This one bowl lemon yogurt cake is made with olive oil instead of butter and baked in a loaf pan; no mixer required! The secret to its super lemony flavor is an easy (microwaved) homemade lemon syrup poured over the cake after baking, and a simple lemon icing to finish it off. No special or artificial ingredients needed for this light and fluffy lemon yogurt loaf!

Slices of iced lemon loaf

Want more citrus cake ideas? I also have a grapefruit yogurt bundt cake and a blood orange pound cake for you.

If you love lemon desserts, you’ll also want to check out my single layer lemon cake with lemon cream cheese icing, lemon meringue pie with graham cracker crust, and lemon ricotta pancakes.

Why you’ll love this recipe

I’m going to be honest, it’s taken me months to write this post even though the truth is, this lemon yogurt loaf cake is:

  • INCREDIBLY simple and easy to make (one bowl, one whisk);
  • Comes out super lemony (thank you, homemade lemon syrup + lemon icing), fluffy (thank you, yogurt + olive oil), and soft without being overly sweet;
  • You don’t need a mixer to make it or a bunch of special or weird ingredients (hallelujah); and
  • Total hands on time is about 20 minutes. It’s almost…too easy.
Baked lemon yogurt cake with a slice cut

Maybe that’s why I’ve struggled for so long to appropriately describe this incredible cake. I’ve made it at least half a dozen times since I first created it a year ago, on a whim, when I (i) used olive oil because I didn’t want to cream or melt butter; (ii) mixed greek yogurt into the batter because I didn’t have buttermilk; and (iii) was so tired of all the recipes asking for specialty lemon oil or lemon pudding mix (blegh) that I just microwaved some fresh lemon juice and sugar together, haphazardly poked a bunch of holes in the baked cake with a toothpick, and poured it over the whole dang thing. Crossed fingers, hoped for best.

Enter the most soft, tender-crumbed, light and lemony cake (or quick bread?) I’ve yet tasted. This is no pound cake, my friends, and I don’t want it to be.

The combination of yogurt and olive oil in the batter makes it so light and fluffy with a delicate melt-in-your mouth texture. This will not sit like a brick in your stomach! Plus, I reduced the sugar vs. standard lemon loaf recipes (which can call for up to 1.5 cups of sugar in one loaf BEFORE the icing, ugh) so we can feel good about indulging in this cake.

Close up shot of a slice of iced lemon yogurt loaf cake

Ingredients

Here’s the good news: you probably already have all of these ingredients on hand.

You can substitute or customize as noted below to make these your own! See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for full ingredient list and measurements.

  • Fresh lemons (about 2; we’ll use the juice and zest)
  • Plain (unsweetened) Greek yogurt (I use 2% but use whatever you like; can use non-dairy Greek yogurt or sour cream in a pinch)
  • Olive oil (extra virgin is great but use what you have or another neutral oil; the flavor is not really noticeable)
  • Eggs
  • Sugar (both granulated and powdered/confectioner’s sugar are needed)
  • Milk of any kind (dairy or non-dairy are fine, I often use almond milk)
  • All-purpose flour (or sub GF all-purpose if needed)
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Vanilla extract

Equipment Needed

  • Large mixing bowl – this is a one bowl recipe, hooray!
  • Whisk (or fork) and rubber spatula
  • Kitchen scale – I highly recommend weighing your ingredients for most accurate results, especially the flour! This is the primary way I bake these days as it is much more precise than using measuring cups (and there are less dishes to clean).
  • Microwaveable glass measuring cup or bowl (or a small saucepan if you’re going to make the lemon syrup on the stove)
  • Microplane zester (not strictly necessary but…makes your life a whole lot easier when zesting citrus)
  • Loaf pan (9″x5″ or 8.5″x4.5″ both work – I haven’t tried this with any other cake pan sizes but let me know if you do)

How to make lemon yogurt cake with olive oil: step by step

The method to this lemon yogurt loaf is ridiculously simple. No mixer and only one bowl needed! See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for full instructions.

  1. Rub your lemon zest and sugar together with your fingers until fragrant. This releases the oils in the zest and brings out a lot of lemon flavor!
  2. Whisk in the olive oil and then all remaining ingredients except the flour until smooth and combined; then gently stir in the flour until mixture is just combined. There may be some lumps remaining; that’s ok as long as all the flour pockets have been incorporated.
  3. Bake in a parchment-lined loaf pan until domed and set, 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  4. Meanwhile, juice your lemons. Microwave 1/4 c fresh lemon juice with 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar in 15 second increments, boiling (carefully) until sugar dissolves. Congratulations, you now have homemade lemon syrup!
  5. Poke holes in the warm baked cake with a toothpick and slowly, gently pour the lemon syrup over until it soaks in. This is where all the bright lemon flavor will come from!
  6. Whisk powdered sugar with remaining 1-2 Tablespoons of lemon juice for a quick icing and drizzle over the cooled cake.

