Mandarins? Lemons? You decide! Either way, you gotta try this Citrus Olive Oil Cake

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A beautiful way to show off the flavors of fresh vibrant citrus fruits. This cake is delicious and a perfect way to share a treat with your loved ones this festive season. This recipe can keep a few days in the refrigerator before you bring it to Mom’s house to celebrate! 

Total Time: 45 min / Prep Time: 15 minutes / Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8 servings 

Gluten-free / Dairy-Free / Vegetarian / Vegan optional


(**See instructions below – one step is to be completed at least 4 days before cooking)

  • 10 Lemons 
  • 1 bottle or liter of everclear or vodka 
  •  1 ½ cups of organic honey OR 2 cups of coconut sugar

*Note: For a vegan cake, sub ¾ cup apple sauce and add an additional ½ tsp baking soda. Sub maple syrup for honey (may slightly alter cake’s color).

Candied Lemons:

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
  • 4 medium lemons (Meyer lemons are best)
  • Pinch sea salt


  • 2 1/4 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour or arrowroot starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 eggs (*See below for vegan alternative)
  • 1/2 cup honey (*See below for vegan alternative)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (Use the code “tinykitchen” for 15% off your first Kosterina order through June 30th, 2023)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 fresh mint leaves

*Note: For a vegan cake, sub ¾ cup apple sauce and add an additional ½ tsp baking soda. Sub maple syrup for honey (may slightly alter cake’s color).


  1. *Read below for Limoncello instructions – there is one step that needs to be done at least 4 days ahead of time. 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 


  1. Slice 3 of the 4 lemons into thin rounds. If any break in half, keep those just in case you need them to fill in gaps on the cake. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water and juice of 1 lemon. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer (med-low) and add lemon slices in a single layer.
  1. Simmer over medium-low (uncovered) for 15 minutes, gently flipping once or twice during the cooking process, or until the pith is no longer bright white and is a similar color to the lemon.
  1. Transfer lemon slices to a wire cooling rack or waxed paper and let cool.
  1. Grease a 9 inch cake pan. Add parchment lining to bottom of pan. 
  1. Arrange all syrupy lemon slices on bottom of cake pan: Build overlapping rows going from left to right (not in a circle, but in a line). Repeat until bottom of pan is fully covered in lemon slices. If a lemon is too thin, overlay another lemon slice on top. Arrange any remaining slices on edge of pan.
  1. Drizzle ⅛ cup of the leftover cardamom lemon syrup (in which we cooked the lemons) over the lemon layer at the bottom of the pan. Lightly drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Save the remaining cardamom lemon syrup for later.


  1. In a medium bowl, mix together almond flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, honey, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla until well combined.
  3. Add flour mixture into wet in increments, and stir until well combined. Once fully mixed, pour into cake pan on top of lemons.
  4. Bake for 28-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool. When cool, flip out of pan upside down, so fruits are facing up. Drizzle extra citrus syrup on top. Top with fresh mint leaves in the middle as a garnish. Serve with choice of ice cream, whipped coconut cream or greek yogurt with honey. Enjoy!



  1. Scrub the 10 lemons well. With a vegetable peeler, being careful not to remove the bitter white pith, remove strips of lemon peel. Place in a clean quart (4-cup) jar. Save the lemons to use the juice in the olive oil cake! 
  1. Pour 1 liter vodka or everclear into the jar, ensuring the alcohol covers the peels. Seal the jar. Let the mixture sit for at least 4 days, or ideally up to a month. (See recipe Note.)


  1. Line a sieve with a thin cloth and place the sieve over a medium bowl. Pour the contents of the jar into the cloth-lined sieve to strain the alcohol. Compost the lemon peels.
  1. In a pot, combine the water and sugar over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool and combine with the alcohol. Bottle and chill.
  1. Store in the refrigerator for about a month or in the freezer for a year.

Recipe Tips:

  1. When making any kind of cake or quick bread, take care not to overmix. Overmixing allows the gluten strands to develop making the cake gummy. Mix until just combined to ensure a light, delicate crumb.
  2. Do not open the oven door while the cake is baking. This causes the structure to fall leaving you with a dent in the middle of your cake. You can check for doneness after 45 minutes.
  3. Let the candied lemons sit at room temperature for up to 24 hours before storing in an air-tight container.
  4. Candied lemons will be sugary and tacky even after drying. 
  5. They freeze well and can be frozen for up to 2 months.

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Meet Chef
Anja Lee

  • Founder of Anja Lee & Company, Anja Lee Catering and Silicon Chef (our company arm of Team-Building Cooking Competitions)
  • Food Network's Supermarket Stakeout CHAMPION! Season 4, Episode 13
  • Competitor in the Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen
  • Chef for the Golden State Warriors & Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Cookbook author of 2 Cookbooks
  • World traveling culinary artist and master cooking & wine tasting instructor

Anja brings an appreciation for great food and cooking that will keep your team entertained from beginning to end!

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