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Lemon Thyme Olive Oil Cakelets

Remember Orange Olive Oil Cake? We liked it so much, I decided to try another flavor in a smaller size.

With Lemon Lime Cream Slab Pie now weeks in the distance, I thought another lemon dessert was in order. Enter Lemon Thyme Olive Oil Cakelets.  I know for some of you, the words, “thyme and olive oil” do not belong in the same phrase as, “cake.”  I remember my husband telling someone about the Orange Olive Oil Cake.  I think the response was, “Ugh, that doesn’t sound good at all!” But, of course, it was more than good.  I made it two more times that month and friends of mine also made it.  It was loved by all, young and old.


This recipe adds another twist. My daughter asked me what the green stuff was on top of the cakelet.  When I told her it was thyme, she asked, “Is that supposed to be used that way?” I laughed.  I told her that cooking and baking are creative endeavors; it’s exciting to try new things and you should never be confined by what others think you’re “supposed” to do.  I also told her that I was certainly not the first person to add thyme to a sweet, so if that’s what she meant by “supposed to,” then the answer was, “Yes, others have done this before and lived.”


The first attempt at the lemon version was simply a trade of lemons for oranges with the addition of thyme. I did not add alot of thyme fearing it would over power the cake.  I baked them in my spool pan.  They came out beautifully. I even embraced the dark golden edges that the dark spool pan produced. I iced them with a lemony glaze and sprinkled them with tiny thyme leaves.  I took 100 beautiful photos.  And then we tasted them.


They were extremely lemony, we couldn’t taste the thyme at all and the texture was off. My daughter said they tasted like solid cakey lemon curd.  In other words, they were quite edible, since we love lemon curd, but certainly not ready to post.  Not all big cakes translate to mini cakes.  This is one of them.

So, I shifted the entire recipe, reduced the lemon juice and the olive oil, increased the thyme and added some fat free greek yogurt.  That did the trick.  We were back to a nice moist, dense, but a bit fluffy cake, definitely still a “friend” of the Orange Olive Oil Cake. The lemon flavor was clear but not overwhelming and there was just a mild hint of thyme in the background. I kept the same simple lemon icing and sprinkled on the thyme. I even baked some up as cupcakes with paper liners so that you could see that you don’t need a spool pan to enjoy these little cakes.  I then lamented the first set of never to be seen photos and shot another 100 of both the spool cakelets and the cupcakes.


When all was said and done, we ended up with some lovely, slightly sophisticated, Lemon Thyme Olive Oil Cakelets that simply validated how lemon, thyme and olive oil can make a wonderfully delicious treat…


just like they’re “supposed” to :)


Lemon Thyme Olive Oil Cakelets


For the cakes:

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, be sure to zest before squeezing
  • 1/2 cup mild olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt, I used plain 0% Fage

For the icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • fresh thyme leaves for topping


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a spool cake pan or muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper liners.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder,salt and the 2 teaspoons of thyme in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs in on medium high until broken up.
  4. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating until light and pale yellow, about 3 minutes.
  5. In a large liquid measuring cup, measure the 1/4 cup of lemon juice and zest then add in the 1/2 cup olive oil to reach 3/4 of a cup. Add in the 1/2 cup of yogurt. (The total mixture should be 1 1/4 cups) Whisk until fully combined.
  6. On low speed, alternate adding the flour and olive oil mixture, beginning and ending with the flour (1/3 flour, 1/2 oil, 1/3 flour, 1/2 oil, 1/3 flour) mixing until mostly combined after each addition then mixing briefly at the end to insure everything has been incorporated and the batter is smooth.
  7. Distribute batter evenly among the cups, filling about 2/3 full.
  8. Bake for 18-22 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then carefully remove (use a knife to loosen sides, if necessary) to finish cooling on a rack.
  10. When the cakes are cool, make the icing by whisking together the powdered sugar and enough lemon juice to get your desired drizzling consistency. Spread a spoonful of the icing over each cake allowing some to drizzle over sides. Sprinkle with a few thyme leaves and allow icing to set before serving.


*I used a mild olive oil, but you can experiment with different flavors of olive oil. Each will bring different dimensions to the flavors of your cake.

*If you can't get past using thyme this recipe, feel free to leave it out. I only used enough to give a slight hint of the flavor. Some may want to increase the amount to a full tablespoon to punch it up even more. The lemon is the star of this dessert, so for the thyme, you'll be fine using none, some or more. I think the thyme makes it special.

*If baking in a muffin tin, cakes may take a few minutes longer to bake, but test at 18 minutes (or earlier if your oven runs hot) and judge from there.

*I normally allow for a few crumbs on the toothpick when testing cakes, but this is such a moist cake, I let it bake until the toothpick came out clean.

*My spool pan created some rather deep golden sides, but my cakes were not overbaked. As I said, I later embraced the deep color. You shouldn't be looking for this color if using a normal light colored muffin tin. Darker pans bake darker cakes.

The Merchant Baker Copyright © 2015

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Monday 25th of May 2015

I found this recipe looking for a cake using thyme. I misread the recipe and put two tablespoons of thyme in. I thought about sifting it to get it back out but decided to see how they do. They are in the oven now, but I snuck a taste of the batter and I'm pretty excited.


Monday 25th of May 2015

Laura, I've found other recipes that use 2 Tablespoons of thyme or even more, so I think you're going to be fine. The thyme is such a nice accent to the lemon flavor. The amount I used gave it just a hint of thyme flavor. I think more is going to be delicious! Let me know how they come out.


Monday 6th of April 2015

Since we made and loved the olive oil cake we have to try these! Just read this post and the Stout cupcakes post to Rachel as bedtime stories. We enjoy the way you write and she and I both agree that your photos are amazing!


Tuesday 7th of April 2015

Thanks, guys! Glad you're enjoying the food and the writing! Reading posts as bedtime stories gives new meaning to the idea of a night time "snack!"


Saturday 4th of April 2015

These sound so good! I love olive oil cakes and cookies, and I found interesting the lemon-thyme combo. Pinned!


Saturday 4th of April 2015

If you like this, you have to check out the Orange Olive Oil Cake...really delicious! Thanks for the pin!

Cyndi B

Wednesday 1st of April 2015

These turned out really good. I wasn't sure when to add the lemon zest so I added it with the sugar. I really like the flavor combo. I am thinking of freezing these for our Easter brunch. I had to forgo the thyme sprinkled on top-my husband gets "suspicious"of green stuff sometimes.HaHa!


Wednesday 1st of April 2015

Well, Cyndi, I think I've fixed all of the unintended omissions. (So sorry for that!) I added the zest with the lemon juice, but adding it with the sugar is also fine, as you found out. Glad you like them. One of these days, I'm going to try baking it as the larger cake and try the straight substitutions again, lemons for oranges, add a bit of sugar to balance the tartness and see if the larger cake will allow me to get the same texture.

If you decide to add these to your brunch, I imagine they will complement whatever fabulous menu you are making!

Cyndi B

Wednesday 1st of April 2015

One more quick thing, i am just getting ready to make these. Do I add the fresh thyme at the very end of mixing? just checking,thanks.


Wednesday 1st of April 2015

I added it into the flour mixture. Thanks for catching that! I've updated the recipe to reflect that step.

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