Olive Oil Cakes with Lemon and Olives


My husband and I love to try new restaurants.  If we don’t have a good meal, but have heard really good things about the restaurant, we might come back one or two more times.  After that – if things don’t dramatically improve – we are done.  We don’t have that many opportunities to go out that we can afford more than that. 

When Tilth opened, I heard the buzz.  I put it on my list, and within a few months – we had our first experience there.  It is in a beautiful bungalow in a neighborhood near where we live – there is ample parking, and the inside is not too fancy, but has a warm welcoming feeling  – like you are going to someone’s house for dinner.  The food was so incredible, I don’t think I left an entire speck on my plate.

It quickly became my favorite restaurant.  When my husband asked where I wanted to go for dinner for my birthday, I didn’t even have to think twice.  We happened to sit at the bar that night – and the manager commented on how many times we had eaten there in a year – 12 times.  I turned red.  I couldn’t believe we had been there so often, although I was not surprised, I was in love with the food!  I don’t think I have ever left a morsel on my plate.

One night when we were there, they had an Olive Oil Cake on the dessert menu.  Although the title looked interesting, what hooked me in was what else it was paired with – candied fennel, olive brittle and fennel ice cream.  My obsession with fennel took over, and I had to try it.  Not only were the sides incredible – the Olive Oil Cake was to die for.  It was warm and dense, with a ton of wonderful olive oil and lemon flavor.  Everything about it was perfect – definitely the best dessert I have ever had there.

I tried to recreate the recipe the best I could, but it is not exactly there, although this cake was wonderful in its own way.  It was much lighter than Tilth’s version, but full of flavor.  My girls LOVED the mini cakes, and they stayed fresh for a few days in an air-tight container.



  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup picholine olives


  • 5 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3/4 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup pastry flour


To make a simple syrup, stir 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar over medium high heat until sugar is dissolved.  Bring the mixture to a bowl, then add the olives.  Blanch the olives in the simple syrup for 5 minutes.  Drain the olives and place in a dehydrator at 135 degrees for 2 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Beat egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar in a mixer until thick and pale.  With the mixer on, add the lemon zest and lemon juice.  Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.  Do not add the oil too quickly, or the batter will break.  Continue adding until all the oil is combined.

Sift the flour.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the egg yolk mixture until combined.  Do not overwork.  Beat the egg whites with the salt until foamy.  Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat until the whites form soft peaks.  Fold one third of the whites into the batter until combined.  Fold in the rest of the whites.

Divide the batter into greased muffin tins without papers or use silicone cupcake containers.  Bake in the oven for about 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center is clean.

Chop the olives and serve with the cakes while still warm.  Cakes are also good completely cooled.

Makes about 24.

For a printer friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Olive Oil Cakes with Lemon and Olives

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7 thoughts on “Olive Oil Cakes with Lemon and Olives

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I have yet to try Tilth but it’s been on my bucket list forever. One question about the olives — actually, make that 2. :) Where can I get picholine olives? And, if I don’t have a dehydrator, do you know of any techniques I could substitute to some success (maybe candying them on the stove, or using the oven at low heat)?


    1. Picholine olives are just french green olives – so that’s what I used from Whole Foods. If you don’t have a dehydrator, try setting your oven temperature to the lowest setting (135 or 140)and bake them for a long time – when they start getting all wrinkled, they are probably done – at least a few hours.

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