Lemon in the limelight: taking a break from chocolate

I’m continually surprised at the number of folks here at King Arthur Flour who DON’T immediately reach for the “chocolate-whatever” when we’re serving treats.

I mean, chocolate is so ever-present, so in-your-face. Every restaurant menu has an assortment of chocolate desserts, one of which will inevitably be prefaced by “decadent.” Strolling the cookie aisle at the supermarket brings you from Oreos to Chips Ahoy to Mallomars, Chocolate Pinwheels, and Milano cookies, to name just a few.

And then there’s the whole sub-set of brownies. And hot fudge sundaes. To say nothing of fudge-lovers, and those who insist on chocolate birthday cake every year—and I mean EVERY year. You know who you are.

Still, there are those who actually prefer a good peanut butter cookie or Snickerdoodle to a chocolate chipper. And then there’s the citrus crowd. The lime lovers. The orange-ites. People who appreciate the bright, sassy flavors of these fruits, none the less delicious for their ubiquity.

I recently made a birthday cake for my 88-year-old mother-in-law. She loves chocolate, but claims it upsets her stomach. Last thing I wanted to do was present her a health challenge on her birthday, so I thought about it briefly, and remembered she’d enjoyed the lime cookies I’d brought her last summer. Lemon cake? That should work.

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Surprise! All of her six children, plus 10 grandchildren, made it to her party. The youngest grandchild helped her blow out the candles.

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And the cake verdict? “Delicious. The best lemon cake I’ve ever tasted.” High praise indeed from a woman who’s been cooking, baking, and enjoying food for 88 years!

With Christmas just around the corner, I’ll be making this cake again in a couple of days. My mom always made a birthday cake at Christmas, to remind us that Christmas was in fact a birthday celebration, not just an occasion for opening presents. Thanks, Mom—I’ve never forgotten that lesson. Wish you were here to enjoy a slice of lemon cake with me…

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Thanks to Maida Heatter, doyenne of cakes (and desserts in general), for this recipe. Her East 62nd Street Lemon Cake recipe has clearly been a favorite of mine for years!

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This recipe is simple as simple can be. First, butter, sugar, and salt go into a bowl.

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Beat till smooth…

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…then beat till fluffy.

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Add 4 large eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

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Mix in the baking powder, then slowly and gently add the flour alternately with the milk, stirring to combine. Add the grated lemon rind at the end.

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Spoon the batter into a lightly greased tube pan or bundt-style pan, and put it into a preheated 350°F oven.

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While the cake is baking, stir together lemon juice (FRESH lemon juice) and granulated sugar to make the glaze.

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Here it is, rising nicely.

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When the cake is done, remove it from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it our of the pan onto a rack.

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Put another rack on top…

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…and flip it right-side-up.

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Here it is, ready to glaze.

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Poke the cake all over with a toothpick or cake tester, so the glaze can seep in more easily.

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Brush the glaze over the cake till it pools on top.

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Like this.

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Let it rest till the glaze mostly soaks in, then brush it again, continuing in this manner till you’ve used up all the glaze.

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Now there’s one lovely, moist lemon cake!

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Lemon Bliss Cake.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Miss Grace Lemon Cake, “hand-dipped in our secret formula lemon glaze,” serves 10-12, $29.95.

Bake at home: Lemon Bliss Cake with lemon glaze, serves 12-16, $5.49

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Merav

    That cake looks amazing. My mom’s friend always made a delicious lemon cake when I was little…it looked a lot like this one.
    Can’t wait to make it!
    The link to the cake, however, doesn’t work and I can’t seem to find the recipe on the website. :(

    Sorry, will fix the link tomorrow. In the meantime, here it is: Lemon Bliss Cake. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  2. Ellen in Texas

    Oh, sounds delicious! My mouth is watering already. I’ve printed out the recipe, and will be making it soon. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  3. LicksBowls

    Oh boy! I’m ready for a diversion from chocolate and will break out the bundt for this one. Is there a link for the recipe itself? Not sure we can rate from the blog.

    Thanks!

    Kevin

    Whoops, Kevin, forgot to make that link. It’s Lemon Bliss Cake, online at kingarthurflour.com/recipes. Sorry ’bout that! I’ll fix it tomorrow… PJH

    Reply
  4. Phyllis Wight

    This recipe sounds delicious, and I’d like to bake it for the holiday. Is the complete recipe posted somewhere on the King Arthur site? I’m new to
    Baker’s Banter, but a long time devoted King Arthur Flour customer.

