sugar free: honey lemon cake

February 21st, 2013

So the granola’s helping.

A little.

But it’s definitely “snack-y”. And I’m craving dessert.

Specifically, cake.

By sheer coincidence, Rebecca of  the wonderful blog The Daily Muse posted last week about breaking the dessert habit. Rebecca writes often about healthy eating, and I really like her philosophy – that it’s not about deprival, but more about moderation and making mindful decisions.

In this post she challenged herself to give up that automatic reach-for-dessert-after-dinner (very much like I did). And my favorite take-away was “only eat a dessert you make yourself”.

I liked this rule a lot because it: a) puts you in complete control over what goes into that dessert, and b) is sort of a litmus test for how badly you really want it.

I wanted it really badly.

Honey was up next in my trial of “natural sweeteners“, and I knew just the kind of cake I wanted to make/eat.

I wanted an olive oil cake, with lots of citrus to brighten things up.

honey lemon olive oil cake

A grown up cake, perfect with a cup of tea during these soul-crushing, spirit-squashing gray winter days.

Yeah – I’m missing my sugar.

Hello there, lovely cake…

honey lemon olive oil cake

on weighing ingredients
my favorite baking tips and tricks

Honey-Lemon Olive Oil Cake
adapted from sixteenbeans

3 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (not low-fat)
2/3 cup olive oil
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon (generous) grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz.) flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch ground nutmeg

Pre-heat oven to 350. Grease a 9″ springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk eggs lightly. Add yogurt, olive oil, honey, vanilla, lemon zest and juice, whisking till combined. Add remaining ingredients and whisk till just smooth and no lumps remain – do not over whisk.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, until a tester comes out clean (cover with foil if the top is getting too dark toward the end). Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove from pan and let cool completely.

This cake will stay fresh for several days, well wrapped.

(print this recipe)

This delicious recipe brought to you by Donuts, Dresses and Dirt

P.S. Isn’t that cup/plate set divine? It was my late mother-in-law’s and I’m obsessed with it. I can almost hear the mahjong tiles clicking every time I use it.

69 Responses to “sugar free: honey lemon cake”

  • This looks so good! I went off sugar about 5 months ago. Well actually from Monday to Friday I stay clear of anything with any sort of sugar and on week-ends I allow myself a few treats. It makes me really appreciate those little treats so much more than before and I look forward to it all week long.

    I’ll give this recipe a try this week-end. I’ve got access to lots of great olive oil around here!

  • have never had an olive oil cake. this recipe looks like the perfect balance of sweet but not sick to my stomach sweet. keep it up my sugar free friend. 🙂

  • Carolina says:

    This looks absolutely amazing. I was just looking up tricks to give up sugar when all of a sudden I thought, “Hey, I bet a honey lemon cake would be fantastic, I wonder if anyone has a recipe” and then came across this perfect sounding recipe! Trying it ASAP, probably tomorrow. Thanks!

  • Carolina says:

    It turned out great, thanks! My first cake ever, thanks for the easy to follow recipe.

  • Carolina says:

    Yeah, my mom isn’t much of a baker and I’m 20 haha. No problem 🙂

  • Carolina says:

    I’m hoping to do the same. I will definitely try some of your other recipes in the future!

  • Carol Papalas says:

    I had a great recipe for a honey, olive oil, dairy free, whole wheat bundt cake, and cannot find it. I would like to adapt your recipe, and also would like to add fresh figs, because I have a tree which has produced a huge load of them. Let me know how I may adapt this lovely recipe.

  • I would like to make this cake but need it to be dairy free: what can I use to replace the yoghurt?

    • sherisilver says:

      There are soy and coconut yogurts that I’m sure would work just fine. You could also experiment with an equal amount of clabbered almond or soy milk – stir in a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar per cup of milk and let sit for about 10 minutes. Let me know how it turns out!

  • I’m very interested in trying this out for my auntie who is avoiding refined sugars. How is the cake texture like? I find that olive oil cakes always end up too oily for my liking but I still want to give it another go.

  • Hi! I’d love to try this cake out but don’t have baking powder or bicarb soda.. are they necessary or would self-raising flour alone work?
    Thanks 🙂

    • sherisilver says:

      Hmm – that’s tough because of the baking soda. You can typically swap out the flour, baking powder and salt for the self-rising but I don’t know of a substitute for baking soda that doesn’t involve baking powder. So sorry!!

  • Carol Papalas says:

    Thank you. I will try this recipe, and I’ll let you know how it turns out. I’m really interested in any healthy food recipe.

    • sherisilver says:

      Please do Carol; I’ll post any adaptations on the recipe here! 🙂

      • Carol Papalas says:

        Thanks. I’m baking it now, and used whole wheat pastry flour and a bundt cake pan. I had no springform pan, except for a pie pan. I assume that I’ll need to cool it before taking it out of the pan. I oiled it, but did not use parchment.

      • Carol Papalas says:

        The bundt cake pan partially worked. Some of the cake was left on the pan, so that problem needs to be resolved, or I will go out and buy a springform cake pan. It still looks good, and it tastes delicious.

