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Lemon cake

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Wow. I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since I posted on here. And that last post was really a cheating post, since there was no actual recipe.

I don’t even know if anybody’s even reading this blog anymore. Which is sad. Because this lemon cake that I’m posting today is INCREDIBLE. I love lemon desserts. But if I’m going to spend time zesting lemons, and my fingers in the process, I want to taste lemon. I don’t want a hint. No pansy lemon desserts here. I want every bite to burst with tart lemony goodness. And that’s exactly what this cake did.

You start with a bag of lemons. I’m not even kidding. I think I used nine lemons in this cake. Six of them, you zest.

Is there anything sadder than a bunch of zested, naked lemons? But when I put that zest in with my batter, my word, the smell was amazing. I wish I could put that smell on this blog. Because it? Was amazing!

Oh, and I got to use my new KitchenAid. I love that thing. I would marry it, and have its babies if I could. Wait, is that weird?

OH, and another thing. I discovered a baking secret. It’s probably not really a secret, but whatever. Have you heard of powdered buttermilk? I love this stuff! I always buy buttermilk, then can’t use it fast enough, and end up throwing half of it away. But powdered buttermilk is just that. You mix the powder with water, and use it in place of regular buttermilk. How did I not know about this?

See this guy? He’s my new best friend.

Okay, mix mix mix, stir stir stir, dump in the bundt pan. You could also do this in two loaf pans, but I just think bundt cakes are so darn pretty!

You pop the cake in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. I know that’s a big gap, but I live in Colorado, where there is no oxygen, and cakes do weird things. So, I usually start peeking in the oven pretty early (I don’t open the oven door, so quit your yelling at me about letting out the heat. Sheesh.)

Just a few minutes before the cake is ready, you mix up a lemon syrup. Cut apart some of those poor naked lemons, and squeeze ’em. After I squeezed the lemons, I noticed that they kind of looked like little mouths.

But I absolutely DID NOT talk to my lemons. That would just be crazy.

Here’s my lemon grave yard. I told you there was a lot of lemons!

After the cake is a nice golden color, and a toothpick comes out clean, carefully turn it out onto a plate, and poke it all over with a toothpick, or a fork. Then, carefully pour the lemon syrup all over the cake. This part kind of got tricky. The cake didn’t absorb all of the syrup, so it kind of pooled onto the plate, and cemented the cake in place. So, I actually did this on some wax paper, let it cool there over night, then peeled it off in the morning and put it on a plate.

The last step is the glaze. Mix more lemon juice with powdered sugar. Carefully pour onto cooled cake.

Seriously? I think this was the best lemon cake I’ve ever eaten. Try it…you won’t regret it. Unless you don’t like lemon desserts. And that would just be un-American. And sad for you.

Lemon Cake
Adapted from ”Barefoot Contessa Parties!” by Ina Garten, and

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted.

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8 1/2-by-4 1/4-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans or one bundt pan, and line the bottoms with parchment paper (no parchment paper if you’re using a bundt pan).

2. Cream butter and 2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Mixing at medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, and lemon zest.

3. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, buttermilk and vanilla. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Divide batter evenly between loaf pans or one bundt pan, smooth tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

4. Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves.

5. When cakes are done, carefully Invert them onto a rack set over a tray, and spoon lemon syrup over cakes. Let cakes cool completely.

6. For glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar and remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cakes, and allow glaze to drizzle down the sides.


About Brandy

I'm a full-time writer, part-time baker, and not-enough-time runner.

51 responses »

  1. Hi,

    Its a nice recipe. Thanks.


    • I just made your lemon cake, but without the syurp using insead homemade buttercream icing. It is so wonderful. Thank you for sharing. I adore lemon cakes!

  2. The cake looks beautiful! (I’m one of those non-lemon dessert people, but I can appreciate something lovely even when I don’t like it! My mom and brother would LOVE this. (And the powdered buttermilk is AWESOME! My mom told me about it a couple of years ago and it changed my life. Er, um, my baking. Yeah.

  3. We had this lemon cake (a similar reciped that is) for birthdays when I was a little kid. Yummy! ang

  4. looks good to me!!

  5. A question: Can you make this a layer cake and put cream cheese icing?

  6. just-another-foodie

    I don’t see why not, Lydia! I think that would work fine, just look at other layer cake recipes to figure out the temperature and how long to bake.

    Let me know how it goes!

