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Sweet Lime Olive Oil Cake

Sweet Lime Olive Oil Cake

This year I enjoyed a banner crop for most of the citrus trees in my garden. Lots of Meyer lemons, tangerines, navel oranges and my favorite, sweet limes. What are sweet limes you ask? A variety of lime similar to key lime in that it has a bright yellow skin when ripe and is sweeter in taste than the standard lime one finds in the supermarket. It also has a high juice content.

Sweet Limes

When I was faced with staring at a basketful of these limes, on my counter, my first instinct was to make a key lime pie. It’s been a “transform from traditional to vegan” task that I’ve wanted to tackle. But then I purchased a glorious bottle of French Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Surfas. Oh, mon dieu! So rich and buttery without that bitter end note. Olive oil cake became the dessert du jour on the menu. It had been another “transform from traditional to vegan” task in my endless plant based quest. I was excited to get started yet a bit trepidatious, as I always am when recreating baked goods, vegan.

Now, unlike key lime pie, which I’d eaten but never made at home, traditional Italian orange olive oil cake had been a dessert I had baked in my kitchen, with great success using eggs and dairy, back in the day. Baking is chemistry and chemistry either works or it doesn’t. Here were the variables I was concerned with. Would I like this cake with lime vs the traditional orange or lemon? I decided to add a bit of lemon paste instead of vanilla extract to heighten the citrus flavor. Would the plant based egg replacement I chose (there are several ways to replace eggs) and the plant based dairy keep the cake light and airy? Would it be moist? Dry? Sink in the middle? A lot to take into consideration. After much mulling, I chose to use a dry egg replacement from Bob’s Red Mill, that is rehydrated right before adding as an ingredient. I’d used it with success in other baked goods. I chose to use soy milk, which I fermented into buttermilk using a tablespoon of lime juice.

When I added the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, there was a magical bubbling effect. Good news! I knew that I was aerating the batter, which would help make the cake light. I was careful not to over-mix the batter. I poured it into the prepared pan, set the timer and said a little baker’s prayer. “Please bake well and be delicious!”

After checking the cake a second time at 65 minutes, I knew that it was done. It looked gorgeous! Beautifully golden on top, the sides of the cake bronzed and pulling away from the pan, set in the center and …perfectly flat. No sinking cake!

After letting it cool in the pan 30 minutes, the next step was to remove the sides of the springform pan. No problem. After cooling it completely for several hours, I did the big cake transfer from pan to cake plate that every baker dreads. Again. No problem. The cake kept its shape. The parchment paper peeled away easily, there were no cracks, no breakage and no jiggly undercooked center. It was a stunner!

There was only one test left. The most important test. The test of all tests. The taste test! Would it be rich and moist yet light and airy? Would it have that traditional Italian olive oil cake taste and texture with the plant based substitutions? Would I like the lime flavor?

Ok. So have you ever eaten something and thought, why haven’t I ever eaten that before? Why hasn’t this been in my life before? Yeah, that was how this taste test went. Not only was this cake light and airy but the crumb was ridiculously moist while the exterior a bit crunchy from the sugar caramelizing on the edges. Please note that you do get the rich mouth feel of the olive oil but it’s pleasant, not heavy and overwhelming. Picking the right olive oil is definitely key. And the lime! Such a wonderful bite of citrusy sunshine as we face another rain storm in a few days.

I do hope you’ll try this plant based take on a traditional Italian cake. It’s a winner!

Chef’s Tips:

  • Splurge on a really good olive oil but make sure it’s buttery not bitter and peppery. Some stores let you taste.
  • I have only made this cake with the Bob’s Red Mill egg replacement which is available at Ralph’s, Whole Foods and Lassen’s. Other egg replacements that should work are silken tofu or yogurt. I have also had success with liquid Just Egg in baking cakes and brownies.
  • If you can’t find sweet or key limes, use traditional limes. Pick limes that are heavy for their size as they are juicier. If they are strong and very tart reduce the amount of juice to a 1/4 cup.
  • Lemon paste is a wonderful replacement for lemon extract. A bit sweeter and not as intense. Available at Williams Sonoma and Surfas.
  • You will need a pan 9 inches wide pan that is more than 2 inches high. You can use a regular baking pan that is 9 x 3 or a springform that is usually about 9 x 2 3/4 inches high. Make sure that you have a springform pan that doesn’t leak. The Goldtouch Pro from Williams Sonoma is pricey but airtight. No batter leaked.
  • Turn your oven on early and let it be at temperature at least 30 minutes for a perfect bake. An hour is even better. Adhering to that has been a game changer for me with my baking results. Remember, all ovens are different so keep an eye on your cake.
  • They sell pre-cut parchment rounds to line cake pans, online. Makes it so easy.
  • I sprinkled a bit of confectioners sugar on the top for presentation. This is a sweet cake so be light with the powdered sugar. You can also serve it as is.
  • I know I’m a broken record here, as I say this every time I share a recipe for baked goods, but get a digital kitchen scale and weight your flour and sugar. It makes a difference. Especially the flour.

Sweet Lime Olive Oil Cake
Serves 10-12

1 1/3 cups unsweetened soy milk
1 T fresh squeezed lime juice
2 cups (250 grams) AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 3/4 cups (350 grams) organic cane sugar
1 1/4 cups buttery Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Bob’s Red Mill dry egg replacement for 3 whole eggs (directions on package)
1 packed teaspoon lime zest
1/3 cup lime juice
3/4 tsp lemon paste or 1/2 tsp lemon extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the center

Prepare a baking pan with a bit of baking oil spray and then a parchment circle on the bottom of the pan. Then lightly top the parchment with a bit of baking spray. I use a paper towel to evenly coat the pan and remove excess oil.

Make the soy buttermilk by whisking in the 1 T of lime juice into the milk. Set aside to thicken for at least 10 minutes. Whisk up again before adding.

In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt so there are no lumps. Whisk sugar into the flour mix. Set aside.

Rehydrate the egg replacement for 3 whole eggs according to package directions. Needs to thicken for a minute. If too thick, as I found, add a few drops more of water.

In a large mixing bowl whisk up the oil, egg replacement, soy buttermilk, zest, lime juice, and lemon paste until very well combined.

Stir in the dry ingredient mixture and mix until well combined and aerated. I used a rubber spatula, folding it all together. Then vigorously mixed to remove lumps. Don’t over-mix.

Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake 60-70 minutes until the top is golden, the sides are slightly pulling away and a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Check at 50-55 minutes just to be safe.

Remove from oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

If using a springform pan, carefully remove the sides and let cool completely on the base before transferring to your cake serving plate.

If using a traditional cake pan, remove it completely from the pan and let it cool on the wire rack before transferring to a cake plate.

If you’ve never transferred a cake from a pan to a wire rack and then a cake plate there are many good tutorials online.

Lightly dust with powdered sugar when ready to serve.


Specialty ingredients for sweet lime cake.
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Deborah Brooks
Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.

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