Lemon Cupcakes for Hanukkah

With olive oil, sage, and sea salt.


Jelly-filled donuts–known in Hebrew as sufganiyot–are a traditional Hanukkah treat that makes ample use of oil. But there are other ways to integrate oil into delicious desserts.

This recipe puts a new twist on dessert by throwing in a couple of savory flavors with the sweet ones. Here, a citrus-infused batter receives the rich “umami” of olive oil and the briny crunch of course sea salt. It's like a lemon birthday cake for grownups.

If you want to keep it closer to tradition, try your hand at these jelly-filled “sufganiyot” cupcakes.

And if you've got a taste for the truly decadent, these deep-fried chocolate cupcakes are simply divine.


  1. 1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar
  2. 2 tablespoons milk--dairy milk or a nut, rice, or soy milk all work fine
  3. 3/4 cup sugar
  4. 2 tablespoons butter or margerine, softened
  5. 2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped
  6. Juice of one large lemon, plus enough milk to make 1/2 cup liquid
  7. 3 large eggs
  8. Zest of one large lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
  9. 1 tablespoon honey
  10. 2/3 cup strongly-flavored extra virgin olive oil
  11. 1 cup olive oil
  12. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  13. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  14. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  15. 15-20 fresh sage leaves
  16. coarse sea salt


Preheat oven to 375 F. Outfit a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In another medium bowl, combine sugar, honey, lemon zest, and olive oil. Whisk together.

Add eggs and beat well.

Gradually add flour mixture, lemon juice, and milk to the sugar/honey/zest/oil/egg mixture, stirring as you go.

Add sage and stir a few more times to combine and ensure that the batter is smooth. Do not over-mix.

Fill liners 3/4 of the way, and bake for 20 minutes or until the tops bounce back when touched and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Buttercream Frosting

Cream butter and about half of the powdered sugar. Gradually add milk and the rest of the powdered sugar, stirring well until smooth and spreadable.

Fried Sage Leaf Garnish

Heat oil in a skillet with tall sides to about 365 F (you can check with a deep fry thermometer or candy thermometer). Drop sage leaves into oil, 4 or 5 at a time, and allow to fry for about 5 seconds. Remove and lay on paper towels.

To assemble cupcakes, top each with frosting, place a sage leaf or two in the center, and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.

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Rhea Yablon Kennedy's work has appeared in The Washington Post,The Jewish Daily Forward, Washington Jewish Week, Grist, and the travel anthology Whereabouts: Stepping Out of Place (2Leaf Press). Rhea has long been a cook by hobby and sometimes by profession. She currently teaches English and writing at Gallaudet University.

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