Honey Lemon Olive Oil Muffins with Lemon Glaze

Honey Lemon Olive Oil Muffins in Basket

I woke up this morning thinking about Sicily. I miss the first house we lived in with the fig, olive, and lemon trees.  The figs should be ripe now. There were two olive trees and my dog would constantly chew up then spit out the olives that fell to the ground.  They tasted terrible and I don’t know why he kept trying, but he kept it up.

My landlord taught me how to cure the green olives by cracking them with a hammer and submerging them in salted water for weeks.  My cutting board is still stained in one spot from cracking olives that afternoon six years ago.  He also taught me to pick the ripe and nearly-ripe olives and cure them by layering olives with salt in a basket and letting them sit for a few weeks until they were shriveled and pungent and delicious.  I didn’t speak much Italian, he spoke no English, but we figured it out.

I especially miss the lemon tree.  The tree wasn’t technically in our yard, but enough of it reached over the fence that I had access to plenty of fresh lemons whenever I needed them.  I needed them often.  Someday I’ll have another house with a lemon tree in the yard.  I’d like lots of fruit trees, but the lemons will come first.

And then there’s the olive oil.  I didn’t know I loved olive oil until I moved to Sicily.  We’d buy it direct from one of the local producers – beautiful, fragrant, unfiltered.  It was amazing stuff.  I’m not sure how much olive oil I consumed during the four years we lived there, but it was a lot.  It was so delicious, I couldn’t get enough.  I cooked with it, grilled with it, used it as a condiment.  I still do, but i have yet to find anything here that compares to the wonderful unfiltered oil we’d buy there.

So as I said, I woke up in the midst of all these memories and longings, swirling thoughts of olive oil and lemons, and I knew I had to make something today that would connect me to that time – something I could smell and taste and share.

Muffin Ingredients

I decided to try making muffins with the lemons and olive oil that remind me so much of those years on the island.  I had never baked with extra virgin olive oil before, but have heard really great things about citrus and olive oil cakes, so I knew the muffins could be something special.  I also decided to use honey, another ingredient that was a favorite in Sicily.

My first experimental batch failed because I overbaked them.  I didn’t realize that using honey instead of sugar would cause the muffins to brown so much faster than normal.  The first time I checked them, it was already too late.  They were brown and dry and crisp.  But the flavor was delicious, so I knew I was on the right track.

With the second batch, I fooled around with ingredient amounts, replaced part of the honey with granulated sugar, and reduced the oven temperature by 25 degrees.  I also checked on them early and often.  This batch was a success.

Lemon Olive Oil Muffins in Tin

I decided to mix up a quick glaze to brush over the tops of the muffins to intensify the lemon flavor.  It’s a tart, thin glaze that soaks into the warm muffin tops and dries as the muffins cool.

Glazed Honey Lemon Olive Oil Muffins

The muffins are sweet and flavorful – the lemon flavor is pronounced, the olive oil and honey just linger in the background.  The glaze adds the perfect amount of pucker.  These are muffins to be shared.

Honey Lemon Olive Oil Muffin

Honey Lemon Olive Oil Muffins with Lemon Glaze
makes 12 muffins

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup honey (preferably local)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick baking spray or line with paper cups (spray the inside of the cups with baking spray to prevent muffins from sticking to the paper).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined.  Set aside.  In a separate medium bowl, combine honey, sugar, olive oil, buttermilk, eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Whisk together until well combined.

Pour liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon just until all of the flour is incorporated.  Don’t overmix.  Divide batter between muffin cups using a large spoon or mechanical ice cream scoop – the cups should be mostly full.

Bake for 17 – 21 minutes or until the center of a muffin springs back lightly to the touch or a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Check early and watch carefully, they will brown fast.

While muffins are baking, make glaze.

Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack.  Brush the tops of the muffins with glaze while they are still warm.  Let cool completely.

  1. HPD

    Interesting note on honey v. sugar and reducing the oven temp. Sugar melts at 367º or so, while honey is already melted, technically speaking. (Freezing point is in the low twenties, I believe.) Therefore, I’m guessing just about any recipe that substitutes honey for sugar can get away with significantly lower temps (depending on the rest of the ingredients, of course — I’m sure eggs get a say in this discussion.)

    Learned that on Science Friday just the other day. They’ve done a bunch of interesting food stories lately. Their science of cheese piece is a classic.


    4:38 am  Sep 17th, 2010
  2. Phoo-D

    I can see why you miss Sicily. It sounds like a dream to have all of those trees and olive oils at your beck and call. You might have luck with a small potted lemon tree even in an apartment. I know my grandfather in San Diego has several lemon and lime trees in pots that are quite happy. These muffins sound right up my alley. I’m bookmarking them and will make a batch soon!

    4:55 am  Sep 17th, 2010
  3. Amy

    These look wonderful. I love lemons! Having a lemon tree would make me very happy! I will try these muffins as I am sure I will love them.

    5:03 am  Sep 17th, 2010
  4. Elizabeth

    What a lovely story – and lovely baked goods to boot! Might have to make some of these this weekend.

    5:25 am  Sep 17th, 2010
  5. Sommer @ A Spicy Perspective

    This sounds like the PERFECT muffins! Will try!

    8:14 am  Sep 17th, 2010
  6. kickpleat

    I’m so glad you baked with honey as I’ve been curious too! These look beautiful and will be bookmarked and baked soon.