    Thanks,
    Phyllis

    Hi Phyllis – the recipe link can always be found at the end of the blog. But this time I forgot to make it live, so here it is: Lemon Bliss Cake. Thanks for your loyalty, we appreciate it! PJH

    Reply
  5. Tom

    OK. I found the recipe. I’m going to bake this tomorrow. A question though – For the glaze: lemon juice and granulated sugar or powdered sugar?

    Granulated sugar, Tom. It gradually dissolves as the cake bakes. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  6. Cindy

    PJ, I’d love the recipe. I’m a huge Maida fan, and any recipe of hers is bound to be great! Any chance you will post it? Can lime be substituted for the lemon?

    Cindy, you can always find the recipe link at the end of the blog. But whoops – I forgot to create the link there, will do it tomorrow. In the meantime: Lemon Bliss Cake. Yes, lime would indeed be divine,and easy to make that switch… PJH

    Reply
  7. Mike T.

    Hi PJ, looks wonderful! I love lemon almost as much as coconut, and both more than chocolate. I’ll be trying this as soon as I can…

    As to Tom’s question, you said that it dissolves as the cake bakes, but the glaze goes on after baking, so is it granulated or powdered? Thanks!

    Hi, Mike – It’s granulated. The granulated sugar softens and mostly dissolves in the lemon juice as the cake bakes. Then you brush it on the warm cake once you take the cake out of the oven. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  8. Suzette

    Can it be made into loaf pans and/or mini loaf pans to give away as a gift?

    I’m sure it can. Don’t know baking times, or how much it’ll yield – just fill the pans 2/3 full, and bake at 350°F, I can at least guess that much…. PJH

    Reply
  9. Ann

    I’m operating on the philosphy that the only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked, so here goes: Can I substitute grocery-store lemon extract for the lemon oil — and, if so, in the same measurement?

    NO SUCH THING AS A STUPID QUESTION, Ann! We love to answer questions. You can sub. lemon extract – won’t have quite the same flavor, and you need to use a LOT more – maybe, 2 to 3 teaspoons? Not sure, as I don’t use lemon extract, I always use the lemon oil. Maybe start with 2 teaspoons and add to taste, OK? PJH

    Reply
  10. --Deb

    A shame I didn’t see this earlier, because I was scouring my cookbooks this morning, looking for, well, basically THIS recipe. I ended up making lemon pound cake, which is cooled enough to be ready to eat right about … now … but if I had seen this post BEFORE I’d baked it, I would have tried this one! Ah, the irony…

    Well, next time you have a hankering for lemon, try this one – then you can have a taste comparison with the lemon pound cake. Always nice to figure out how to get the most out of your baking adventures, right? PJH

    Reply
  11. Penny

    I just made 1/2 recipe of this cake. I have a 6 cup bundt pan which was the perfect size. I baked it for 30 minutes. I also used all of the zest of 2 lemons since I really like lemony things. After I’d glazed the cake 3 times I still had glaze so I added a little more powdered sugar and drizzled it over the cake for a bit of a frosting-glaze look. I have tasted a little piece of the still warm cake and it is very moist and tasty. It doesn’t really have a super-lot of lemony punch but it is a very good cake. I have found that if PJ recommends something I will most likely like it too!

    Penny, most of the lemon flavor is in that tasty glaze. To make it more lemony, you could add lemon oil to the cake itself. Glad you like it – PJH

    Reply
  12. Glenda

    This cake “looks” like a rum cake a friend used to make. She passed away a few years ago and the recipe was lost:^( (It was her secret recipe, sad huh!) Do you think subbing rum flavor then glazing with rum would work???
    Yes, I know…no stupid questions, LOL Most rum cake recipes are loaded with nut and coconut, her’s wasn’t.
    Thanks in advance!

    Yes, I do think that would work nicely, Glenda. Also you could sub maybe 3 to 4 tablespoons rum for some of the milk. YUM. I love the Capt. Morgan vanilla spice… – PJH

    Reply
    1. Jacqueline Paishon

      Glenda, I can bet your friends “secret” rum cake recipe was the bacardi rum cake recipe, google that and you will find the bacardi rum cake recipe easy, for myself I don’t like a strong liquor taste so I cut the rum part in half and add more water, also the glaze is too much for one cake so I only make half a recipe of the glaze to add on the cake…. it is super easy to make….. oh, if like me you can’t find the bacardi dark rum, the meyers works great for the recipe, don’t use anything but dark rum for the recipe

  13. judith armstrong

    Um, i have never added the baking powder directly to the mix.. How come it isn’t sifted together with the flour?

