Plain or Fancy Ligurian Lemon Cake

    Moist, lemony, and dotted with raspberries, this simple round cake gets much of its depth of flavor from the unexpected addition of extra-virgin olive oil. While mild Ligurian olive oil is my choice, any fine-quality olive oil that’s not too assertive will give you what you’re looking for—a cake with a rich aroma, a light olive taste, and a soft texture. Serve it plain, just out of the pan, or fancy: spread with meringue, browned in the oven, and finished with fresh berries.

    SERVES 10 TO 12

    Unsalted butter, at room temperature, for the pan

    1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan

    1½ teaspoons baking powder

    1 cup sugar

    Finely chopped zest of 2 lemons

    4 large eggs, at room temperature

    3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature

    ⅔ cup mild extra-virgin olive oil

    7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm

    1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

    2 cups (1 pint) fresh raspberries

    Meringue (optional, recipe follows)

    Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position. Butter a 10-inch round cake pan and dust it with flour, tapping out the excess. Set it aside.

    Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Set it aside.

    Place the sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer. Rub the ingredients together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and very aromatic. Fit the bowl into the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the eggs and beat on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is pale and thick.

    Reduce the speed to low and add the milk. Add the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Then add the oil, melted butter, and lemon juice, and beat until just incorporated.

    Pour about one third of the batter into the prepared pan. There should be just enough to form a thin, even layer. Top with enough raspberries to cover the batter. Pour on the remaining batter, using a rubber spatula to gently spread it so that it runs between the berries and just covers them. You’ll have a very thin top layer of batter.

    Bake the cake for 30 to 33 minutes, or until it is golden and pulls away from the sides of the pan; a knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean.

    Remove the cake from the oven and unmold it immediately onto a cooling rack. Invert the cake so it is right side up, and let it cool. Once cooled, the cake is ready to serve. Decorate with meringue and fresh berries, if desired.


    1 large egg white

    ¼ cup granulated sugar

    Confectioners’ sugar

    Fresh raspberries or a mixture of raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries, for decorating (optional)

    Heat the oven to 475°F with a rack in the center position.

    Place the cooled cake on a parchment paper—lined baking sheet.

    In an impeccably clean, dry mixing bowl, whisk the egg white until it holds soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar in a slow, steady stream and continue to beat until the mixture forms firm, glossy peaks. Immediately spread the meringue over the top of the cake, using a metal icing spatula or a spoon. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Bake the cake for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned. (Alternatively, you can brown the meringue outside the oven, using a blowtorch.) Top the meringue with the berries, if using, and serve immediately.

    Note: Undecorated, the cake can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for at least 4 days or frozen for up to a month. However, once the cake is topped with meringue, it should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten that day.