When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Cake

Amalfi lemon

I have been waiting for the laundry to finish so that I can make lemon cake.

This has less to do with laundry being time intensive (it’s quite simple, once I actually put the sheets IN the machine), and more with electricity.

My washing machine is directly next to my oven. These appliances are found to the left of the sink. To the right is the stove top, which is gas, but has an electric fan.

You can run exactly one of these appliances at any given time. If you try any combination of oven + washing machine + stove top fan, you will inevitably blow the fuse. The flat will instantly be plunged into darkness and you will be left cursing yourself for multitasking.

Blowing a fuse means walking down to the rather intimidating basement in order to flip the switch, and I hate walking to the basement.

So I am waiting for the laundry to finish before I can make my favorite Italian lemon cake.

Amalfi lemon

I picked up these gorgeous Amalfi lemons when we went back to the Amalfi coast to celebrate our anniversary.

It is the thick, uneven skin that makes the lemons so precious.

The skin is mismatched but somehow cohesive, like the pastel town where it can be found growing in terraced gardens.

Amalfi Italy

The oversized citrus peel provides even more of the essential oils that flavor my favorite Italian lemon cake from Rachel Roddy.  Here’s how to make it:

Torta al limone e olio d’oliva

1. Take a weekend trip to the Amalfi coast.

2. Buy lemons, you will need two. You will also need plain yogurt.

3. Empty the container of yogurt into a mixing bowl. The empty cup is now your measuring tool for the rest of the ingredients which are:

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 cups of sugar


  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 3 eggs

4. Ok, back to business. After emptying the yogurt into a bowl, use the container to measure out the three “cups” of flour, 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil, and 1.5 cups of sugar. Don’t worry about being overly precise, all the ingredients are proportional so you do not need a measuring cup.

5. Add the eggs and baking powder (which sadly can’t be measured by yogurt cup), and mix well by hand with a whisk.

6. Take the unwaxed lemons and generously zest the two into the mixture, taking care not to go so deep that you allow any of the bitter white pith into the mix. I also like to add a squeeze of lemon juice into the batter. If the batter looks too soupy, feel free to add a few spoons of flour and quickly mix once more.

7. Pour the batter into a greased ciambella ring tin and bake at 180C (350F) for about 25 minutes, leaving in for few more minutes if it has yet to turn golden brown.

Turn the pan over onto a plate to enjoy.

Thanks to the yogurt and the olive oil, the ring cake should be exceptionally moist.  It is the perfect way to turn lemons until something sweet.

Rachel’s latest book, Two Kitchens: Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome, is now available. It includes an orange almond cake that is equally divine.

11 thoughts on “When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Cake

  1. Lauren says:

    This sounds delicious! Does it make a huge difference if it’s baked in a normal (round) tin, rather than a ring tin?

    • Natalie says:

      Hi Lauren! It shouldn’t, but I would suggest a loaf tin. I have not tested in a round tin but the cake is so moist that I wouldn’t want to risk the center sinking a bit.

  2. Anne says:

    I love this cake! We made it on our last visit to Rome and had it for breakfast – lush!!
    Lauren – I didn’t have a ring tin so used a loaf tin – worked perfecty

  3. Neekoh says:

    Yay! Thank you for posting this. I’m getting nostalgic flashbacks to making this cake in our Tuscan villa with our Tenuta di Valgiano olive oil. Such good times <3

    • Natalie says:

      Hi Valli – any size, but not the large tubs! Everything is measured in whatever cup you use, so it will be proportional. If you use a very small cup of yogurt, I would suggest small eggs as well.

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