  7. this cake is so amazing!! thank you for sharing 🙂

    I made it with lemon cream cheese frosting (8 oz. package cream cheese – softened, 1/4 C. butter, 3 T. lemon juice, 2 t. lemon zest, 1 t. vanilla extract, 4 C. confectioners’ sugar), and I thought the flavor was fantastic, but the cake is dense enough that it would probably do better with a fondant-style icing.

    unless there’s a cream cheese glaze recipe? that sounds great, too!

  8. You are hilarious! I wanna cook with you !!

    Cake was a BIG hit!

    i WOULD LIKE TO TRY 2 changes:

    thicken up final glazing….add cornstarch???

    Lighten cake texture a bit……add egg ..baking soda?

    Keep up the whacky humor!!!

    You Rock!

    Larry The Kake Kid

  9. Love it! I injected the cake with the sugar/lemon mixture with my turkey baster. That worked well. It’s so moist, unlike many cakes, delish. I haven’t added the glaze yet and it’s already 1/2 eaten! Thanks again.

  10. Just had to comment on the powdered buttermilk. Saco powdered buttermilk is a Michigan product and they sponsor one of the cooking contests every year in the state fair – recipes using their product. It’s amazing the things that can be made with this stuff. 🙂

  11. I just made this for Easter. What a treat. Doubled the recipe, used Meyer lemons and the crowd went wild! I made a loaf, 12 mini sunflower bundt/muffins and a small cake shaped like a Model T car (we’re car people). Tres bon!

  12. I think it would be a fight between us to see who gets to have the KitchenAid mixer babies! LOL. Thanks for the fabulous recipe and the laughs too. I love lemon anything and love a good Bundt cake as well. We will have this one here very soon.

  13. I am a huge lemon dessert fan! Can’t wait to try it! I Totally understand the thing for the Kitchen Aid!

  14. You DID talk to the lemons, didn’t you?

  15. Very, very funny and the cake sounds great! I’m going to do it for a birthday this week. I’m a Colorado girl too, but I’ve never had a problem baking. I use only whole wheat flour so it will be interesting to see if there is a difference.

    You rock girl!

  16. Wonderful cake! We made it tonight as a test run before my Mom’s birthday since she loves lemon cakes and this is a winner! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  17. Thankyou soo much! I hate wimpy lemon cakes with no lemon flavour. This is one after my own heart.

  18. Thanks for the great, forgiving recipe. Made it today and despite some oven issues the cake came out great! I was a little concerned about the cake being soggy with all the liquid on top but it seemed just right!


  19. Hmmm…what would happen if I poured the syrup on before I took it out of the bundt pan? Would it fall apart upon de…bundting?

  20. No problem pouring the syrup on the hot cake while it is in the bundt pan. All got absorbed before unmolding and it is really moist.

  21. I tried a recipe really similar to this from the Humminbird cookbook a few weeks ago, it’s SO GOOD! Yum yum!

  22. This cake is baking at the moment. The batter had a nice texture. Can’t wait. I’m going to have a piece with a cup of tea while watching an old episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” tonight. Guilty pleasures! I was going to put poppy seeds in it, but I realized my poppy seeds were bought during the first Clinton term. It would be a nice addition, right?

  23. I’m about to make this cake (by recommendation of a friend!) for a babyshower…i’m putting it in the Wilton 3-D stand up teddy bear pan.

    If I glaze this cake will I still be able to decorate it with buttercream icing (will the icing stick/will the cake crumble under the weight?) or should i skip the glaze?

    Do you recommend refridgerating?

  24. Ok so it was a disaster. There wasn’t enough batter to fill the pan so i threw in some box cake mix (BAD IDEA) to get the whole 6 2/3 cups i needed. It ran out the bottom of the pan while it was cooking and so it didn’t rise to the top of the pan like i needed it to. I had to (so sad) throw it out and start over. I just made a simple vanilla pound cake recipe and the chocolate butter cream (plus decorations)…it still took me ALL DAY. I have plans to make this cake for another baby shower in 2 weeks (yes my friends are BUSY having babies!) in a bunt pan just as you described it so we can enjoy it in all it’s glory. (Who needs a 3-D baby bear cake anyway!??!)

    • Oh, so sad! Hopefully it’ll turn out better next time! And trust me, I understand cake disasters. One day I made NINE LAYERS of chocolate cake before I could get three that turned out. The joys of high altitude baking 🙂

      • OK! Making layers of lemon cake today for the OTHER baby shower cake! Originally baking in Seattle…but I’m baking this in Billings, MT so lets hope I don’t run into any altitude problems. (maybe it will turn out better since you adapted it for altitude!) I am getting crazy again and making a two tier (6″ and 8″ rounds”) with cream cheese frosting, huckleberry jam filling, and fondant to finish. A friend already used this idea with your cake recipe and said it was the hit of the party, so i’m pretty confident it will all come out o.k.! Can’t wait to EAT IT!

