When I feel like baking something – or like eating a baked good – I try to do it right away. This means that I don’t save my baking projects for the weekends, but have been known to bake in the morning, afternoon and evening even during the week. It also means that I don’t always have unlimited time for my baking projects. After all, if you are craving a piece of cake at 8pm on a Wednesday night, you’re not going to want to stay up all night just to indulge yourself. This is precisely why I have a wide variety of recipes in my repertoire and why some take more time than others. An impressive layer cake is a great choice for the weekend, but on a weekday or a day when you don’t have as much time to spend in the kitchen, an Everyday Lemon Cake is a much better choice.
This easy to make cake takes less than an hour, start to finish, though I admit that you might want to wait a little bit longer for it to cool so your frosting doesn’t run all over the place! You will only need one or two lemons to make this cake. The juice of the lemons goes into the glaze, while the zest of the lemons goes into the cake. The lemon zest is packed with citrus oil, which is where you will get a wonderful lemon flavor without having to juice a lot of fruit! The cake is moist and soft, with just the right amount of sweetness to highlight the lemon zest.
For the frosting, I made a simple glaze using butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and confectioners’ sugar. Adding a little bit of butter to a basic glaze recipe improves the mouthfeel by making it creamier. It also takes the edge off of the acidic lemon juice, leaving you with a frosting that is lemony without being too aggressive. I prefer a thicker glaze for this cake so that it leaves a nice coating on the cake. If your glaze isn’t thick enough, simply whisk in additional confectioners’ sugar. If you prefer a thinner glaze, simply stop adding confectioners’ sugar when the glaze gets to your preferred consistency.
The cake will keep well at room temperature for a couple of days after baking, so be sure to store it in a cake carrier after it has cooled to ensure it remains fresh. I typically serve this cake in generous slices with a cup of tea or coffee. If you happen to have some fresh berries in your kitchen, toss a few onto the plate before serving each slice.
Everyday Lemon Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp lemon zest (from 1-2 lemons)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper and grease the sides and bottom with vegetable oil or cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs until well combined. Whisk in vegetable oil, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk. Mix in remaining flour mixture, stirring until no streaks of dry ingredients remain visible. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs attached and the top springs back when lightly pressed.
Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out of the pan, remove the parchment paper and re-invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. Apply frosting to cooled cake.
2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1 tbsp butter, room temperature
approx 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, butter and confectioners’ sugar, gradually adding in the confectioners’ sugar until glaze reaches a thick, smooth consistency.
Spread glaze onto the top of the cake using an offset spatula and let it run slowly off the sides.