This combination of the rich cacao cakes with the bright lemon buttercream is everything I wanted it to be when I imagined this recipe.

For the assembly shown, I made the mini size. They are garnished with cacao nibs and candied lemon bits.

I left the type of olive oil up to you. If you want to have a strong taste of olive oil, use extra virgin. If you prefer a milder taste, use a lighter tasting olive oil. I like it in the middle, so I used a half and half blend.


12 cupcakes/36 mini cupcakes


140g all-purpose flour

217g sugar, granulated

37g cacao powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg, large

86g olive oil, light or extra virgin

122g water

1/4 c whole milk

1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350°F/177°C. Prepare either a full-size cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners or a mini-muffin pan with 36 liners. 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cacao, baking soda, and salt.

Add in the egg, oil, water, whole milk, and vanilla extract. Whisk until well combined and smooth. Once smooth, whisk vigorously for 15 seconds to lighten the batter.

Scoop in to the prepared liners, filling each one to 3/4 full.

Bake at 350°F/177°C until the cake has risen and springs back when gently poked, about 23 minutes for the full-size cupcakes or about 15 minutes for the minis.




113g unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 tsp salt

453g powdered sugar

1 1/2 tsp lemon extract

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

60g (~4 tbsp) heavy whipping cream, plus more as needed


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter for a few seconds to make sure it’s room temperature and very smooth. 

Add in the salt, half of the powdered sugar (you can eyeball this), lemon extract, and vanilla. Mix until evenly incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Add in 2-3 tablespoons of the cream. Mix until smooth. Scrape down the bowl again.

Add in the remaining sugar, and, again, mix until smooth. Add in cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed to reach the desired consistency. Once you have the consistency right, mix on low for 1-2 minutes.

Use the frosting immediately or cover tightly and chill for up to two days in the refrigerator. Bring back to room temperature and mix on low for a few minutes before using.