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Ina Garten's Lemon Cake

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

Prep 35 mins
Cook 55 mins
Total 2 hrs
Dessert
American
16 servings
398 kcal

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)

Directions 

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.

Notes

*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 assesses a particular lemon's yield when you point your camera at it.)