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Lemon Cake

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Slice of Lemon Cake

Time: approximately 2 hours start to finish. 30 minutes to prepare batter and distribute into cake pans; 30-40 minutes to bake and make icing; 20 – 30 minutes to cool; 10 – 20 minutes to frost.

Serves: 14-20 (or batter can be distributed into 24 cupcakes)

Inspired by: My friends really seemed to enjoy the Meyer lemon cupcakes I made this past Monday and I still have quite a few lemons from Arnie and Alice so thought I’d try a cake. I’ve only made a cake once in my life! Last night I hosted a wine tasting event and I told the group I’d make dessert so this was it. I think the icing was the best part of the cupcakes so that part I kept the same. For the cake, I could have used the exact same recipe and baked it a bit longer, but I thought it would be interesting to try another similar, yet different, recipe to see if I learn something about the different ingredients used and the end product. This cake turned out just a bit heavier than the cupcakes – just as good – just different.  This is the basic cake recipe from the Alice Waters cookbook “The Art of Simple Food”. I just added lemon juice and lemon zest into the cake mix. This cake rocked. I won’t change a thing next time – well, maybe I’ll do three layers instead of two so there is an extra layer of icing!

Ingredients for the batter:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter – softened (2 sticks)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs (yolks separated from the whites)
  • 3-5 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for the frosting:

  • 1 half cup unsalted butter – softened (1 stick)
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar (1 16 oz box)
  • 4-5 tablespoons juice of the Meyer lemons
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel


  • Get milk, butter and eggs ready to use and let them sit out and get to room temperature (approximately 30 minutes). I didn’t know this, but apparently using ingredients that are too cold can cause the batter to shrink and deflate will make the cake turn out denser instead of light and fluffy.
  • You can pre-heat the oven now too and ensure it is staying at a constant 350 degrees. It needs to start out that hot or the cake will not rise and stabilize properly.
  • Grate the outside of the skins of the Meyer lemons until you have enough zest (approximately 6 teaspoons – only grate the yellow skin, not the white part under that as it can be bitter).
  • Juice the lemons in a small bowl until you have enough juice (6-7 tablespoons).
  • In a large mixing bowl; mix the butter and sugar until very creamy (5-10 minutes is ideal).
  • Beat in the egg yolks – one at a time.
  • Add the lemon peel, lemon juice and vanilla extract. (When the lemons peel has a nice flavor use more, if it’s too bitter use less).
  • In a separate bowl – combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the sugar and eggs, and mix lightly. Alternate adding the milk and flour mixture, ending with the last 1/3 of the flour mixture – mix only enough to incorporate all together – don’t over mix or that will toughen the cake.
  • In a separate bowl, white the egg whites into stiff but moist peaks. Then stir one third of the whites into the batter to loosen it, and gently fold in the rest.
  • Butter the bottom and sides of two or three 8 or 9″ flat cake pans, then add a layer of parchment or wax paper on the bottom of each, butter that, and then coat well with flour – tapping out any excess flour. This will keep the cakes from sticking to the pan after it is cooled.
  • Pour the batter into the pans – distribute equally between each. They should not be more than 2/3 full so there is room for the cake to rise.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 -40 minutes in the center of the oven – or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes.
  • You can make the frosting while the cake is cooling —
  • Combine the butter and confectioners sugar in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  • Add the vanilla, half of the lemon juice (reserve half), and beat until smooth and creamy. Keep adding additional lemon juice until you get your desired frosting consistency and flavor. (I like a lot of lemon juice for a very lemony frosting, but if add too much the frosting will be runny. If it does get runny, add additional confectioners sugar to thicken.)
  • Once the cakes are cool, just turn them upside down and the cakes should slide right out. If they get a bit stuck, insert a knife around the edges to loosen the cake and then turn upside down to remove the cake.
  • If you’d like to use a knife to cut off the excess cake to flatten it you can. I just did this for the bottom later. A sharp serrated knife works best.
  • Put one cake layer on your cake plate and frost the top of it. Add the next layer and frost the top of it. If you have a third layer, add that one and frost the top and then frost all of the sides of the cake.
  • Sprinkle the cake with the grated lemon peel.

Lemon Cake

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