    Because it’s an added step – both sifting flour, and combining with baking powder. Not necessary, either one. I’m all for shortcuts- PJH

    Reply
  14. Angelina

    Hi PJ, I’ve tried most of the recipes you posted and they were great. I’ve just baked this cake and the taste is wonderful even without lemon oil. However, the glaze apparently didn’t seep through the many many holes I poked, so the cake was not as moist as the top (1/2″ soaked with the glaze). I agree with you that the glazed portion is the BEST. I am wondering if the cake will absorb better if I inject (using a syringe) the glaze into the holes??? :)

    It’s true, the top 1/2″ will definitely be very moist compared to the interior. Did you let it really seep in between applications? It might jut be the nature of this cake to havr that moist top crust. Not sure if a syringe will work, but give it a try… PJH

    Reply
  15. Becky Myers

    There are so many chocolate recipes so I am always happy to see one without chocolate. I am deathly allergic to chocolate so this is great. Can’t wait to try it. Thank you. You are the KING.

    Becky Myers

    Glad we could help, Becky – enjoy. PJH

    Reply
  16. Kim

    PJH you say this in your blog…Granulated sugar, Tom. It gradually dissolves as the cake bakes. Enjoy – PJH…..but at the recipe site it hows the glaze being put on the cake after it was baked?

    9) Stir the glaze to combine, and immediately brush it on the hot cake. Let it sink in, then brush on more glaze, continuing until all the glaze is used up.

    Also do you have a springlee cookie recipe? I have my great great grandpa’s board he carved when he was 12 yrs old.

    Yes, the sugar gradually dissolves in the lemon juice, on the counter, while the cake is in the oven baking. Boy, I really confused everyone this time! As for the springerle cookies, contact bakersresource@kingarthurflour.com – I think they can find something for you. PJH

    Reply
  17. Julie

    PJ – We actually have a lot of birthdays in our family to celebrate in November & December. My dad’s was actually Christmas Day (my mom the 29th). He had a pumpkin pie with candles many years – but he loved it. Nice for everyone to remember thats its a birthday we are all celebrating. I will try this cake in the cold of January – when the festivities are over and we need the bright lemon to keep our faith.

    Merry Christmas! Julie

    I like the pumpkin pie with candles. My son, the non-sweet eater, used to have a bowl of spaghetti with candles… And Merry Christmas to you, too, Julie. PJH

    Reply
  18. Tom

    Made the cake. It’s good – not overly sweet. The texture is fine but not dense. I added lemon oil and lemon zest to the batter I would have preferred even more lemon flavor. How would adding lemon powder change the chemistry of the mix?

    I’d like to extend the best wishes of the season to everybody at KAF.

    Tom

    Tom, adding lemon powder would be fine. It would definitely give a stronger lemon taste, if that’s what you’re after. And – happy holidays to you, too. Hope your trip to Hawaii was lovely- PJH

    Reply
  19. HMB

    I’ve got Meyers and Eurekas in my backyard, so I’m always looking for good lemon recipes. I’ll have to try this one, but I’d like to point out that the lemon-glazed pound cake in the KAF Baker’s Companion is quite a treat and something I make often for gifts and parties.

    Reply
  20. Deanna Forget

    This cake looks absolutely fabulous and I will bake one tomorrow for sure. I love your website! I browse often for your many tempting recipes. Merry Xmas!

    And happy holidays to you, too, Deanna – PJH

    Reply
  21. Jean McKearney

    Thanks, PJ, for reminding me on this Christmas Eve of the birthday cakes we baked on Christmas for Jesus’ birthday. Another one of my childish ideas as a mother. It was such fun and I love the 62nd St Lemon Cake. Think I’ll make it for MY birthday.

    MOM! So nice to find you here online… Maybe I’ll be there on your birthday and bake you the cake myself. But see you in a month, anyway- :)

    Reply
  22. Marsha

    My ex SIL used to try and bribe me to make two of these for her birthday. She never could talk me into it. I am one of those people who does not reach for chocolate. My favorite cookie is a good snickerdoodle and anything almond or citrus second. I don’t get the whole chocolate thing.

    Reply
  23. Marsha

    My recipe for this type cake uses confectioners sugar. Pull the cake out with 5 minutes left to bake, poke the holes (while still in the pan) then pour the glaze over the cake. Bake 5 more minutes and let set on a rack to cool, turn out then turn back over. Same principle, less time consuming and the glaze soaks in well with a very slight crunch from what doesn’t soak in. Guess I need to make one now. Merry Christmas.

