Beth Nguyen's Favorite Comfort Food: Olive Oil, Almond Flour and Citrus Cake(s)

June 15, 2020

I started making this olive oil-based cake years ago, when I realized that I loved ordering olive oil cakes at restaurants but had never thought to make one myself. So I looked through a lot of online recipes, tried numerous variations and have (for now), settled on this composite. It is my kids’ favorite cake, and it probably doesn’t hurt that I bake it in mini-loaf pans that remind us of Lego bricks. We have this for breakfast, for dessert, for a snack. It’s what I call an everyday, anytime cake: a perfect comfort.

This can be baked in a loaf tin or in 4 mini loaf tins (I prefer the latter).


  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Zest of 1 or 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed citrus juice (a mix of citrus is fine; I usually use lemon and
  • orange)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (other flours can be substituted to make this gluten-free)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Optional: Sliced almonds and about a tablespoon of brown sugar

Glaze (optional):

  • Powdered sugar
  • Small amount of freshly squeezed lemon/citrus juice
  • A bit of almond extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter or olive-oil the pan(s).
  3. Using a mixer, beat the 4 eggs with the sugar (use a high speed but not the very highest speed) until the mixture begins to look like the early thickening stage of whipped cream. This may be about 3-4 minutes or even more, depending on the mixer.
  4. Add the olive oil, citrus juice, extracts and zest. Mix well.
  5. Add the flours, baking powder and baking soda. Mix until just combined.
  6. OPTIONAL: Sprinkle a layer of sliced almonds on the bottom of the pan (or each mini-loaf pan) then sprinkle a bit of sugar over the almonds.
  7. Pour in batter or divide evenly among the mini-loaf pans. Bake for about 20-24 minutes for mini loaves. Baking time will be longer if you use one regular loaf pan. Please note that baking time varies widely depending on oven and pan, so monitor carefully.
  8. Let the cakes rest in their tins for a few minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
  9. Optional glaze, to make and use after the cakes have cooled completely: start with powdered sugar (around 1/2 cup) and stir in a very small amount of citrus juice and a bit of almond extract. Stir until the glaze is smooth and the right consistency — not too thin, not too thick. Add more powdered sugar and/or citrus as needed. Drizzle on the cooled cakes.
  10. If glaze is not desired, another option is to sprinkle the cooled cakes with powdered sugar. The cakes are also delightful just as they are.

Beth Nguyen

Beth (Bich Minh) Nguyen is the author of the memoir Stealing Buddha’s Dinner and the novels Short Girls and Pioneer Girl. She is a professor in the creative writing program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.