An Easy Lemon Cake to Welcome Spring


According to T.S. Eliot, “April is the cruelest month,” and this year that seemed to ring true, weather-wise. But now in May, the grass is bright green, the birds are singing, and it is time to lighten up our menus at least a little.

For me, spring is the time to bring out some lemon desserts, and this cake is super easy to put together. In fact, it is really at its best while still warm, so you could stir it up and have it baking while you eat. For some, adding a dollop of whipped cream is the best way to eat this, but it certainly is just as good without.

My guess is that this may best be eaten the first day or two because its fat content is lower than many cakes. However, I can’t tell you if this is true, because it has never lasted more than a day here at my house.

First, the ReaLemon “controversy.”

For some, the use of ReaLemon (or other brands of reconstituted lemon juice) is very close to heresy, and an unacceptable “processed food.” However, there are several reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid to use these lemon juices. I find two most compelling.

First, I have mentioned before that ReaLemon is really to be preferred when making jams and jellies, because this has a consistent acidity level. Fresh lemons can vary in acidity enough to cause problems in getting just the right “jell.”

The second reason is really the primary reason why I always have a bottle of ReaLemon in my refrigerator: it’s always in the refrigerator! Fresh lemons are too often too expensive for me to treat as a staple, so I have to remember to buy them if I want to make a special lemon dessert. Over the years, I have used ReaLemon to make lemon meringue pies, lemon square cookies, and this lemon cake and have always had people praise the lemony flavor.

So don’t be afraid to use ReaLemon for this or many other recipes calling for lemon juice. Obviously, if you have access to fresh lemons at a reasonable price, go ahead and cook/bake with those too. Just don’t forego the opportunity to have a great lemon dessert just because you don’t have a “real lemon” on hand!

Oh, and what about lemon zest?

Fresh lemons have one thing ReaLemon doesn’t have, peels. That distinctive lemon zest flavor could be missing here, but…did you know that lemon extract is made from the peeling, or zest, of lemons? As a result, you can get that deeper zest flavor by adding lemon extract in its place. How much? In general, it is recommended that you use half as much lemon extract as zest.

So go ahead and make this wonderful lemon cake and celebrate spring–whatever the source of your lemon juice.

Lemon Cake

1 c sugar
1/2 c butter, melted
2 eggs
1 T lemon juice
1/2 c milk
1/2 t lemon extract OR 1 t grated lemon rind
2 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder

1/3 c lemon juice
1/3 c sugar

1.  Beat the first six ingredients together until smooth and completely blended.

2.  Sift or stir together the flour and baking powder and add to the liquid ingredients. Stir just until all the flour is incorporated into the liquid.

3.  Pour the batter into a well-oiled 9 X 13 pan or 11 inch square casserole dish. (Go ahead and use one of your nicest casserole dishes, as this is a cake best served right from the pan.)

4.  Bake at 350 for about 25 to 30 minutes. It will be done when the center springs back when lightly touched or when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with no batter sticking to it.

5.  While the cake is baking, stir the lemon juice and sugar together for the Topping. Be sure it is completely mixed. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, poke holes over the top with a toothpick or fork. Spread the lemon juice and sugar mixture over, covering the surface as evenly as possible.

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