Recipe Tips

  • Don’t over-mix: Make sure you don’t over-mix the batter once the flour is added. Just stir the flour in gently with a spatula until batter is relatively smooth (a few lumps are ok) with no flour pockets, and stop there. Too much mixing overdevelops the gluten and leads to tough cake. No one wants tough cake.
  • Don’t skip the lemon syrup: this is the secret to making a lemon cake taste lemony! Trust me, I’ve tried every incarnation of lemon cake recipes – and while you would think that adding lemon juice directly to the cake batter would make it taste more lemony, it doesn’t work. When the cake is baked, the lemon flavor is lost.
    • Therefore, my method (also used in this single layer lemon cake) is to use zest in the batter (rubbed with the sugar to bring out the flavor) and then make a quick lemon syrup in the microwave to pour over the baked cake for mega lemon flavor.
    • I like to finish the cake with a powdered sugar + lemon juice icing for the final lemon punch — but if you don’t have time or don’t want to, the cake will still be delightfully lemony without it.
  • Weigh your flour: one of my best tips for success in all baking recipes is to weigh your flour with a kitchen scale. I cannot stress enough how important it is to accurately measure your flour for consistent, excellent results, and weight is the most accurate way. A cup of flour weighs 125 grams, and when you measure it using a scale, it will always be 125 grams. When you measure using cups, different brands will be slightly different sizes and you might accidentally pack in too much flour, making your cup 140 or 150 grams – which could lead to a dry cake. And what a sad day that would be.
Recipe for one bowl lemon yogurt cake made with olive oil and baked in a loaf pan

Storage

Room temperature: The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days in an airtight container or covered in foil or plastic wrap. If you want to keep the icing as intact as possible, I recommend putting a few toothpicks on top so the wrap doesn’t touch the icing. I actually like this loaf best on the second day – the lemon syrup really soaks in and the lemon flavor shines through!

Refrigerator: You can refrigerate the cake for up to a week, tightly covered so it doesn’t dry out.

Freezer: Cake can be frozen, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 months. Leave on the counter to thaw for at least 2-3 hours, or thaw in the fridge overnight before serving.

Finished lemon yogurt loaf cake made with olive oil

Additions and Substitutions

Here are some options to customize the recipe and make it your own:

  • Replace the olive oil with an equal volume of another neutral oil like avocado or grapeseed. You could even use melted butter in a pinch, but the soft and velvety texture of the cake is best achieved using oil.
  • Replace the Greek yogurt with non-dairy Greek-style yogurt or sour cream.
  • Make it gluten-free: substitute an equal volume (1 and 3/4 cup) or equal weight (218g) of a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix that contains xanthan gum. I tested and like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Baking Flour.
  • Skip the icing if you want a less-sweet cake. I’ve already reduced the sugar in the cake batter (vs traditional lemon loaf recipes) and sugar is an essential part of the moisture and flavor in this cake, so reduce further at your own peril. I don’t recommend skipping the homemade lemon syrup as that’s what brings the bright lemon flavor!
Slices of lemon loaf made with yogurt and olive oil

More Easy Cakes:

Recipe

Slices of iced lemon loaf
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5 from 11 votes

Lemon Yogurt Loaf Cake with Olive Oil

This one bowl lemon yogurt cake is made with olive oil instead of butter and baked in a loaf pan; no mixer required! The secret to the bright lemon flavor is the easy homemade lemon syrup poured over the cake after baking, and the simple lemon icing to finish it off.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes
Course: Breakfast, brunch, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cake, lemon, loaf, olive oil, one bowl, yogurt
Servings: 12 slices
Author: Katiebird Bakes

Equipment

  • 1 mixing bowl
  • 1 Glass measuring cup
  • 1 kitchen scale (optional but recommended)
  • 1 microplane zester (optional but recommended)
  • 1 Loaf Pan (9"x5" or 8.5"x4.5" both work)

Ingredients

For the lemon cake batter:

  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon zest (from about two lemons)
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) olive oil (extra virgin works well)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (113g) plain Greek yogurt (low fat or full fat both work, as does non-dairy Greek-style yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) milk of choice (dairy or non-dairy both work)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (218g) all-purpose flour

For the lemon syrup:

  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon (12g) granulated sugar

For the lemon icing:

  • 1 cup (113g) powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

For the cake batter:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Set prepared pan aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers until the mixture is fragrant; this releases the oils of the zest and makes your cake extra flavorful.
  • Add the olive oil, eggs, yogurt, milk, vanilla, baking powder, and salt, and whisk it all together until well combined.
  • Dump the flour into the wet mixture, and stir together gently with a rubber spatula until smooth and combined — but do not over-mix. We want a tender crumb, and over-mixing will make it tough! It’s ok if there are still a few small lumps.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing out the top and rapping the pan on the counter a couple times to get rid of air bubbles.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes, until cake springs back when tapped and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean or with a couple crumbs attached.

Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup:

  • Place 1/4 cup (59 ml) fresh lemon juice and 1 Tbsp (12g) granulated sugar in a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl. Microwave on high in 15 second increments until bubbling and sugar has melted, about 1 minute. Whisk together and set aside to let cool.

Pour lemon syrup over the cake:

  • When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately poke holes all over the surface of the cake with a toothpick or fork. Slowly pour glaze over the hot cake to soak in. Don’t pour too quickly or it will just run and pool down the sides, and that would be sad.
  • Let the syrup soak into the cake for 10-15 minutes, then run a spatula along the edges of the cake and remove cake to a wire rack.

Make lemon icing and finish cake:

  • Icing: in the same measuring cup you used for the lemon syrup, whisk together 1 cup (113g) powdered sugar with 2 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice until smooth and pourable. Set aside.
  • Once the cake is fully cooled, pour the icing over top. Serve!

Notes

Storage: This cake keeps perfectly at room temperature in an airtight container or covered with foil or plastic, for up to 5 days. I actually think it’s best on the second day, once the flavors have a chance to sink in. You can refrigerate the cake for up to a week, tightly covered so it doesn’t dry out, or cake can be frozen, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 months. Leave on the counter to thaw for at least 2-3 hours, or thaw in the fridge overnight before serving.
Substitutions: Please see the “Additions and Substitutions” section of this blog post for ideas and recommendations.

Like this lemon yogurt cake recipe? Please RATE it and LEAVE A COMMENT below.  Your feedback means so much and helps other bakers too!

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32 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this cake following the recipe exactly as presented here and I added a quarter cup to a half cup of organic poppy seeds. This cake is going on repeat for my family for the rest of the summer. It is fantastic, it is super easy to make there’s no big mess or big cleanup, it’s totally straightforward and it’s light and delicious , I love recipes like this !!! Thank you !!!!!

      1. Hi Katie, l recently saw your recipe site and the lemon cake looks so good. l was wondering if l can make this lemon cake into muffins? If so, how would l change up the recipe, if necessary, and would oven temperature stay the same? Thanks in advance.

          1. l did make it in the cake form and it was so delicious! Thanks for directions about the muffins. 🤗

  2. 5 stars
    I’m baking this today!! Can I substitute melted butter instead of olive oil?
    Many thanks
    Allison

  3. I have a tub of plain whole milk yogurt that isn’t Greek to use up in my fridge so I was going to try this recipe. Do you think non-Greek yogurt will work the same?

  4. 5 stars
    I love this recipe! The ingredients are easy to get, and the recipe instructions are easy to follow. Mine turned out exactly like it was supposed to, and the taste was amazing! I have it saved to bake again.

  5. 5 stars
    Love, love your recipe lemon yogourt cake with olive oil. Thank you for sharing this easy to make so delicious
    cake. Sylvie

  6. Sounds delicious! Have you added blueberries- either fresh or frozen? If yes, how much and do you add them at the end (after the flour)? Thanks! Can’t wait to make it!

    1. I haven’t added blueberries but I would keep it to 1/2 – 3/4 cup and toss them in a bit of flour first to help them not sink! Use fresh ideally, and yes fold them in after you’ve mixed in the flour. let me know if you try it!

  7. 5 stars
    A delicious cake which was really simple to make. I think I’ll make a bit more lemon syrup the next time as I think it could take it. My friends and family all really enjoyed it.

    1. This lemon cake looks so good, but l was wondering if l can make muffins out of this recipe and if so, would l need to tweak the ingredients or amounts of ingredients and temperature of the oven? Thank you in advance.😊

  8. 5 stars
    I made this last weekend and it was super easy, and I literally ate half the loaf with my hands it was so good. The lemon juice/glaze at the end is really key! The top half of my loaf was notably more moist than the bottom half, but that’s probably because I didn’t let my loaf cool long enough, and I didn’t poke deep enough holes with my fork.

    1. I similarly have eaten an embarrassing amount of this cake with my hands…common side effect of baking it. Thanks so much for the review, Tucker!

  9. 5 stars
    Made this today. Only change was I used nonfat Greek yogurt. Was delicious: light and not too sweet with great lemony flavor. It was so easy with not many dirty dishes, especially when ingredients are weighed. Thank you

  10. 5 stars
    Been waiting for this recipe ever since you posted a sneak peek on insta…and omg was it worth the wait!!! I’m obsessed with how lemony this cake is and it actually was super easy to make. Made it during toddler nap time this morning – baked for exactly 50 minutes – and could barely wait for it to cool down before I cut into it! The lemon syrup is a game changer. Thank you Katie!