    Thanks for the tip, Marsha – and Merry Christmas to you, too – PJH

    Reply
  24. Camille

    I baked this today and took it to Christmas Eve dinner with my husband’s family. It was VERY well received! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

    We just enjoyed it for our Christmas Eve dessert, also. With vanilla ice cream and strawberries, as we stuffed the stockings. Merry Christmas, Camille – PJH

    Reply
  25. Kaz

    I’m new here. Hi, everyone! I baked this cake to take to a Christmas Eve party, where it was well-received (even by the chocolate-cravers). After having glazed it, I sprinkled it with granulated sugar and before packing it up to go gave it a light dusting with confectioners. This lent crunchy contrast to the outside from the delicate light inside of the cake. This recipe is definitely staying in the repertoire. Many thanks.

    Reply
  26. Claudia K

    I made the cake to take to a friend’s house for dinner. Unforunately, we live at 6400 feet. I added 3 tbsp flour to recipe but thought the cake was sort of dry. When placing recipes on your site, could you possibly tell us high-altitude people what to do??? Thank you Hi Claudia, Have you seen the High Altitude Baking Resource on the recipe page? There are lots of tips there. -Molly @ KAF

    Reply
  27. Susan Helms

    For years I have made a cake that is similar to this one but was baked in a sheet cake pan. From reading other comments I notice that some readers have had difficulty getting the glaze to sink into the cake. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, try poking the top all over with a skewer to make lots of holes before brushing on the glaze. Also, try grating the lemon peel into the glaze mix with a very fine holed grater. It adds more lemon flavor and textural interest too.

    Reply
  28. Mike T.

    OMG! Okay, so I didn’t make the cake per se, but mmmmmm…….

    I took the cake portion and made it per the recipe (lemon oil, not zest) and divided it up into cupcakes. I got 24 cupcakes and two loaves out of the batter. I took the 24 cupcakes, melted some bittersweet chocolate and coated the tops of the cupcake, about 1/8″ thick. I didn’t have any butter to keep it from hardening, used it in the batter, but it didn’t get that hard. Then I took some blueberry preserves and made a frosting (p. sugar, preserves, shortening and lemon juice) to decorate the tops.

    It was near orgasmic… The lemon, chocolate and blueberry…. mmmmmmmmm… ;-)

    I took one of the loaves, made a vanilla glaze and took it to my brothers for dinner last night and EVERYONE loved the cake. You have a definite winner here with my family! Thanks!!!

    Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    Well, you’ll definitely have a happy 2009, Mike, if you meet with that kind of success all the time. Keep working that imagination! Cheers – PJH

    Reply
  29. Gale

    Can i bake this cake in a 12 cup bundt pan? I was thinking of adding Lemon Curd in the middle and then add White Chocolate Shavings It sounds wonderful. I’m wondering if the lemon curd might make it tricky to get out of the pan? I think I would practice it at home before making it for company.Mary @ KAF

    Reply
  30. Sherrill

    I know that I will add lemon zest in the cake and probably in the glaze too
    I like lemon and lots of it

    Go for it, Sherrill – the more lemon the better, as far as I’m concerned! PJH

    Reply
  31. Margaret

    Looks luscious. Love chocolate, but would never pass up a really good lemon cake. This would definitely fit the bill.

    Reply
  32. Tamara

    This looks so good! I love lemon pound cake, lemon squares, lemon cookies. The list goes on. I will definitely make this cake one day soon.

    Reply
  33. lynrbailey

    Aha! Found you out!! The picture told it all. 62nd Street Lemon Cake. I use a similar recipe, but sized up to use 5 eggs, otherwise all is the same. Got the recipe from a 1973 Family Circle special section on cakes. This one has always gotten rave reviews when I make it. First not in a bundt pan, now in the large 12 cup bundt pan. I also scaled it down so it can fit in a smaller, fancier pan. Now it’s so easy, no grating lemons, or remembering to buy lemons. 1tsp lemon oil in my size recipe. My recipe uses 1/3 C lemon juice, and I use the bottled variety and 2/3 C sugar for a larger recipe. Works great, I brush it on. I imagine that when these things were done with a hand mixer, or, even, by hand, it was a difficult cake. But now, with my 5 quart stand mixer, you just throw things in the bowl in sort of the proper order, then put it in the pan. I grease and flour my pan with Crisco and Wondra flour, with a silicone brush, paying attention, and I get a show stopping delicious cake, without needing frosting, every time. We all have our standby recipes, and this is one of mine.

