Citrus Olive Oil Cake

I discovered olive oil cake a few years ago. That first bite was marvelous. It was full of fragrant lemon zest, and beautifully presented with a fine dusting of powdered sugar and a blueberry garnish. The savory flavors from the olive oil were delicately mild, and blended perfectly with the citrus notes. I was instantly in love with the light and moist texture, and the complexity of flavors that never once verged on being too sweet. Since that first encounter, whenever I hear the words "olive oil cake," or see it listed on a menu, my taste buds start to tingle in excitement.

While I love making cakes from scratch, I just can't argue with the convenience of a boxed cake mix. I've long been a fan of substituting a portion (or all) of the required water in a boxed mix for another flavorful liquid, and that habit of substitution got me wondering if I could swap out the vegetable oil as well. Turns out you can!

I got a little carried away and made this an upside down cake as well, but I'm not apologizing for it! It was delicious! I sliced the lemon as thinly as I could, and took a leap of faith by leaving the rind on. The layer of sugar on the bottom of the pan creates a light syrup that not only coats the cake when you turn it upside down, but it helps to soften the rind as well.

The cake mix I used called for a ½ cup of vegetable oil, so I used an equal amount of extra virgin olive oil instead. For the 1 cup water, I used fruit juice. I knew I wanted the cake to be nice and tart, but didn't want to go too overboard, so I used ¼ cup lemon juice, and ¾ cup orange juice. I also added plenty of lemon zest, and a splash of lemon extract, just to make sure I got my point across.

These were tart, sweet, delicious, and everything I had been craving. I can't wait to make them again! I think I'll try grapefruit next!

Yield: Standard Boxed Cake Mix Yield... One 9"x13" sheet cake, two 9" round cakes, 24 cupcakes, etc.
I made one 9" round cake and 12 cupcakes.



  1. Preheat your oven to 350 °F.
  2. Prepare cake mix according to the directions provided. Substitute the vegetable oil for extra virgin olive oil, and water for citrus juice.
  3. Stir in citrus zest and extract.
  4. Grease cake pans with olive oil. Sprinkle white sugar on the bottom of the pans. Lightly shake the pan to ensure the sugar covers the bottom of the pan entirely.
  5. Place citrus slices in the pans, over the sugar. If using cupcake pans, use one slice per cupcake. If using round or rectangular pans, arrange the slices in whatever pattern your heart desires.
  6. Pour batter into the cake pans, over the citrus slices.
  7. Bake according to instructions provided on the boxed mix.
  8. When the cakes test done, remove the pans from the oven, and transfer to a wire rack. Allow the cakes to cool completely in their pans. Use a butter knife to gently loosen cakes from the sides of their pans before inverting.
The little ones were my favorite. So easy to gobble up!