Ina Garten’s Lemon Cake

Ina Garten’s lemon cake is similar to a classic, old-fashioned pound cake but not quite so dense. It’s magnificently buttery and exponentially lemony thanks to a tart soak in a lemon and sugar syrup and a drizzle of lemony confectioners’ sugar glaze.

Ina Garten's lemon cake, a pound cake, on a rack, drizzled with a lemon glaze, a spoon nearby

Ina Garten’s lemon cake, like everything else we’ve experienced from the kitchen maven, is one of those very few things that literally makes us sigh with content. Subtly sweet. Distinctively lemony. And not quite as heavy as a traditional pound cake. Yep. Does it to us each and every darn time.–Renee Schettler

Ina Garten's Lemon Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • (10)
  • 35 M
  • 2 H
  • Makes two 8-inch loaves
4.9/5 - 10 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Barefoot Contessa Parties! cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Ingredients

Email Grocery List

Ingredients sent!

Send Grocery List

Email the grocery list for this recipe to:

Is required
Sign me up for your or newsletter, too!
Is required
  • For the lemon cake
  • For the lemon syrup
  • For the lemon glaze

Directions

Make the lemon cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans.
Cream the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, combine the lemon juice, 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 and smooth the tops.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
When the cakes are done, let them cool in the pan on a wire rack placed on a baking sheet for 10 minutes.
Invert the cakes onto the rack. Turn the cakes right side up and, while still warm, make the lemon syrup.
Make the lemon syrup
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice and cook until the sugar dissolves and makes a syrup. Remove from the heat.
Generously spoon the lemon syrup over the tops of the still-warm cakes, letting the syrup dribble down the sides. Let the cakes cool completely.
Make the lemon glaze
In a bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice, mixing with a whisk until smooth.
Glaze the lemon cake
Pour over the top of the cooled cakes, letting the glaze drizzle down the sides. You may not need all of the glaze if you don’t have a sweet tooth. Slice immediately or, for a slightly moister texture and more mellow lemony tang, let the cakes rest overnight prior to devouring. Originally published May 15, 2001.
Print RecipeBuy the Barefoot Contessa Parties! cookbook

Want it? Click it.

*How Many Lemons Will I Need For This Recipe?

  • 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 fresh lemon juice yet 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. (Honestly? We’re still waiting for an app that assess a particular lemon’s yield when you point your camera at it.)

Recipe Testers Reviews

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.

I’ll definitely make this cake recipe again, and next time will take it to the next level by making some lemon curd to serve with it.

I loved how this turned out! I LOVE lemon anything and this definitely delivered in the lemon flavor department. I think the zest was a great amount in the cake. It wasn't too tart- but you knew it was there.

My husband said he felt the punch of lemon and then it rounded out nicely with the sweetness of the cake in just one bite. The glaze hardened nicely and is a great addition to the cake.

But I don't know if I call it a cake per say...maybe Lemon Loaf Cake? Just doesn't completely make me think of cake when eating and the texture and baking in the loaf pan. I think it reminds me more of a muffin. That could also be because of the doneness and maybe I dried it out a bit. I think poppy seeds could be a nice touch!

Both of my loaves came out a much darker brown than the picture. I tried the second loaf on a lower rack and still browned up while getting it to come out clean in the center. Didn't really affect the flavor, though. My husband said he liked the crunchier outside so not necessarily a bad thing!

You can get 16 servings out of the recipes. Great for breakfast or paired with some afternoon tea.

I will absolutely make it again! Perfect for taking to summer party or a cookout!

This is my new favorite lemon cake. Without question. It took only a few moments to prepare. And the result was nothing short of beautiful. It will go in heavy rotation in my kitchen.

I also love loaf recipes that yield 2 cakes. You get one for yourself and get to make someone else's day!

For starters, I love a lemon cake. This cake delivered on different levels than I expected but was nonetheless great. The cake itself was surprisingly subtle in flavor given the amount of zest that was present in the recipe. The cake wasn't overly sweet, which I appreciated. Every once in a while, a bite had a bit more zip to it, due to the zest I'm sure, and it was a welcome addition to the flavor. Also, the interior of the cake presented a delightful softness in texture which was a welcome contrast to the more stiff, bread-like exterior. The glaze, made of lemon and confectioners sugar, poured over the top added a very well received zing-iness. It was unexpected but wouldn't be the same without it. That lemon punch made the cake!

This recipe did resemble a pound cake but wasn't as moist as a traditional pound cake usually is. While not as moist, the resulting cake was still soft and supple on the interior.

Not quite a pound cake, but more than a quick bread. Whatever it is, it is delicious. Not too sweet, just lemony enough and really good for breakfast (don’t ask me how I know).

I only have one 8-by-4-inch loaf pan due to an unfortunate incident, so I halved the recipe. No problems there! The cake baked in 55 minutes.

I did scrape up the syrup that fell onto the tray and reglazed the cake to make sure every inch was covered. The glaze was a tad too thick, so I added a few dribbles of water to thin. The flavor wasn’t affected at all.

A respectable person could get 8 slices per loaf. I am not that person.

These cakes are very similar to a lemon pound cake although the texture is ever so slightly lighter. The lemon flavor, because lemon has been added 3 different ways, is quite pronounced, just as you would want it. We served this for dessert without any accompaniments, but fresh berries, a little whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream would take it to the next level.

First off, my disclaimer is that I like lemon desserts, but I’m not a super lemon aficionado. I enjoyed this cake but this cake is really meant for a super lemon lover. Tasting it right after baking it, I thought the lemon zest, lemon syrup, and lemon glaze were a little overpowering, but the next day the flavor had mellowed to a good level for everyone in my house.

