Zesty Lemon Cake | Once Upon a Food Blog

A fresh and zesty lemon cake that will have people coming back for seconds

Today I’m re-posting one of my earliest recipes. It’s an absolutely fabulous light and fluffy lemon cake. It’s a perfect spring time cake and is gorgeous with a big mug of your favourite brew, but it’s also good enough to be served as a dessert, perhaps with a drizzle of cream…

Today my parents and one of my brothers came for dinner. This was a plan made late last night so I had no time to prepare apart from a quick flick through a food magazine for inspiration. I settled on doing a tuna Nicoise, after all it’s April now and I reckon we should be able to start having salad as a main, don’t you agree?

Lying in bed this morning I could hear rain drumming on the roof. This was real rain, the kind I call ‘wet’ rain, not just a passing May shower. Salad as a main eh! But I didn’t have the desire or brain power to change the menu. I snuggled down grateful that it was a Saturday, but at the same time aware that every minute extra in bed meant it less likely that there would be the fine green beans at the market that I needed for the salad.

A while later I dragged myself from my warm cocoon and mosied downstairs to find Dan fitting new under-the-counter lights in the kitchen, the units covered in an interesting melee of screw drivers, wires, lighting parts and mugs, and the power off. So, no breakfast yet then!

I chucked on my waterproof and boots and headed outside. Boy was it raining. Jumping into the car off I went to the market. They had everything I needed… except the green beans. A quick swing past the supermarket and I headed home.

A fresh and zesty lemon cake that will have people coming back for seconds

Sitting at the table to eat breakfast, the kitchen having been cleared and tidied and the new lights on even though it was ten o’clock in the morning, the sky began to brighten. By the time the bowls were in the dishwasher the rain had stopped and a chink of sunshine was showing through the parting clouds. Not long after that Dan was out doing some gardening. I congratulated myself on my choice for dinner and, thinking that it would be nice to do something equally springlike for afterwards, I decided on this zesty lemon cake.

This is a really good lemon cake. I’ve played about with the recipe quite a lot to ensure it is moist (hence the apple), not too heavy, and has a lovely fresh flavour. Whether you decorate it with candied lemon slices is up to you. I usually don’t bother to decorate a cake unless it’s a special occasion (and by special I mean really special) but I felt like it today and had a few lemons sculling about in the bottom of the fridge needing to be put to good use. The lemon slices are quick and easy to make and I think they look really striking.

Slices of lemon on baking paper

Other gorgeous spring time bakes to try:

And if you fancy something savoury to start why not try my:


Or my

A fresh and zesty lemon cake that will have people coming back for seconds

Course: Dessert, Treat

Cuisine: English

Keyword: Mother’s Day

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 50 mins

Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins

Servings: 12 slices

Author: Anna Bloomfield

A fresh and zingy lemon cake that will have people coming back for seconds.

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For the cake

  • 200 g unsalted butter
  • 240 g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 240 g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (slightly rounded)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Zest of 1 whole lemon
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 small apple coarsely grated

For the candied lemon slices


For the cake

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C.

  • Grease a 21cm round spring form cake tin, line with baking parchment and flour the sides.

  • Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

  • Mix in the eggs adding a little of the flour if the mixture curdles.

  • Sift in the remaining flour, baking powder and salt and stir in along with the lemon zest and juice and the grated apple. Be careful not to over-mix.

  • Pour into the cake tin and place in the oven. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. You will know the cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. The cake will have a slightly crusty top.

  • Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out carefully to finish cooling.

For the candied lemon slices

  • Put the sugar in a wide bottomed pan, a frying pan is best. Add 180ml water and heat over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved.

  • Meanwhile, cut the lemons into rounds 2-3mm thick and discard the seeds.

  • Once the sugar has dissolved, place the lemon slices into the syrup making sure they do not overlap.

  • Simmer gently for 15 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skin and pith are translucent.

  • Cool on baking parchment then use as you wish.


This cake lasts well in an airtight container for a few days.
I have made it without the apple and it tastes just as good; it’s just not as moist and therefore doesn’t keep quite as well.


Calories: 363kcal (18%) | Carbohydrates: 56g (19%) | Protein: 3g (6%) | Fat: 14g (22%) | Saturated Fat: 8g (40%) | Cholesterol: 76mg (25%) | Sodium: 19mg (1%) | Potassium: 148mg (4%) | Fiber: 1g (4%) | Sugar: 38g (42%) | Vitamin A: 485IU (10%) | Vitamin C: 10.2mg (12%) | Calcium: 48mg (5%) | Iron: 1.3mg (7%)



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