Lemon Olive Oil Snacking Cake (Dairy Free)

Lemon Olive Oil Snacking Cake | A Sweet Spoonful This is the third week I’ve been back at work, and it’s finally starting to feel normal enough. Of course I miss my days with Frances terribly, and the shuffle of dropping Oliver off at preschool, joining the morning commute to get to the office, and then turning around and doing it all over again on the way home took some adjustment. Sometimes I spend almost three hours a day in the car, and am not always a happy camper walking in the door, met with the question of dinner, the task of packing lunch for the next day, filling the bath and so on.

One morning at breakfast last week, Oliver and I were talking about our upcoming day: he asks me what I’ll do at work and then we talk about the weather and what he’s excited about. Typically his list involves wearing his astronaut helmet on the drive to school and helping me water the flowers when he gets home. As he was rattling on, I got up to make more tea and noticed it’d started to rain. I was dreading the drive into work, and my mind started spinning thinking about all the things I could do if I didn’t have such a long commute (exercise! bake! meditate! play with Frances!) Then I heard Ollie’s little voice from the table, “Mom I think the sun will come through the clouds today for me and for you, too.”

Lemon Olive Oil Snacking Cake | A Sweet Spoonful As adults we often talk about reframing problems or frustrations as opportunities as a way to remain positive and hopeful — replacing all of those “have to’s” with “get to’s.” This all sounds fine and good in theory, but it can be tough in the moment. There are just some things that are downright hard no matter how you reframe it.

But lately I’ve been taking small lessons from Oliver of all people. Mr. Sun Through the Clouds himself. Last weekend when I was helping him get ready for bed I noticed a small hole in his new shirt. “Oh man, buddy, your new shirt has a hole in it. How do you think that happened? We’ll have to set it aside to see if I can fix it.” Oliver shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, the good news, mom, is certainly that it only has one hole!”

Lemon Olive Oil Snacking Cake | A Sweet Spoonful Three and a half is a tough age, and I say that knowing we have a pretty well-behaved boy. But from the moment he gets home in the late afternoon, it’s non stop, all-in parenting. He’s testing boundaries, trying to get out pent-up energy, negotiating for dessert and just … being three. But in unexpected moments he teaches us, too.

Last night Oliver was asking Sam and I who our respective moms and dads are. He’s become really interested in extended families, and we’ve been talking about this more and more, especially as my sister Zoe is about to have her first baby next month. I went through the same routine of telling Oliver that his Grandpa is actually my Dad — this never ceases to blow his mind — and then he asked about Sam’s dad. Sam reminded him that his dad isn’t alive anymore. He’s dead. O responded, asking “what does dead look like?” I paused for a bit and realized my gut response was “I don’t know,” and we stuck with that for a minute as Sam and I exchanged glances. We ultimately landed with a talk about how when you’re dead you’re not awake anymore. “Ok, so just like a long nap?” Like a long nap, buddy. Exactly. 

This week has been a really tough news week for me. I notice the bad news kind of seeping into me physically: my shoulder and jaw are tense and I’m snappy and quick to react. While I’d like to say a cheery “lemon cake helps” to wrap up this post, of course it doesn’t really. Global warming is still here. Detained children are still being detained at the border. As Annie Dillard wrote, this is the big time here, every minute of it, and it’s been a lot.

But lemon cake with a little guy who tends to look on the bright side of things in truly unexpected ways and moments — whether because it’s just his nature or to help me feel better — has helped a bit. The Big Time still feels pretty Big Time, but a few moments spared for cake with the right person can look an awful lot like promise coming through the clouds for a minute.

If you, too, find yourself too busy to bake lately and a bit overwhelmed with the daily shuffle, you can still make this cake! It’s simple, it’s even better the next day, and it doubles as breakfast and dessert. Good news.

Lemon Olive Oil Snacking Cake

Lemon Olive Oil Snacking Cake

  • Yield: About 8 Slices
  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cook time: 35 mins
  • Total time: 50 mins

This is one of those simple loaf cakes that actually gets better the second day. It’s not at all too sweet, and packs up nicely for picnics or road trips. While I love a good glaze, I liked the simplicity of just a little powdered sugar on top here.


