This 6-ingredient, one-pan, easy lemon cake recipe is bright sunny yellow and absolutely delicious. A beloved family recipe, this buttery cake packs a hefty citrus tang. It can be made ahead and you can enjoy it as a simple afternoon tea cake or dress it up with lemon icing for a special birthday or wedding.
🍋 Why Make This Lemon Cake
A good lemon cake is a joy to eat fresh from the oven, whether it is a Lemon Ricotta Cake or a Lemon Madeira Cake. Just like old-fashioned lemonade it has the ability to lift your spirits and make your summer afternoons special when you bite into a delicious, moist cake slice.
All my butter cakes are spiked with grated lemon zest. But my easy lemon cake is extra lemony with extra lemon zest and juice. Here is what makes it so special,
- Only 6 Ingredients - My easy lemon cake only has 6 ingredients. It is a simple, fuss-free, uncomplicated recipe. A true classic!
- Low sugar and no icing - When I first started baking this cake more than a decade ago, it had much more sugar and butter in it. Over the years, I have perfected the recipe to use much less sugar and butter without compromising the taste. I love plain cakes without all the bells and whistles. My cake has no icing and hence is much lighter and perfect as an everyday afternoon tea cake dusted with just a light scattering of icing sugar.
- No artificial flavours - This cake recipe has no artificial flavours or additives. The strong lemon flavour is 100% natural and comes from using an abundance of good lemons.
- Can be made ahead - This cake tastes even better the day after baking. This is because the lemon intensifies as the cake rests and you can really taste the deliciously mouthy citrus flavour. Make this lemon cake at least a day before you want to serve it for maximum flavour.
- Lemon - I use sunny yellow Meyer Lemons to bake this easy lemon cake. I have two Meyer lemon trees growing in pots and have a steady supply of Meyer lemons throughout the year. Meyer lemons are a bright sunny yellow with thin skin that zests well. Their flesh is orange-tinged with a delightful sweet-sour taste. They are less acidic and perfect for desserts that use a lot of lemon zest and juice. Meyer lemons also give the cake a beautiful canary yellow colour. If you can't find Meyer lemons, try to use the yellowest and juiciest lemons you can find.
- Flour - My recipe uses self-raising flour. If substituting with plain flour, add a teaspoon of baking powder to the batter.
- Sugar - I use raw caster sugar (also known as turbinado sugar) for this easy lemon cake. Turbinado sugar is great for baking as it is minimally processed and retains some of the molasses and hence a golden colour.
- Butter - I use organic salted butter. If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the batter.
- Milk - I use low-fat milk for this recipe. You can use full-fat milk, soy milk or buttermilk.
🥣 How To Make This Easy Lemon Cake
- Wash and dry the Meyer lemons. Grate the zest using a microplane.
- Squeeze the lemon juice in a jar.
- Add butter, sugar and lemon zest to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat for a couple of minutes until light, creamy and voluminous.
- Add eggs to the mixture and beat for a minute until pale and creamy.
- Add lemon juice. Mix briefly.
- Sift flour over the mixture, add milk and beat for a few seconds until thoroughly combined.
- Spoon batter into the prepared, lined cake tin.
- Bake the cake as per the recipe until golden and cooked through when tested with a skewer. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the cake tin.
🍰 Serving Suggestions
The beauty of this easy lemon cake is that it is a blank canvas for a number of special treats.
- Whip up some mascarpone cheese, icing sugar and vanilla in a bowl until fluffy. Dollop on top of the cake. Garnish with extra lemon zest and serve as dessert.
- Cut the cake into slices and serve each with a dollop of this delicious Instant Vegan Mango Ice Cream. If you have never tried a lemon and mango combination before, you must! Trust me, it is divine!
- Toast a slice of this cake in the toaster. Lay it flat on a plate and drizzle with vanilla custard and a handful of berries.
- Shake it up and serve this easy lemon cake with passionfruit curd. So yum!
Meyer lemon is the top choice for baking this easy lemon cake. It is tart as well as sweet with a flavour and colour that is between an orange and a lemon. Other lemon varieties you can use are Eureka and Lisbon which are two of the most widely available lemon varieties all over the world. These lemons are more tart and acidic. If using these lemons, you might need to increase the sugar by about a quarter cup to balance the tartness.