  25. My family has renamed this cake: “Death by Lemon” (and, IMHO, beats Death by Chocolate any day!)

    SOOOOO good! It’s the only cake my 7 yr old daughter likes. I think it’s my favorite too. Thanks!

  26. Ooooh… this sounds wonderful. My mom loves lemon so I may use this for her 80th birthday cake, using the frosting recipe someone shared above. What conversions would you suggest if I make it in 2 9″ round cake pans instead?

    • I don’t know that I’d really make any adjustments? Usually, it makes a little extra, so I’ll plop some leftover batter in a small pan, or in a muffin tin to bake up cupcakes or something 🙂 Let me know how it turns out!

  27. really yummy. thanks. and i like the way you write –makes me laugh.

  28. oh, I forgot to mention, I changed the procedure for adding the eggs. I added the yolks per your instructions, but I beat the egg whites and then folded them into the batter right before baking. I think it gave the cake a lighter texture.

  29. Thank you lemon lover! I can’t wait to try this yummy uber-lemon cake recipe!

  30. Thanks for the recipe! I made this cake yesterday for my boyfriend’s birthday and he LOVED it! Zesting all those lemons took a while, but it was so worth it. I did skip the last two steps (syrup and glaze) because I had to decorate the cake and I didn’t want it to be too busy. (My boyfriend’s a geek– I made a Boba Fett cake!) Also, I didn’t have a bundt pan so I used a regular 9 x 13″. I could have used loaf pans, but I needed a large surface for the Boba Fett design.

    Tip: before I squeezed the juice out of the lemons, I stuck them in the microwave for 25 seconds. Once they were hot, the juice practically fell into the measuring cup.

  31. Making this for my son’s birthday. He howled when I read the recipe out loud. My daughter says you’re her new hero!

  32. Made this for my daughter’s 8th birthday party. It was a huge hit, even with the kids. When I asked my husband what kind of cake he wanted, he said he wanted lemon cake. So this will be round 2 for this cake.
    A friend’s son wants me to make him an orange cake. Maybe I can change out the lemons for oranges?

  33. I NEVER posts comments, but on this one, i had to. If you are a lemon lover, this is for you. OMG!! I injetced the syrup with a meat injector so there was no run off of syrup. I didn’t even make the icing after tasting the cake. I purposely made this cake because a friend of mine who lives in Calif. sent me a box of her hand picked lemons. The zesting and juicing was well worth it. I used 2 loaf pans. It’s disappearing fast!

  34. tried this over the weekend and didn’t change anything- it seriously amazing and whoever is looking at this has to make it!!! super moist and the glaze and syrup really made the difference so do itt!!!

  35. I don’t usually read blogs but I will return to this one. Very funny stuff, thank you. I love to bake and read cook books. Same thing except now I get entertainment value too!

  36. This is my family’s favorite cake and the only one my 9 yr old daughter ever requests for her birthday. we’ve renamed it:

    Death by Lemon 8-Lemon, Lemon Cake.


  37. I made this cake for my mother’s birthday and it was absolutely delicious! Thank you for posting such a lovely blog & recipe! 🙂

  38. Awesome cake! My new fav!

  39. Nancy McCarthy


    Just had a question about the zest – I found 7 lemons mad about 2 cups of lemon zest, yet your recipe says it makes 1/3 cup? I was unsure and used about 3/4 cup I had and still had quite a bit left over… better to use a little less than way too much, right?



  40. Most excellent recipe. Your writing made me smile. Note on the buttermilk: add vinegar to regular milk or half-and- half before you start baking. In 1/2 hour you have soured milk, buttermilk! I added an apple cider vinegar mother to a bottle of home made blueberry wine for a lovely blueberry vinegar. It’s a subtle plus in making buttermilk er.

  41. I love this cake. I made it in a 9 1/2 X 13 inch pan. I used the lemon syrup and added a lemon buttercream frosting. It cam out fantastic. The whole family loves it. I live in Colorado as well. I am thankful I came across your website. Now all I need is a great go to Chocolate Cake recipe and I am set! Thanks for your blog. I love your comments.

  42. Reblogged this on Mom Planning A Wedding and commented:
    Excellent Lemon Cake!

  43. A fantastic Lemon Cake recipe! Like someone else previously commented, it’s about time someone created a recipe that doesn’t wimp out on the lemon taste. Thanks!


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