Zesting that many lemons was a little tedious but the lemon flavor is prevalent throughout the cake. The recipe was straightforward.

The cake was ready in 45 minutes. Because this is pound cake like, you could probably get at least 10 to 12 servings out of each loaf. My problem is 2 loaves is always too much for one time, unless you're having lots of people over. I had to freeze the second loaf, which never seems to be quite as good as the original fresh loaf. However, with a good cup of tea, this is a great cake to be able to pull out at the last minute with guests. I wonder if the syrup and glaze would work even better if this was made as a Bundt cake.

This is a delicious loaf cake. It has great taste and texture, freezes well, and goes really nicely with a cup of tea or coffee. It's not difficult to make; it does, however, require a lot of lemons—not a bad thing, just a fact!

I greased and floured my pans and the cake came out just fine but I wondered if it could benefit from parchment lining the bottom of the pan. Then you never really have to worry about sticking. This is one of the few recipes that call for extra large eggs. I'm not sure that’s what most cooks have on hand, but I know there are a few cookbook authors who call for them in their recipes. I would prefer to see large eggs, although I did purchase extra large for this recipe

The cake tasted better after an overnight rest.

The picture shows a glaze that is just dribbled across the cake but I had enough glaze that it covered the entire tops of the loaves and then just dribbled down the side. I like the way the glaze offers texture as well as flavor to the loaves.

These would serve 8 people each and I would definitely call this a lemon pound cake!

Delicious! This is the only way to describe this cake. Thank goodness this recipe makes two cakes, one for home and one for the office. My initial concern was that this cake would be too lemony/tart but it was perfect.

This cake was similar to a pound cake but not as dense.

I really enjoyed this lemon cake. This is a sweet little cake easy to dress up with whipped cream and berries or serve as-is with a cup of lemon tea. I thought the lemon flavor came through with just the right intensity. The crumb was moist and delicious. It all came together easily as well.

I baked my cakes for 50 minutes. The bottom was just a spec too brown, but the cake was still nice and moist. I think you could liken this to a lemon pound cake.

One loaf will yield 10 to 12 slices, depending on thickness.

Lemon pound cake? Yes, please! This is a perfectly lemon-flavored, not-too-dense pound cake that really hit the spot on a Monday morning in my staff room (it was gone by recess time!). Loved the lemon flavor in the batter, the syrup, and the glaze!

Sadly, my loaf did not have the lovely crack down the middle as is so endearing of a pound cake. Still tasted good, though!

I made ONE 8-inch loaf because I only have one pan. (Also, what's with a couple of the recent recipes calling for TWO loaf pans? Who makes that much cake at one time?)

Served 8 to 12 per loaf.

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Comments

  1. I made this cake today. It turned out wonderful. Just letting the cake rest with the syrup poured over them. Great that I can freeze them as i have a few lemon trees in our garden. I did also make the orange pound cake a few times. It was delicious. People raved about it! They were by Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa. I love citrus. I just had a slice. I loved it. Will for sure make it again.

  2. For Easter, I have always used the Lemon Grove cake recipe that makes a large bundt cake.

    This has more lemon juice and more zest so perhaps I’ll double it and see how that works as a larger cake. After all, it has Ina Garten’s imprimatur, and I don’t think I’ve ever not liked anything she’s done.

    I think I’ll use the Lemon Grove glaze though. It’s mouth puckering heaven.

      1. I made the cake last night and it has very lovely color and flavor. I also found it much lighter than the Lemon Grove cake I’ve loved for so long. I assume that’s from the additional eggs and the combo of baking soda and baking powder. Full disclosure though: my hens don’t lay extra large eggs so I picked the 4 largest I could find and added an extra yolk for insurance. Anyway it was a much airier cake (though, in truth, I rather like the dense flavor and mouth feel of a bundt cake).

        With all the respect due to Ina Garten — and I hold her recipes in very high esteem — both my husband and I felt that the bit of butter in the Lemon Grove glaze smoothed out the tartness of the lemon juice and we missed that in the IG recipe. That would be an easy add, though, if anyone cared to try it out and see how they feel about it for themselves.

    1. JJ, we didn’t test it in a tube pan so we can’t say for certain. As you mention, it may end up looking flat as the tube pan may require more batter than this recipe makes. Also, chances are the timing would be off. Baking is such a precise science, we’d be hesitant to try it in a different pan than specified in the recipe.

  3. This is absolutely the best lemon cake ever! All of my tasters agree. I made it in a bundt pan and it came out perfectly. I did not make the glaze and it was still beyond excellent. This recipe is in my permanent collection. Thank you!

  4. I want to make these for a dinner party, the guest of honor loves lemon. My question is…can I bake them ahead of time and freeze? If so, would you recommend letting them thaw in the fridge overnight? Thank you!

    1. Debbie, you absolutely can. The cake is structurally sound enough to withstand freezing and thawing. I usually let my cakes thaw on the counter. If you choose to defrost it in the fridge, don’t forget to take into account the extra time needed.

  5. Perfect cake! Made it in 2 round 9-inch pans instead of loaf pans. Cut the tops off to level, as it will be a layer cake, and then drizzled the syrup on it. Going to layer with lemon curd and frost with meringue!

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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!

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

    1. 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.

    2. What an amazing and kind thing you did! I’m looking at this recipe and trying to find if I can make it keep for three days before serving it, and I see your comment. Baking these by the dozen is a ton of work and I cannot imagine the effort of packing and shipping these. Well done You!!
      Thanks for the inspiration.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe?
Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish