Let her cook: A citrusy birthday treat to celebrate sweet Clementine

My darling Clementine turns 2 this week, and I’ve been thinking about what I can make to celebrate. I love Clemmie’s name because it means “mercy,” and the citrus motif always provides some direction when it comes to choosing things for her.

This is a slight variation on my trusted lemon olive oil cake, adjusted to match her name. You can tint elderflower buttercream frosting orange, or whatever color you like. It’s sweet with a bit of an unexpected punch, just like Clementine. How lucky we are to have her.

I use my handy springform pan, but this could easily be done in two layers in standard cake pans. Bake time may vary!


  • 9″ springform pan

Ingredients for the orange cake

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling the top
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange/clementine juice
  • zest from 4 oranges or 6 clementines
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk (can also use half & half)

Ingredients for the elderflower buttercream

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp elderflower cordial (St. Germain’s is my favorite)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9″ springform pan by greasing the bottom and the sides well and lining the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Wrap the outside with foil to prevent leaks.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, eggs, and sugar.
  3. Add the vanilla, zest, and juice. Whisk briefly to combine.
  4. Sift together the salt, baking powder, baking soda, and flour. Alternating with the buttermilk, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in a couple of batches. Try not to over-mix at this stage, you just want to combine everything until no streaks of dry flour remain.
  5. Pour the batter into the springform pan. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of granulated sugar evenly over the top.
  6. Bake for 50-55 minutes. By the time it’s done, the cake should have risen and started to turn a bit golden brown on the top. Ovens do vary greatly, though, so you may need to bake your cake longer to get it done in the center. Test with a toothpick. Lay a loose piece of foil over the top of your cake if it seems to be getting very brown toward the end of baking.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan. Then, gently remove the cake from the springform pan and let it cool completely on a baking rack. I like to let it cool completely in the refrigerator before frosting.
  8. For the buttercream, beat butter, salt, and vanilla in a large mixer bowl on medium speed until smooth. Mix in powdered sugar on low speed 1 cup at a time until fully incorporated. Add elderflower cordial and mix in on low speed until smooth.
  9. Use an offset spatula to spread frosting over cooled cake. Garnish with flowers, candied oranges, or, in our case, birthday candles!

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