Ina Garten’s lemon cake, like everything else we’ve experienced from the Barefoot Contessa, 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.–David Leite

Lemon Cake FAQs

How many lemons will I need for this cake?

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. Generally, you can count on 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice per lemon.

How should I store this cake?

Store the cake, tightly wrapped in plastic or an airtight container, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

☞ Like lemon cakes? Try these:

Ina Garten's lemon cake, a pound cake, on a cutting board, drizzled with a lemon glaze

Ina Garten’s Lemon Cake

4.72 / 50 votes
This 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.
David Leite
CourseDessert
CuisineAmerican
Servings16 servings
Calories398 kcal
Prep Time35 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time2 hours

Ingredients 

For the lemon cake

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup grated lemon zest, (from about 6 large lemons)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, (either low-fat or full-fat), at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the lemon syrup

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

For the lemon glaze

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, (from about 1 large lemon)

Instructions 

Make the lemon cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter 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.

Adapted From

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 portionCalories: 398 kcalCarbohydrates: 66 gProtein: 5 gFat: 13 gSaturated Fat: 8 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 84 mgSodium: 152 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 47 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2001 Ina Garten. Photo © 2001 mpessaris. All rights reserved.

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About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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54 Comments

  1. For the Lemon Syrup, the recipe calls for 1/2 cup lemon juice. In the comment section someone asked if you should use 1/2 or 1/4 cup of juice. Which is it?

    1. Denise, for the syrup specifically, you’ll need 1/2 cup lemon juice. Several years ago, the recipe referenced the lemon juice as a single amount which was divided in the instructions, which is likely where the confusion came from. We updated the recipe in recent years to make it more clear.

  2. 5 stars
    The Ina Garten recipe for lemon cake that I use does not make a lemon syrup. OMG! The lemon syrup on this cake creates such a wonderful balance of sweet and tart. The syrup has a much better consistency than the lemon drizzle that I am accustomed to using with this cake. I think that it adds a level of sophistication. Thank you, David. Delicious!

    1. It’s a great example of a small twist making a big difference. We’re so glad you loved result, Leah!

  3. 5 stars
    This was a beautiful welcome home treat! Loved ones had been abroad- lots a fancy food- and apple tarts it seemed. They were thrilled to see a LEMON CAKE – ?!