    I’m with you, Lyn – Maida Heatter has created some wonderful recipes, and this is surely one of her greatest… PJH

    Reply
  34. bellesaz

    I love buying beautiful bake-in paper pans and giving these away as gifts for the holidays. Most people have a weakness for chocolate, mine is lemon.. and in Arizona at this time of year, our lemons are freshly picked!

    Reply
  35. Marianita

    Yesterday was my mother’s 81st b-day so I baked the lemon bliss cake, and again, for the nth time, it never fails me. It always comes out a winner every time I bake it. Nanay (mother in Filipino) is surely smiling up there in heaven for baking her a cake for her birthday. Many thanks to you KAF.

    And many thanks to you, Marianita, for baking in honor of your mother. I’m sure she is, indeed, smiling! PJH

    Reply
  36. rjgrinage

    I made this cake last night and the family loved it. I thought that the lower part was kind of dry. Do you sift the flour for this recipe?

    No, the flour is not sifted. However we do use a specific method to measure the flour: Check it out here. If you “dip” the flour directly out of the bag, you can end up with 20% extra. This might be the reason the cake was drier than expected. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  37. service

    Hi PJ

    I want to use the lemon zest and Lemon Oil for this recipe, do I use the same amount of lemon oil, which is 3/4 teaspoon with the lemon zest.
    Hi there,
    I’m not quite following the question, but if you want to use both zest and oil, you would reduce the amount of each so that you are not overpowering the cake. Try half the original amount of each, and go from there. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  38. phylinnell

    This sounds wonderful…our family get together is the 17th. I’ve been asked to bring the dessert. They know I get most of my recipes from King Arthur and they love whatever I bring. I have the 9×3 Springform pan I purchased from King Arthur. Can I use this pan to bake this cake?

    Not sure… it calls for a tube pan or bundt-style pan, so that’s quite a difference. I’d say pour in the batter, and if it comes no more than about 2/3 up the side of the pan, it should work. You might want to decrease the temperature 25°, since it will probably have to bake for a longer amount of time to bake all the way through the center. Start checking after 35 minutes or so, and keep your eye on it, OK? Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  39. Elizabeth

    Is it room-temperature butter?

    It helps for it to be room temperature, Elizabeth, but so long as your mixer is strong it doesn’t have to be. PJH

    Reply
  40. cara willis

    This is the BEST RECIPE EVER!!!!! I made it this morning and it turned out so moist and just great!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

    I agree, Cara – it’s one of my very favorite cakes ever. Enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  41. Julie

    This recipe is absolutely wonderful. Instead of making a lemon cake, however, I used coconut yogurt instead of sour cream, and added 3/4 tsp. of KAF Coconut flavoring. This recipe made enough batter to fill my Lamb Cake mold for Easter Brunch at church, plus a loaf pan to keep for home. The cake turned out moist and golden with just the right amount of mellow coconut flavor – identifiable as coconut, but not overpowering. This recipe is going into our family recipe folder. Thank you, once again KAF, for a successful, delicious recipe.

    Wonderful! Family recipes always have to start somewhere and it’s lovely to know we were there in the beginning. Keep up the creative baking and enjoy the results! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  42. Julie

    This recipe is absolutely wonderful. Instead of making a lemon cake, however, I used coconut yogurt instead of sour cream, and added 3/4 tsp. of KAF Coconut flavoring. This recipe made enough batter to fill my Lamb Cake mold for Easter Brunch at church, plus a loaf pan to keep for home. The cake turned out moist and golden with just the right amount of mellow coconut flavor – identifiable as coconut, but not overpowering. This recipe is going into our family recipe folder. Thank you, once again KAF, for a successful, delicious recipe.
    My mouth is absolutely watering, Julie! That does sound worthy of the family recipe folder! Thank you for sharing. Elisabeth

    Reply
  43. Alice

    I want to make this cake in the KA beautiful swirl bundt pan. Will it work in that pan?
    HI Alice,
    Yes, it should be just fine in that pan. Enjoy! ~ MJ

    Reply
  44. vicki

    I thought this recipe looked familiar! Now where the heck are my Maida Heatter cookbooks???? Thanks for the blast from the past – I am making this today for my dear friend’s birthday. We had record low temps today – lemon will feel springlike.

    Reply
    1. vdoyle

      Made it — twice! — because it was so well received. Absolutely delicious. The only change I made was to add the zest of a third lemon. I may not have needed to do that if I had lemon oil..

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