens, simple cakes like my Italian Almond Cake are dusted with powdered sugar and served with coffee for breakfast. My mother was well known for her Pan di Spagna. And my cousin treated us to her Lemon Yogurt cake when we stayed with her in Turin.

This Lemon olive oil cake is the best of both worlds! You can dress it up with lemon curd and whipped cream. Or keep it traditionally simple. Either way, it’ll become a firm favorite. With lemon in the form of juice and zest, there’s no denying this cake’s flavor. If you love lemon flavors as much as I do, this is the Italian Lemon cake recipe for you!

I know you’ll love this Italian Lemon cake.

  • The lemon flavor is so fresh, tangy, and vibrant. Lemon is a classic Italian flavor, showing up in many recipes like my Lemon Biscotti, and is super popular with all generations.
  • It has the most tender and moist crumb that remains that way even after a few days.
  • It’s a versatile cake. Great for breakfast or an afternoon snack with a cup of coffee, this cake can also be split in half and filled with lemon curd and whipped cream for a decadent dessert.
  • This Italian Lemon Cake is easy to make and within the capabilities of most people who have basic baking skills. Be sure to follow all my tips for success.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.


Ingredient for this recipe viewed from above.
  • Eggs – I prefer to use large, free-range eggs for their gorgeous yellow yolks. However use whatever you’ve got in the fridge, this cake will still work.
  • Granulated sugar –  this recipe calls for regular white granulated sugar which you’ll probably have in your pantry. Sugar doesn’t expire so it’s good to have extra on hand if you like baking. Keep the sugar away from moisture.
  • Lemon zest and juice – I used one large lemon to get the zest and juice for this Italian Lemon Cake but if the lemons are small you’ll need two.
  • Olive oil – you can use whichever type of olive oil you like the taste of. If you don’t want to taste the olive oil, go for the light (in taste) type. If you’re like me and enjoy the full flavor of extra virgin olive oil, use it!
  • Whole milk – for this recipe, it’s best to use whole milk but if you only have 2% use that – it’ll be fine.
  • All purpose flour – use plain all purpose flour that contains no extra raising agents. 
  • Baking powder – be sure to use fresh baking powder. If you’re unsure, spoon a little into some hot water. If it’s still active it will bubble. If not, buy a fresh one. Store it in a dry cupboard away from heat and moisture.
  • Powdered sugar – just like my Spanish Almond Cake, this cake is perfectly finished with a simple dusting of powdered sugar.

See recipe card for quantities.


Begin by preheating the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Use a little bit of olive oil to grease an 8 inch (20cm) pan with high sides then line the base with a circle of parchment paper. 

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Adding olive oil to beaten eggs and sugar using hand held red electric mixer.

Beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until thick, light and creamy. Then slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

Adding lemon juice to beaten eggs and sugar using red hand held electric mixer.

Slowly add the lemon juice followed by lemon zest and milk.

Adding flour to beaten eggs and sugar using a red hand held electric mixer.

On low speed, add the flour mixture. Beat until mixture is smooth and lump free.

Cake batter in a round cake pan viewed from above.

Scrape in a prepared baking pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan before carefully turning out onto a wire rack to completely cool.

Dust with powdered sugar to serve.

Hint: Every oven is slightly different so get to know your oven. Some ovens run hot and other ovens are a bit cooler. You may need to adjust baking times depending on your oven.


  • Fresh lemon juice and zest – use bottled lemon juice and a few drops of lemon oil instead of using a fresh lemon.
  • Lemon zest – for extra lemony flavor, increase the lemon zest or add a few drops of pure lemon oil or extract.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – use regular or light flavored olive oil if you prefer. Alternatively, sunflower seed oil can be used if that’s all you have. Of course, it won’t have the flavors of olive oil but it will still be just as moist and tender.
  • Powdered sugar – The top of the cake can be sprinkled with granulated sugar before baking if you don’t have powdered sugar. This will give a crackly crust and a little extra sweetness.