    8:32 am  Sep 17th, 2010
  7. Andyra

    My goodness! Coming up with a recipe and baking two batches of muffins, all this morning? I admire you. And I want to try to make them myself, one of these days!

    A note on using honey in baking: Use 3/4 cup of honey for each 1 cup of sugar. Eliminate 1/4 cup of other liquicds, and bake at 25 degrees (F) LOWER than what the recipe dictates.

    But it seems you figured out how to make it work already. 😉

    9:29 am  Sep 17th, 2010
  8. Lisa

    I also love lemons and dream of having my own lemon tree someday. Gorgeous pictures. I’ll definitely have to try these muffins.

    9:49 am  Sep 17th, 2010
  9. Nancy@acommunaltable

    What a lovely story – I have had a lemon tree for a few years now and wouldn’t trade it for the world!! These muffins sound wonderful – not too sweet or rich – just the way I like them!!

    10:08 am  Sep 17th, 2010
  10. ~Chef Louise

    lovely story… olive oil is a passion for me, I buy new bottles all the time- most people don’t understand the complexity of flavors. It’s so much like wine. Glad your muffins worked out with the sugar and honey.
    ~Chef Louise

    11:08 am  Sep 17th, 2010
  11. Joanne

    Anything that induces memories of Italy must be absolutely delicious. I wish olive oil grew on trees. That would be splendid.

    11:31 am  Sep 17th, 2010
  12. Charles G Thompson

    I so enjoy your posts about your time in Italy, Nicole. It sounds like such an idyllic time. Love the olive experiences with your neighbor. Wonderful. Your lemon muffins look and sound so good. A bite of Sicilian sunshine!

    11:59 am  Sep 17th, 2010
  13. Jen

    These look so light and delicious. Reading this post about Italy makes me miss my travels there so much. These muffins might just transport me right back. Thank you!

    12:05 pm  Sep 17th, 2010
  14. Amanda

    These look amazingly delicious! I have a bunch of lemons sitting in my kitchen now..definitely going to try these out! Thanks for the recipe.:)

    8:25 pm  Sep 17th, 2010
  15. Laura

    They look delicious! I will have to try them. I bet that adding a little of corn flour will make them even more Italian!

    I would love to know how to cure the olives. My olive trees are full of fruit this year, few years ago I tried curing 2 pounds and they were amazing. Would you mind sharing the method? I would like to try both green and mature olives. I will ask on facebook.

    7:55 am  Sep 18th, 2010
  16. Mari

    I may be biased, but UC Davis produces some mean olive oil. Also, you could check and see if there are some producers in Santa Ynez or in S.B. County.

    3:39 pm  Sep 18th, 2010
  17. anita

    loved them!!! esp with a glass of warm milk or cacao.tried them yesterday and they’re all gone

    5:32 am  Sep 19th, 2010
  18. Soma

    What a lovely post.

    I am loving these so citrusy muffins. Got to give these a try – would be so refreshing in this Texas heat.

    11:15 am  Sep 19th, 2010
  19. theUngourmet

    These are scrumptious! I baked them today and they are disappearing quickly!

    5:28 pm  Sep 19th, 2010
  20. Tamanna

    i’ve been craving for everything lemon lately…& i m not preggy! just have been searching for something tart in my tastebuds! thanks for the simple yet delicious recipe =D

    4:22 pm  Sep 20th, 2010
  21. Allyson Chapman

    We too were stationed at Sigonella and used to buy local EVOO. I had the hardest time trying to get used to the stateside olive oil, with it’s bland flavor. I have found a little gem that makes it that is just like they do in Sicily and it tastes great. I buy it by the gallon but it’s well worth the money. Comes out of Napa Valley…Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufactory 835 Charter Oak Ave, St Helena, CA 94574 (707) 963-4173 They only take cash but if you or anyone you know is heading to Napa…It’s so worth the trip. I buy gallons at a time.

    7:52 pm  Sep 20th, 2010
  22. Steff @ The Kitchen Trials

    Your description of living in Sicily makes me want to move to Italy. I’ll settle for making these muffins while waiting for my trip to Venice later this year.

    6:34 pm  Sep 21st, 2010
  23. Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes)

    They look and sound absolutely delicious!! Yumm. Bookmarked 🙂

    5:02 am  Sep 26th, 2010
  24. Sarah-Jane

    Mmmm! I’m baking these right now. Love the batter and the tart glaze! I’m certain the finished product will be even better. Thanks for the recipe. I’m glad I follow you on twitter to keep up with your yummy blog!


    6:47 pm  Sep 26th, 2010
  25. Jackie at Phamfatale.com

    Just finished baking your beautiful lemon olive oil muffins. They’re delicious! Thank you so much for sharing. Every time I visit your site, my mouth waters.

    2:20 am  Oct 6th, 2010
  26. Nicole

    YUM! These turned out perfect! I could eat the entire batch right now!

    11:55 am  Oct 16th, 2010
  27. Patricia

    Delicious! I made one simple substitute: I exchanged the powdered sugar in the glaze for some more honey (my father is a hobby beekeeper and I’m wallowing in local honey) and it worked quite well.

    The olive oil was delicious. I’ve never baked with it before, but it was truly wonderful and moist! Thanks for the recipe.

    2:14 pm  Nov 7th, 2010
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    These are every bit as wonderful as you said. Inspired! Thanks so much.

    7:27 am  Jan 15th, 2011
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