A fresh zesty lemon cake topped with an even zestier lemon glaze. Because when life gives you lemons...make a lemon cake.
I'm not sure why we bought lemons. But we did. They were taunting me from the fruit basket. Life has somehow literally given me lemons.
Winter or meteorological winter started on the 1st of June. Since then it has been rather gloomy. When the morning alarm goes off it's dark, and the last few days it has been foggy, the air thick with moisture, rain falling every now and then.
Life gave me lemons and I was determined to turn it into a cake of some sort. I wanted to make a cream cheese lemon pound cake, and when the cake stuck to the pan that I liberally greased and prepared, I decided to pivot away from the cream cheese. Go back to basics. Because obviously - the Universe was telling me to move in another direction.
And what was born was a delightful zesty, intensely yellow lemon cake with a lemony glaze. Perfect for the winter blues.
Ingredients for the Lemon Cake and Lemon Glaze
Butter adds flavour as well as structure and lightness during the creaming process.
Caster sugar for sweetness, and plays a role in the creaming of the butter. This can be substituted with granulated white sugar. This recipe calls for 165 grams of sugar and doesn't result in a very sweet cake itself.
Flour - standard grade / plain or all-purpose flour.
Milk add moisture. I suggest a full cream, standard, or whole milk.
Eggs - three eggs bind the cake together and also add moisture.
Baking powder to give rise. There are no acidic ingredients so baking soda would not be appropriate. A baking powder substitute would be 1 teaspoon of baking soda plus 4 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar mixed into the wet ingredients. Or 1 teaspoon of baking soda and ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar.
Lemon Juice and Zest are crucial to the lemony flavour of this cake.
Salt and vanilla extract add to the flavour the cake, and give the glaze a delightful fresh and zesty tang.
Icing Sugar - adds sweetness to the cake in the form of the glaze. The cake is not a very sweet cake and punched up with this glaze.
Making the Lemon Cake
Before you start baking - take all your ingredients out of the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature for about an hour. This is specifically a requirement for the cake batter.
However, with the weather being rather cool here in Christchurch, I am finding that room temperature is still too cold for baking. For this explicit reason, just before I cream the butter, I do like to pop it into the microwave for short 10 second bursts to get that soft butter I need. For eggs - pop them into some warm (not hot!) water.
This lemon cake is really pretty easy to put together. It begins with the creaming of the butter, then adding in the sugar, vanilla and salt to form a light fluffy buttery base. Make sure to take your time when creaming. The butter should turn from yellow into a pale pastel yellow when the creaming is done.
Once you have added the eggs in and have a nice light fluffy base. I find it best to fold in the flour, lemon juice, zest and baking powder.
Pour or scoop your filling into a prepared cake tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes.
Making the Lemon Glaze
Making the glaze is really simple - mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice until smooth and shiny. I like to keep a bit of my zest for a little decor, but the zest can be incorporated into the glaze.
How to Zest a Lemon
Lemon zest refers to the thin outer coloured layer of the lemon that filled with flavourful citrus oils.
To obtain the zest, you can use a Microplane, vegetable peeler, grater or zesting tool to essentially scrape off the outer portion of the lemon. Try to avoid the pith (white part) as this is fairly bitter and doesn't add in any flavour.
Here is an in depth tutorial for zesting lemons.
How to juice a lemon
After I've removed the zest from my lemons, I place them on the kitchen counter or chopping board and roll them applying a decent amount of pressure to break the segments and pulp inside the lemon.
Then I slice them in half and squeeze them using my hand over a small sieve to catch any pips or seeds.
You can also use any sort of juicer but I don't like creating additional dishes...even though I don't wash the majority of the dishes in the house.
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Lemon Cake with Lemon Glaze
- 200 grams butter soft
- 165 grams caster or white granulated sugar
- 225 grams plain standard grade or all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 lemon about 2 tbsp
- 150 grams icing sugar
- zest of lemon
- juice of a lemon about 2 tbsp
- 1 tablespoon milk or water may be needed depending on consistency of the glaze
- Lemon Cake
- Allow all the ingredients to come to room temperature. This will take about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan. Grease and line an 8 inch or 20cm cake tin. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. This takes about 3-5 minutes when using a stand mixer or electric handheld mixer. Add in the sugar, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy for about 5 minutes.
- Add in the eggs, and beat until the mix until well incorporated, light and fluffy.
- Whisk the baking powder through the flour. Add in the flour, lemon juice and lemon zest, mix through on a low speed until incorporated, or fold through using a spatula or wooden spoon.
- Bake the cake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out mostly clean from the centre of the cake. Allow the cake to cool in the cake tin for 20 minutes before turning it out on a cooling rack.
- Lemon Glaze
- Whisk the icing sugar and lemon juice until you have a smooth, fairly stiff yet still pourable glaze. If the glaze is a bit stiff, add a tablespoon of milk or water to loosen it.
- You can either add the lemon zest to the glaze or you can use the zest for decoration.
Nutrition information is an estimate. If scaling the recipe remember to scale your cook and bakeware accordingly.