The Best Lemon Cake You’ll Ever Have

When we’re visiting my grandmother in England, she always serves afternoon tea around 4pm. We’ll gather around the table in swimsuits and shorts, and she’ll bring out cups of milky black tea and homemade lemon cake. Sweet and tangy, the whole cake disappears within minutes. Happily, Angharad from the great blog Eating for England agreed to share her favorite recipe (trust me, you want to make this!!)…

The Best Lemon Cake You’ll Ever Have
By Angharad from Eating for England

Lemon cake is one of those glorious desserts that’s appropriate any time. Everyone who tries this cake raves about it. I’ve made it for brunch with friends, served it for dessert after dinner, and brought it to share with coworkers. I also make it for my husband Daniel and me when we randomly fancy a sweet treat. (Try slicing and serving it with warm blueberry sauce.)

The secret to its popularity is a glug of heavy cream in the batter and also the sweet-zingy lemon syrup you drench the cake with. Don’t be shy about using every bit of that syrup—it’s what gives the cake its sticky crunch and wonderfully moist and fluffy crumb.

Recipe: Lemon-Drenched Lemon Cake
Makes 2 loaves

You’ll need:

For the cake:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
2⅓ cups sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup heavy cream
Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
1 stick, plus 7 tbsp unsalted butter (15 tbsp total), melted and cooled

For the syrup:
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of two lemons

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Butter two 9×5-inch loaf pans, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Put the sugar and the lemon zest in a large bowl. Working with your fingers, rub them together until the sugar is moist, flecked with zest, and smells wonderfully lemony.

Add the eggs and whisk them into the sugar, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then whisk in the cream. Use a large rubber spatula to gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions; the batter will be smooth and thick. Finish by folding in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions until combined. Pour the batter into the pans, smoothing with a rubber spatula. (Now’s the time to lick the bowl:)

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. After about 30 minutes in the oven, check the cakes for color. If they seem to be browning too quickly, cover them lightly with foil tents.

Once the cake is in the oven, make the syrup: Stir the water and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar melts, then bring to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Pour the syrup into a heatproof bowl and set it aside to cool.

When the cakes test done, transfer them to a wire rack to cool for five minutes before removing them from their pans and turning them right side up on the rack. Place the rack over a baking sheet lined with wax paper and, using a thin skewer or cake tester, poke holes all over the cakes. Brush the cakes all over with the syrup, working slowly so that the cakes sop it up. Be sure to use all the syrup—it will seem like a lot but it’s worth it! Leave the cakes on the rack to cool to room temperature.

Delicious! Thank you so much, Angharad!

P.S. More best recipes, including blueberry muffins and apple pie.

(Photos by Angharad from Eating for England. Thanks to Shoko for helping with this series.)

  1. Shazam says...

    Just made this in a 9×13 pan, baked about 40 min. Looks sooo good! Can’t wait to try after it has rested for a bit and all of the syrup has soaked in!!! :D

  2. This recipe is divine, baked it twice already and still can’t get enough of it. However I do have a concern, the recipe calls for almost equal parts of sugar to flour, which means theres alot of sugar in it. Is there any other way to achieve the same taste without the use of that much sugar?

  3. I made this for a friend and co-workers this week. I work abroad in Korea, and my co-workers have never tried lemon drizzle cake before. They thought it was such an “exotic” flavour and really loved the rich sweetness combined with the tang from the lemon syrup. I have to agree, it really is a wonderful recipe! Will definitely check out more offerings from your “best recipes”. Love it!

  4. Just made this for my roommates and I as a study break treat :D they all loved it. Made it in a bunt cake pan since I don’t own any loaf pans and it turned out great! Just had to pay closer attention to the baking time. Thanks for sharing, keep those food posts coming <3

  5. Dear Joanna,
    I am reading your blog now already for a while and never wrote you how inspiring your texts are. Now I feel the urge to thank you for your great recipes. For our companies christmas charity bake sale I baked the Lemon Cake, the Caramel Brownies and almost died when I tasted the best Frosting ever for the Red Velvet Sheet Cake. My colleagues made so many compliments that I had to share them with you. Thank you for making me look like a very good baker if in fact this is all thanks to your great recipes.
    Greetings from Munich, Germany

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  7. Yeah, I regularly make lemon drizzle cake too (that’s what we call it in England). I’m a bit sneaky though and add broken up pieces of good quality dark chocolate (not choc chips – they taste plastic). Lemon and dark chocolate are an amazing combination – love it at 4pm with a nice cuppa tea.