      • Carol Papalas says:

        I know that it won’t solve the problem of the bundt cake pan, but how about adding poppy or sesame seeds to the recipe?

  • Can you PLEASE make the ingredient measures clearer please your abbreviations mean what ? for none US people the cup thing doesnt work – we never use them and besides none of the measures are clear anyway ! What is 11/2 supposed to mean on the yogurt

    • sherisilver says:

      My apologies! Small “t” is teaspoon, large “T” is tablespoon. Any liquids measured in “c” refers to cups. A liquid cup = 8 ounces. So 1 1/2 cups would be 12 ounces. There are many conversion charts online for metric equivalents; please let me know if you need me to send you a link!

    • Carol Papalas says:


      Do you have a Facebook page for your blog? I would like to “like” you.

      Carol Papalas

      • sherisilver says:

        Yes Carol! Just click the little “F” icon at the top of the page next to the search bar. It will take you to my Facebook page; thank you!

  • Hi
    This recipe looks great.
    Do you have any idea how many calories it contains and is there any ingredients that could be swapped to reduce the calories.

    • sherisilver says:

      Hi there – unfortunately I do not. Swapping ingredients when baking is tricky as it’s sometimes the fat that creates the texture/flavor, which would be compromised otherwise. Sorry – it really is a delicious cake! 🙂

      • Carol Papalas says:

        The ingredients don’t skimp on calories, but they are healthy, especially if you use whole wheat pastry flour or a combination of a little bit of soy or almond flour with the pastry flour. The olive oil is good oil and honey is a healthy alternative to sugar.

  • Hi there. This looks lovely but I was just wondering if you can taste the difference between using vegetable oil and using olive oil? Because olive oil does have quite a strong taste.

    • The olive oil here is used intentionally – the flavor would definitely be different if you used vegetable oil, probably “heavier”. Personally I would not substitute – hope this helps! 🙂

  • Just put made this with my daughter and put it in the oven. Cheers!

  • It turned out great. Everyone who tried it wanted the recipe. I printed about 30 copies which are gone now. I think I’ll try them in cupcake form next time as we didn’t always have knife handy.

  • Hi Sheri, I just wanted to say thanks so much for answering the questions fully as you do, as the answers are very helpful. I’m looking fward to trying this recipe and thought I might add oats to it and add a lovely oat topping. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for writing! And that addition of oats sounds delicious – please let me know how it turns out! 🙂

      • Carol Papalas says:

        Hi Sheri,

        I changed the recipe a bit. I used 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup almond meal, and 1/4 cup coconut flour, and it turned out incredibly delicious!

        Thanks for the original recipe.

        Carol Papalas

        • That sounds amazing – will try your version next time I make this; thanks for sharing!

          • Carol Papalas says:

            I’m happy to do it. I love to experiment. In fact, I’ve been experimenting with baking spanakopita, and am getting pretty good at it. The only thing I need is crust. I use filo, and that’s fine, but I remember my mother’s homemade crust, and it was wonderful. My family comes from the island of Ikaria, a blue zone, in Greece, and they make a doughy crust, which is delicious. I’m sorry that I never got my mom’s recipe when she was alive. She died at 96 in 2011. If you have other cooks who have recipes for homemade spanakopita crust on your email list, that would be wonderful.

          • OOOH – I love spanakopita!

  • I made this cake yesterday and it’s AMAZING! Soft, delicate but still flavorful. Exactly what I was looking for! Thanks for sharing this recipe 🙂

  • Hi Sheri, I made this today and it was really delicious but I found the texture quite spongy. Not like a light sponge cake but sponge like. Not crumbly like other cakes. Plus it looked a lot darker in colour than your pic. The only ingredients I used that were different to yours was I only had low fat Greek yogurt plus I used extra virgin olive oil. Would this make much of a difference?

    • Hi there! It’s hard to say – what I have found in my years of baking is that there is less “wiggle” room for substitutions than there is in cooking. So the fat in the yogurt and the darker EVOO might have contributed to the change in texture. I’ve made this particular cake dozens of times over the years with pretty consistent results; perhaps try it again? And let me know! 🙂

  • Im planning to try this recipe this weekend! but i’m worried it will taste too much like olive oil, I was wondering if you could let me know how subtle or strong the taste is:)

    • I don’t find it to taste at all of olive oil – I used a lighter oil, which I would recommend. It really just lends moistness to the cake, which mostly tastes of the honey and lemon. Let me know how you like it!

  • Please can you tell me if I should use 12 and a half oz of flour, or 2 and a half cups???? I am confused as i thought a cup was 8 oz (so 2 1/2 cups of flour would be 20oz?)

  • Can you substitute Agave or Stevia for the honey?

  • Penelope says:

    can you tell me is that T means Tablespoon and t means teaspoon am I right? thanks

  • I just made this replacing the wheat flour with coconut flour. It’s for my parents 47th wedding anniversary and it turned out so well I took some over to a neighbor. Thank you so much for sharing this is a perfect after dinner bit of sweetness. It’s not too heavy either.

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