  • Dairy Free – substitute plant-based milk for whole milk to make a delicious dairy-free lemon cake.
  • Italian Lemon Cream Cake – carefully split the baked and cooled cake through the middle. Place one layer on a serving platter and spread with some lemon curd. Top the lemon curd with a layer of whipped cream then the second layer of cake. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
  • Frosted – top this Italian Lemon Cake with cream cheese frosting which is an absolutely delicious pairing.
  • Bundt cake – pour the batter into a well greased bundt pan. Baking time will decrease. Check for doneness after 30 minutes.


This Italian Lemon Cake is best baked in an 8 inch round cake pan (or 20cm). Choose a cake pan that is rather deep because this cake will rise a little.  You could also use a similar sized springform cake pan.


Store this cake at room temperature. In summer or during hotter days, this cake can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container.

Tips for Success

Yellow cake dusted with powdered sugar with a few slices cut viewed from above.

Begin by having everything ready. Gather all the ingredients. Preheat the oven and prepare the pan before beginning the cake batter. This is quite a quick batter to prepare so it’s best to plan ahead.

Like many baking recipes, it’s best to have all the ingredients at room temperature. This ensures that all the ingredients amalgamate and combine really well..

Be sure to beat the eggs together with the sugar until frothy, thickened, and light in color. This is important to create a fine crumb and texture. However, after adding the flour, don’t overbeat. This will make the cake tough.


What are Italian cakes called?

Italian cakes are called “torte” or singular “torta” which is why this cake is known as “torta di limone”.  Another popular Italian cake is Torta Caprese, a chocolate and almond cake. One of my personal favorites is Torta della Nonna which is filled with vanilla pastry cream.

What is the best kind of frosting for lemon cake?

The best frosting for this Lemon cake would be a very simple glaze. Just add enough fresh lemon juice to powdered sugar to create a pourable icing that can be drizzled over the cake. For a more decadent finish, top Lemon cake with my cream cheese frosting.

What are the best oils for a cake recipe

The best oils for a cake recipe can be varied depending on the flavor of the cake. For this Italian Lemon Cake, I like to use extra virgin olive oil for its distinctive flavor and aroma. However for cakes like my Cannoli Cake, use sunflower or grapeseed so that it doesn’t overpower the other flavors in the cake. If you prefer, use a light-flavored olive oil in this Lemon Cake

Serving Suggestions

Slice of cake on a white plate with dollop of cream and cake fork.

Italian Lemon Cake is makes a wonderful dessert served with a dollop of whipped cream, Mascarpone Cream or even Sweet Ricotta. A fruit sauce like Strawberry Compote or Cherry Sauce is also a very tasty addition.

Actually, my favorite way to serve this Italian Lemon cake with a coffee for an Italian-style breakfast. And within moments, I’m in Italy again!

Made this recipe?
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Yellow cake dusted with powdered sugar with a few slices cut viewed from above.

Italian Lemon Cake Recipe

This Italian Lemon Cake is the perfect balance of tangy but sweet. With lemon juice and lemon zest, there's no denying the flavor. Plus it has the extra flavor and moisture of extra virgin olive oil!
5 from 54 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings:12 people
Author: Marcellina


  • 1 8 inch (20cm) round cake pan or similar sized springform pan


  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 200 grams
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil 180 mls plus extra for the cake pan. See Note 1
  • cup whole milk See Note 2
  • finely grated zest of one lemon See Note 3
  • ¼ cup lemon juice 60 mls
  • 2 cups all purpose flour 250 grams See Note 4
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC.
  • Use a little olive oil to coat the inside of an 8 inch (20cm) round cake pan with high sides. Line the base with paper.
  • Whisk or sieve together flour, baking powder and salt. Have you checked the notes below about measuring the flour?
  • Using a hand held (or stand mixer) beat eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl for 4 minutes on high speed until thick, light and creamy.
  • Reduce the speed to medium and slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil. Followed by milk, lemon juice and lemon zest.
  • With the electric mixer on low speed, spoon in the flour mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the mixture is smooth and lump free. Don't over beat!
  • Scrape in prepared baking pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until well risen, browned on top and the cake is coming away from the sides of the pan a little. You can insert a skewer into the cake, if it comes out free of batter, it’s ready. If the cake is becoming to too dark, cover lightly with a sheet of foil.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan before carefully turning out onto a wire rack to completely cool.
  • Dust with powdered sugar to serve.


