Ina Garten’s Lemon Cake

A photograph of this lemon cake in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook prompted dozens of people to request the recipe. Here it is! This is such a versatile cake. I like to serve it with lemon curd and fresh raspberries, but a slice with a cup of tea in the afternoon is also fine just with me.–Ina Garten

LC How Many Lemons Is That? Note

Is it just us or is it rather maddening to stand there in the grocery store looking at a recipe that calls for a certain amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice but gives nary a clue as to how many lemons that means? Part of the problem is that the yield of any lemon varies immensely given a particular fruit’s size and freshness. A conservative guesstimate? Count on 2 to 3 tablespoons juice per lemon. If you end up with an extra lemon, well, better than the alternative. We’re waiting for an iPhone app that can guesstimate a particular lemon’s yield.

Barefoot Contessa Lemon Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes two 8-inch loaves

Ingredients

  • For the cake
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated 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 freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the glaze
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions

  • Make the cake
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans.
  • 2. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest.
  • 3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.
  • 4. Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves and makes a syrup. When the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a rack set over a tray. Turn the cakes right-side up and spoon the lemon syrup generously over the mounded tops, allowing the syrup to dribble down the sides. Let the cakes sit to cool completely.
  • Make the glaze
  • 5. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the top of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Joan Osborne

May 15, 2001

This was the perfect recipe for me to make on a cold winter day to give me a little taste of summer. Of course it would also be a welcome summer dessert. The cake is tart but not too tart. In my opinion the perfect balance of sweetness to tart. Because 1/3 cup zest is quite a bit, a good zester is a handy tool (note to self:get a better zester). The lemon juice and sugar that you cook together to make the syrup didn’t get very thick but sure gave the cake another jolt of luscious lemon. All my tasters but one really enjoyed this cake. I’ll definitely make this one again, and next time will take it to the next level by making some lemon curd to serve with it, as suggested by Ina.


Comments
Comments
  1. Lemon cake. Lemon syrup. Lemon glaze. I am now an official lemon-a-holic.

  2. Jan Stansberry says:

    I baked these by the dozen, liberally dribbled on limoncello, and mailed to a friend serving with army in Afghanistan – arrived moist and loved by all!

    • Allison Parker says:

      Jan, What a wonderful thing you did sending these cakes to servicemen (and women) in Afghanistan—we’re honored you selected a recipe from our site for this important care package. Thanks for taking the time to let us know.

  3. shabs says:

    I baked this cake today and i should tell you. It was soooooooo delicious!! Thank u for sharing.

  4. David Leite says:

    Don’t it just?!

  5. Amy says:

    I made the lemon cake tonight to send away in two care packages – it tastes delicious and made the house smell amazing. Sadly though, the cake stuck to both loaf pans so I would recommend using parchment instead of just spraying/greasing the pans if you want to play it safe. I definitely plan to make this again and am thankful for the friend who let me come over and take a sack of lemons from his tree!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Amy, I wish we all had friends with lemon trees who begged us to come help ourselves! Glad to hear you loved the recipe as much as we do…

  6. Carmen says:

    This has become my “go-to” cake – I take it as a hostess gift, bring it when I travel (tell me I’m not the only person who travels with food!) and today I am making it for a girlfriend, newly pregnant and craving cake/lemons/raspberries.

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      Carmen, you’re certainly not the only one who travels with food! You’re in good company, and from the sound of it, a very thoughtful friend.

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