Yes, absolutely! Buttermilk adds a rich sour tang to the cake and helps it rise perfectly for a soft, fluffy crumb.
Yes! I use this exact same recipe (same quantities and baking time/temperature - 50 minutes at 180°C) to bake a lemon cake loaf (22cm X 11cm X 7cm high), a wide round lemon cake (20cm X 7cm high) or a taller round lemon cake (18cm X 10cm high).
Any cake baked with butter will become a tad tough and feel dry if the weather is cool. This happens as the butter in the cake solidifies. To fix this, simply microwave your cake slice for approximately 20 seconds. Your cake slice will become soft and moist as the butter softens and melts.
This recipe is lighter than most lemon cake recipes as it is lower in sugar and butter. Eaten in moderation, it is a lovely treat.
Yes! Individual slices of lemon cake can be wrapped in baking paper and frozen in zip-lock bags for up to a month. To serve from frozen, simply thaw in the microwave for 1-2 minutes depending on your microwave settings.
💛 More Easy Cake Recipes
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Easy Lemon CakePrint Recipe Rate / Comment
- 150 g salted butter, softened, note 1
- 1 cup (200 g) raw caster sugar, (turbinado sugar), note 3
- 1 tbsp lemon zest, Meyer lemons, note 6
- 3 eggs, note 2
- 1 1/2 cups (240 g) self raising flour, note 4
- 60 ml lemon juice, Meyer lemons, note 6
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) milk, note 5
- icing sugar, for dusting
- Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base of a deep 20cm cake pan with baking paper.
- Beat butter, lemon zest and sugar in a bowl until creamy and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition for a couple of minutes until the mixture is light and creamy.
- Sift flour over the egg mixture. Add juice and beat for a few seconds. Add milk and beat until well combined.
- Pour in prepared tin. Tap the tin on the worktop to settle the batter. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 50 minutes until golden and cooked through when tested with a skewer.
- Remove cake from oven and allow to cool in the tin completely. Dust with icing sugar. Cut into slices and enjoy.
- The cake keeps well in a cool corner of the kitchen for up to 2 days. It will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days. When eating out of the fridge, remember to warm the slices up for 20 seconds in the microwave.
- Butter - I use salted butter for this recipe. It adds a touch of salt which lifts the sweetness of the cake. You can use unsalted butter and add a pinch of salt to your batter when you first start mixing.
- Eggs - I use medium organic eggs, each approximately 65g in weight. Remember to use the freshest eggs for the best cake.
- Sugar - I use raw caster sugar (also known as turbinado sugar) for this recipe. It is minimally refined to retain the molasses and colour which deepens the beautiful colour of the cake while adding a slight caramel tone. You can use regular white caster sugar for this recipe if you can't find raw sugar.
- Flour - This recipe uses self-raising flour. You can substitute with regular plain white flour or cake flour but you must remember to also add 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
- Milk - I use low-fat milk for this recipe. You can use full-fat milk, soy milk or even buttermilk. The buttermilk will add an extra layer of beautiful tang to the cake.
- Meyer Lemons - Meyer lemons are sunny yellow with thin skin that can be easily zested. Their flesh is sour and sweet and considered a cross between a lemon and an orange. They are perfect for baking and desserts. If you can't find Meyer lemons, use regular lemons (Eureka or Lisbon). The regular lemons are more tart and acidic so you might have to increase sugar by a quarter cup.
- Baking Tins - I have baked this easy lemon cake in three different-sized tins with excellent results. My baking tins are rectangle loaf shape (22cm X 11cm X 7cm high), round (20cm X 7cm high), round (18cm X 11cm high). For all three pan sizes, I use the same recipe as above (no change to quantities, baking time or temperature).
- Storage - The lemon cake keeps well at room temperature in a cool corner for up to 2 days. To keep it for longer, store it in an air-tight-lidded container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To serve from the fridge, warm in microwave for 10-20 seconds.
Originally published in November 2011. Updated in October 2022 with a better-tested recipe, images and fresh copy. The recipe has been made healthier and more concentrated in flavour.
Wow - this was so great! I didn’t have milk so used 125g Greek yoghurt. I threw in 2 tbs of poppy seeds and had about 12 luscious blueberries that I poked into the top. It didn’t need them, but I hate waste.
