Ina Garten’s Lemon Cake

This lemon cake from the Barefoot Contessa herself is a classic, old-fashioned pound cake. It’s delightfully tingly with lemon flavor and drizzled with sweet-tart lemon glaze. Serve it with lemon curd and fresh raspberries.

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

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. Originally published May 15, 2001.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 fresh 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.

Ina Garten's Lemon Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • (9)
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes two 8-inch loaves
4.9/5 - 9 reviews
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  • For the cake
  • For the glaze
Print RecipeBuy the Barefoot Contessa Parties! cookbook

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Make the 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 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.
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.
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
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.

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. 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.


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  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.

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