  1. Extra virgin olive oil – use regular or light flavored olive oil if you prefer.
  2. Whole milk – substitute any milk you prefer eg low fat or plant based.
  3. Lemon zest – for extra lemony flavor, increase the lemon zest or add a few drops of pure lemon oil or extract.
  4. Be sure to measure the flour correct. If you have scales, weigh the flour for accuracy. Alternatively,  stir the flour to lighten and then spoon into the measure cup and level off with a knife taking extra care not to pack the flour.
  5. Please be aware that the US customary cup (used in this recipe) is equal to 240ml. Other parts of the world use the international ‘metric’ cup equal to 250ml. This doesn’t usually make too much of a difference, except is the flour is packed into the cup and/or slightly heaped.
Tips for Success
  • Have all the ingredients ready and at room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar until light and thickened.
For more tips and information read the full post above.
This updated and improved recipe was first posted June 11, 2012.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 285kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.004g | Cholesterol: 43mg | Sodium: 119mg | Potassium: 148mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 82IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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Recipe Rating


    1. Motti, while I have never made this cake with melted butter, I can’t see why it won’t work. The texture and the flavor will be different though. Melt unsalted butter and measure out 3/4 of a cup. You’ll probably need about a little over 6 ounces or 180 grams.

  1. 5 stars
    So spongy, light and fluffy. Loved this at afternoon tea with the family. Nonna even said it was better than hers.

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve made this cake twice. I followed the directions exactly and the cake turned out delicious both times. The second time, I made a lemon glaze and spread it over the warm cake. Both cakes were tender, moist, and soooo good!!! This is a keeper, for sure! Thanks for sharing this recipe, Marcellina!

  3. Hi Marcellina,
    This lemon cake is identical to the one I make with the except of the milk. I agree that it is a moist cake that is delicious with a cup of tea or coffee. It also freezes perfectly. During the winter months I substitute the lemon with oranges from our garden.
    Many of the recipes you make are familiar and form part of my regular cuisine. The reason for the familiarity is that I am Maltese and live in Malta so, being so close to Sicily our cuisine is greatly influenced by Sicilian and Italian cuisine which are very popular locally. Also we now have lots of Sicilians and Southern Italians who have come to Malta and opened restaurants, cafeterias, snack bars and patisseries.We have God’s plenty.
    Having said that, I always look forward to your recipes and download any recipe that takes my fancy.

    1. Marie Louise, I just love hearing about your life in Malta! It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit.And yes, you definitely have God’s plenty – what a beautiful way to phrase it. The orange version of the cake sounds delicious. Thank you for taking the time to comment and tell me a little about yourself.

  4. Your cake looks just lovely Marcella, Lemon is my favourite type of cake. A beautiful Italian recipe, thanks for sharing.

  5. Greetings from Melbourne.

    This cake is beautiful. It is made at this right time when the lemons are the most beautiful 😀

    I'm your latest follower and wish to be back again to visit you 😀

    1. Amazing recipe! I am a pretty lousy baker though I have been trying for years. This cake is one of the best ones I have ever made – rose beautifully with wonderful crumb, oo la la. Thank you Marcella : )

      1. I’m so glad that you had success with this recipe, Alice! That’s what I aim to for. Thank you for coming back to comment. Much appreciated!

  6. Beautiful, sunshiney cake. Lemon cakes are so satisfying. For some reason, though, I've never made one with olive oil. I obviously need to correct that omission.

  7. Ciao Marcellina!!! 😀
    Coem stai? Questa torta è proprio di quelle che mi piacciono di più….ssoooo YUMMYYY!!!! la rifarò! 😀

  8. looks utterly delishh …yumm
    new to your space..
    awesome space you have..happy following you..:)
    do stop by mine sometime
    Tasty Appetite