limoncello olive oil cake with preserved lemon buttercream

Lemon has always been my favorite. Sure, there are dalliances with mango and almond, pistachio and miso - but in the end it's lemon's bright clean flavor that I always seek out. Lemon sorbets, lemon curd, lemon shaker pie. Here, we're celebrating limoncello (which I keep on hand next to ice and cream for a crema di limoncello, basically a lemon-flavored orangsicle on (citrus) acid.

This is a play on a French yogurt cake. I read somewhere, once upon a time, that this is the first cake French children learn to make and I understand why. It's incredibly moist and forgiving, airy and none-too-sweet. Here, I've added lemon zest and limoncello to bring out that bold flavor and paired it with my favorite buttercream - Italian meringue. 

Buttercreams are not made equally. I can't stand the sickly sweet mixture of American buttercream, frequently seen on store-bought cupcakes. No, this buttercream is glossy and airy as a cloud, with the gentle backdrop of rich butter and high notes of gently sweet simple syrup. If angels sing, they sing about Italian buttercream.  

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limoncello olive oil cake

1 cup + 2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 oz limoncello
2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 11" cake pan. Combine eggs, olive oil, sugar, limoncello, and lemon zest in a mixer and beat until combined. Sift dry ingredients together and slowly add to mixer on medium-low speed, working in batches.  Once fully incorporated, pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Tap slightly to even mixture and release any trapped air.


Bake 40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool for approximately ten minutes before flipping onto cooling rack. Place in freezer for one hour before icing.

preserved lemon italian buttercream

4 egg whites
1.25 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup cubed and room temperature butter
1 tbsp preserved lemon syrup (or 1 tsp lemon extract + 1/4 tsp salt)

In a stand mixer, beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, dissolving completely. Bring syrup to 235 degrees and remove from heat. Slowly pour into the mixer, keeping the mixer on  low speed (to prevent scrambling eggs). Continue to mix until glossy and bowl has cooled. Add butter one cube at a time, beating to incorporate. Add lemon syrup and food coloring if desired.