  8. Hello, I made a lemon drizzle for my brothers baby shower a few weeks ago and it was pretty good, but this one looks even better! Only problem is I have no idea what a ‘cup’ of flour means? Is there anyway you could convert this into grams? And what kind of flour do you use? Self raising or plain? Also you don’t mention what actual kind of sugar you use? Just regular white caster sugar? And the cream, is it single or double cream? Sorry if this seems all pedantic but I worry when I bake I’ll mess up and use the wrong thing. I’ve been a big fan of your blog for years, I’m from London/UK and I also have a twin sister! We’re incidental and everything. Anyway, I’d love to try this out. Thank you x

  9. This looks fantastic! I’m always looking for new things to bake, so thank you!

  10. We had a friend over tonight for an informal dinner and I made this cake to serve as dessert. I made it just as described and it was completely delicious. Thanks!

    I also made the meatballs for dinner last night as meatball subs. (Though I cut it in thirds since it makes WAAAYYYYY too many for two people.)

    Loving the new recipes!

  11. I made this cake yesterday and it turned out great, a perfect cake for tea time indeed! I did make a few mods however, to offset the artery-clogging richness of the eggs and almost two sticks of butter:
    – used whole milk yougurt instead of heavy cream
    – reduced sugar to 1 cup instead of 2.5 cups – it’s still plenty sweet
    – skipped the sugar syrup and iced it with confectioner’s sugar/lemon juice

  12. Annie says...

    Generally we call this Madeira Cake in England and don’t add lemon. It is easy and always delicious. Try it without lemon but with a good large handful of raisins and sultanas. Then sprinkle light brown sugar over the top when it comes out of the oven. A lovely, light fruity cake. Perfect, as you say, with a good cup of tea. Cup and saucer please.

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  14. My cakes are in the oven as I write this. Can’t wait to enjoy a what I’m sure will be a delicious treat.

  15. Lemons are in season (winter) so this would be perfect for afternoon tea.

  16. Mmmm saw this exact recipe over on joy the baker a few years back! It is delicious!!

  17. Sounds amazing!!!! Can I just half all the ingredients to make one pan? We would never finish two….or would we?! :)

  18. Oh Jesus, I LOVE lemon cake!

  19. thanks for sharing! can’t wait to make this

  20. This looks delicious!
    I love this “The Best ___ You’ll Ever Have” feature! There are so many good ones I can’t wait to try.

  21. wow! It looks so yummy!

  22. I am not sure if Starbucks started my craving for Lemon pound cake, and then lemon anything. Maybe it was Whole Foods. I just had lemon muffins last week, they were..okay. But my grandma has a huge lemon tree out back and the lemons get the size of oranges! I am gonna whip up some lemon curd and try out this recipe!

    Maybe serve it up with some strawberries depending on if I make some muffins instead.

    Thanks for posting!
    Although I just had pumpkin pie cause I was missing fall, I will go back to summer for this.

  23. This looks delicious! We do eat rather a lot of cake in the UK! It helps keep our spirits up as it rains all the time!

    Abi x

  24. This looks delicious! We do eat rather a lot of cake in the UK! It helps keep our spirits up as it rains all the time!

    Abi x

  25. I’ve been dying for some lemon cake for weeks! Now I have a Saturday plan!!!

  26. Oh man, my birthday is today and I specially requested lemon cake for tonight. This is so perfect!

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  28. Elizabeth says...

    Good thing I saw this right before I was about to have my tea! Just HAD to run out to the bakery for a slice of lemon cake. Afternoon tea is HEAVEN right now…just the pick me up I needed! xx

  29. Jo, I am loving this food addition you have started. Everything you post is amazing– the tomanto sauce, the cookies, the blueberry muffins, the meatballs– everything.

    I don’t doubt that this really is amazing and I’ll be making it on the weekend.

    thanks again for sharing! LOVE!!

  30. i don’t even need to read the whole recipe to know that i want, NEED, to make this. right now.

  31. YUM! Would love to try it. I got on a baking kick after baby #2 was born in Feb & made two huge lemon cakes (hmm think it was from the blog and nearly ate them both myself!

    I’d love to bring tea time stateside :)

  32. This is the same cake as Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) featured in her cookbook years ago.

  33. B says...

    This looks so good! I’ve adopted a ritual of afternoon tea at work, complete with teabags and digestive biscuits from my boyfriend’s english mother! Swimsuits and milk and this cake would definitely be an improvement though!


  34. Yumyumyum! Sounds delicious. I love a good lemon loaf, and sometimes I make a lemony frosting for the top if I’m feeling really sweet.

  35. I love lemon cake but i hardly ever bake anymore. just the two of us here at our house—-

  36. I adore all things lemon-y and this cake looks scrumptious. Have a great day! xoxo

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  38. This looks so good! I need to start baking these things instead of breaking down and buying the crap at Starbucks. Trying to be paleo isn’t easy, but trying to resist processed marble loaf is even harder. But homemade real ingredients is always better!

    xoxo Jessica

  39. looks yummy! i’m a huge fan of sweet and tangy! i also love the idea of eating something like this right after a swim ;)

  40. Nesa says...

    This sounds amazing! I must definitely try it this weekend! :)

  41. Yummy! Lemon anything in a dessert is my weakness, well, that and chocolate too of course. Maybe dessert is just my weakness. ;-)