20cm springform - 50 minutes.
It smelt heavenly baking and was light + tender and even more amazing when eating. We gave some to my MIL - she didn’t get out if the driveway before starting to grab bits to savour! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! Will definitely be making again. I would have put something on Insta but there was no cake left to show after sharing with family + devouring the rest ourselves!
Love me some lemon cake. Can't wait to try this recipe!
Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe. It taste great, we ate it as soon as it was cooled and after I iced it with some icing sugar. As I did not had enough butter, only maybe 80g, I added a bit of olive oil, guessing around 20ml, to sort of substitute the butter content. It still came out moist.
Highly recommend this recipe for a fast 'cake'.
Thank you so much for sharing this lovely recipe. I made this for my sister's birthday and it was heavenly! Light, flavourful - amazing! I topped it with lemon buttercream from the kitchen magpie (http://www.thekitchenmagpie.com/lemon-buttercream-icing). Can't wait to make it again!
i've just made this using your recipe and it is soooo good!! i didn't use rind of lemon, because my lemons looked depressive, but i used juice of two lemons instead, just to make it even more sour.
it was not sour, it was just more delicious! 🙂
have a great spring!
Finally I tried this recipe and I must say, it's simply awesome!! I divided the batter into three different pan--6 muffin pans, mini cake pan and tiny loaf pan and I'm enjoying the cupcake as I write this. The lemon flavor is amazing!
Now I can't wait to try your other cake recipes.. 🙂
Thought I'd let you know that you inspired me; thank you!
it was my 1st attempt with lemon cake, and it turned out perfect.. thanks a lot for sharing this recipe 🙂
i adore a good lemon cake! looks fab!
Lovely & simple.
A lovely cake! I am a sucker for anything that is lemony.
Such a beautiful looking lemon cake......looks absolutely delicious.
10 mins prep time?
Looks so tasty I wish I could reach through
my 'puter and take that slice...
Beautiful Sneh!!! I love lemon cakes too, in fact anything lemon, it's such a summery scent. I love the flags you made for the cake. So cute!!
Enjoy your new lemon trees!
So so sweet! This cake is screaming out Summer. My boyfriend's family's lemon tree is overloaded with lemons. I might have to acquire some and make this cake. I'd drizzle some homemade limoncello over it as well just for kicks 😉
What beautiful styling 🙂 I love the flags!!
How sad that the trees have died - I'm glad you've replaced them 🙂 Lemon is such a wonderful flavouring - especially in big doses like this cake! I like the flags too.
Will have to try and make this and using organic eggs. There will be a difference in colour too?
lighter I think. I find organic, free range eggs to have a lighter fresher yolk. My chickens lay eggs that have a lighter yolk and they are practically free range and eat lots of grans and fresh produce.
a beautiful ode to your old lemon trees. this cake looks thoroughly delicious and such pretty snaps to match. dayle
I love lemon and cook with it often. This cake looks wonderful, I'll definitely give this a go. And thanks for your prop info too; I've been thinking that it's time I went hunting for a few new bits and pieces.
To be able to pluck a lemon from your own backyard and cook it in your kitchen is pure domestic bliss... I am envious. And cakes like this will never go out of fashion...
Nothing like growing your own citrus fruit.Not only do they taste refreshing and fresh,but seeing those rounds of color hanging by green branches is a sight in itself!
The cake looks very tasty,pictures are beautiful,and what I love even more is that it uses no exotic/difficult to be found ingredients.Everyday ingredients that are found in everyone's pantry.
Thank you for sharing,I am tweeting this one!:-)
When I saw first the title of this post, I thought, "Lemon? Now?" but now I'm definitely into it. I love your pictures! And the little flags are super cute. I'm really jealous of your lemon trees. I'm years away from having a house but when I do, I already know where the lemon trees will go. 🙂
I have this extra love for lemon and it hardly happens that I forget to zest or squeeze as I cook, be it savory or sweet. Lemon cake has been my fav all the time, but the idea of using mascarpone as sandwich is something I would like to try !
Totally agree with you that lemon definately has an uplifting quality and this cake is no exception. Looks fabulously moist. Thanks for adding where you buy your props from as well. They are all gorgeous finds 🙂