3/4 cup (180ml) unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup (60ml) plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from 2 medium lemons)
3/4 cup (135g) turbinado sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup (80ml) plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (220g) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (55g) almond meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
confectioners sugar, to serve


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan with coconut oil or cooking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the almond milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Set aside for 5 minutes

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, olive oil and vanilla until combined. Stream in the almond milk mixture and whisk until smooth.

In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, almond meal, baking soda, and salt. Fold into buttermilk mixture and stir until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and until the cake starts pulling away from the edges and is a nice, golden brown, about 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool in pan for at least 45 minutes before removing and slicing.


  1. Lori

    In a hurry to get to the gym, then work, then the store, then home to be with my own not-so-little-anymore guy, I almost passed up this post. I'm so glad I didn't. It's so beautiful and Oliver is so sweet. I love how you interact with him and how he is inquisitive. The news has been bad, thank goodness we are fortunate enough to be healthy and live in safe conditions and hopefully can help those who strive for what we have. I hope you have a nice weekend, Megan.
    xo, Lori

    1. megang

      Hi, Lori. Thank you so much for the comment. Yes, I'm so thankful every day we're healthy and have a home and food and good health - things that in truth I took for granted before this presidency. I hope you all had a great 4th of July weekend together AND an upcoming long weekend :)

  2. Claire

    Hello! Could you use Gluten Free Flour? X

    1. megang

      Hi, Claire! Don't see why not. I prefer a good 1:1 substitute like Bob's 1:1 (NOT the one with the chickpea flour in it) - I think with that you'd have success for sure. Good luck!


    Morning Megan, I enjoy reading your posts about motherhood, kids, and life in general. Yes the news is bad I wish we could help all of those families trying to have a better life for them and their families. I pray something is done for them. I remember when my children were small, and had to work, take them home , make dinner make sure homework was done, believe me it goes very fast, I wish I could rewind and go back to do it better. Our kids are grown and now I am a grandmother to a beautiful 7 month baby boy he's amazing. This Olive oil cake looks great I'm going to try to make it . Have a safe and wonderful 4th of July.

    Mary Lou

    1. megang

      Hi, Mary Lou! Oh congratulations on your grandson; what a gift. It really does go by fast - I see that when I look at Oliver and he's a legitimate boy now. Thank you for the sweet comment. I hope you had a wonderful 4th as well; we had a nice BBQ in the backyard and the sun even popped in!

  4. Claire

    Lovely post. Thanks

    1. megang

      Oh thank you so much :)

  5. Sarah

    Long time reader, first time commenter! This cake was absolutely delicious. I always seem to have trouble getting loaf cakes to cook all the way through the middle. Do you think this would work in a 9 inch cake pan? Any advice on timing? Thanks for all the delicious recipes!

    1. megang

      Hi, Sarah! Apologies for the delay! My mom was in town and I wasn't keeping up with comments as I usually do. So I *think* this would work in a 9" pan but of course haven't tested it as such. It's going to cook more quickly so I'd start checking it around 25 minutes and keep checking every 5 min from there on out. I think you just want to be sure the batter doesn't fill the pan more than 1/2 way up or you're going to get some overflow when it rises. Good luck!

  6. Rosemarie

    I just love your writing. The news is gut wrenching, for the past few years really, but a special kind of sh*tty right now. This cake looks awesome.

    1. megang

      Oh thank you. It is a special kind of shitty, isn't it? Just when you think it can't get worse ...

  7. Marisa

    There’s a book that our oldest’s first grade teacher recommended called Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children. We’ve relied on it often, both for grandparents and pets. I’m looking forward to trying this cake. It might not make everything better, but spending time in the kitchen is a precious respite.

    1. megang

      Oh wonderful, Marisa. Thank you for sharing the recommendation. I will look it up next time I'm at the library.

  8. irene

    I thought milk and lemon cannot be mixed, this i must try!

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