Whole lemons are the base of this rich, citrusy simple lemon cake batter. Precooking the fruit removes the pucker and makes for an intensely flavored cake that's a family-friendly dessert.


Read the full recipe after the video.

Recipe Summary

20 mins
1 hr


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan (2 inches deep). In a medium saucepan, cover lemon slices with 3 cups water. Add pinch of salt, cover, and bring to a boil over high. Boil lemons, partially covered, until very tender, 15 minutes. Drain in a colander and transfer to a food processor, along with lemon juice; process until smooth. Set aside.

  • In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter on medium, 2 minutes. Gradually add granulated sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

  • With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions buttermilk. Beat in vanilla, then fold in lemon mixture.

  • Transfer batter to pan and bake until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 20 minutes. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely on rack. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve with raspberries and cream, if desired.

Reviews (17)

133 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 23
  • 4 star values: 20
  • 3 star values: 53
  • 2 star values: 25
  • 1 star values: 12
Rating: 5.0 stars
Made this cake. Simple, easy recipe to follow. I had to substitute buttermilk with milk and plain yogurt, and unsalted butter with margarine coz I couldn't get these...but Wow, the taste was divine! My mum, who's diabetic, couldn't get enough of it. Thanks Martha.
Rating: 5.0 stars
Looks exciting! LEMON CAKE
Rating: 1 stars
I believe the step of boiling the lemons and processing them made this too bitter because of the lemon rind being including. The cake was good, but very bitter. Glad I tried this ahead of Easter, it would have been a disappointment to my guests.
Rating: 2 stars
Coming from someone who loves lemon desserts, this cake is extremely bitter. Cooking the lemons in no way took away the strong, bitter taste of the lemon rind. Either the rinds need to be cooked much longer, or more sugar is needed to counter the bitterness.
Rating: 5 stars
I made the recipe exactly a couple weeks ago and it overflowed the 9” round. The flavor was not affected by that little mishap. It was delicious! I made it in a Bundt pan this time which cut baking time to 30 minutes at my high altitude. Another reviewer’s use of a honey glaze made with some of the cooking liquid from the lemons is a good idea but I accidentally discarded it so used plain honey glaze. I also took the advice to cook the lemon slices longer. The full robust lemon flavor is assertive but not overwhelming and it’s the right size for us. Picture on Pinterest.
Rating: 5 stars
we loved this updated recipe. We made a double batch and baked for approximately 40 minutes in a 12 inch round pan. I highly suggest cooking the lemon peels for 30 mins. Just let them sit in the really hot water.
Rating: 5 stars
I made the recipe dairy free by using pure coconut cream in place of the buttermilk and palm kernel shortening in place of the butter. The cake was moist and delicious . I'm going to make it again and add one extra egg white to stabilize it. I thought the flavor was delicious and the recipe very easy. I served it with candied lemon slices, whole raspberries, powdered sugar and a drizzle of homemade raspberry brandy syrup.
Rating: 5 stars
I have not made this recipe but I will. It looks simple and delicious but I would like to bake in a bundt pan - has anyone tried baking it a bundt pan?
Rating: 5 stars
Amazing recipe! I suspect that the bad reviews are a matter of taste - this will be a bitter, fairly dense cake. But if you like old-fashioned marmalade and savoring small slices, this cake is fantastic. I also used small, homegrown lemons, which seemed to be juicier and have a thinner skin than most store-bought lemons. I was attracted to this recipe because none of the fruit is wasted - I even saved the cooking water to make a bitter lemon and honey jelly to drizzle over the cake. My mother won't stop gushing about the cake, and my grandmother took one bite and said "God bless you."
Rating: 5 stars
Guess I missed all the hub-bub of recipe changing and bad experiences. In spite of the negatives, I made this last night and received stellar reviews from my DH. Served with the raspberries sans cream. Yum Meyer Lemon heaven.
Rating: 4 stars
I substituted the buttermilk for Greek yogurt and added 1 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract to boost the flavor, it turned out delicious! Light as a feather. Baked in a 9 inch springform pan for 42 min.
Rating: 1 stars
Followed the recipe word-for-word. I was hopeful that, per the previous comments, the new and improved recipe on the site would be better than what had been printed in the magazine. Alas, it was a complete dud. The cake was dense as a brick, and the pureed lemons gave it an intensely bitter flavor. Would not make again.
Rating: Unrated
i made this recipe (ok, NOT this recipe, but the recipe from the magazine, which, as others have noted, is significantly different.) i thought it was pretty good. very easy. i agree with the one reviewer who says not to overcook it. i used a pick and removed it from the oven after about 30 minutes, much less than the 40 minutes directed in the magazine. i added a T of limoncello and subbed buttermilk for milk. otherwise, made it as directed. great, moist texture...
Rating: Unrated
I agree with PattiPatti. Just made the cake according to the April '11 magazine. It just didn't brown very nicely and is very heavy. Thought I'd check for comments and noticed the very different recipe here. This was goes to hubby.. I'll try again using the "real"recipe...
Rating: Unrated
Found recipe in Martha's Everyday Food mag.April 2011. I am experienced baker. Made TWO cakes, one to keep one for gift. Followed recipe exactly. I had to throw both away. I was so mad to waste all of those ingredients $!$ After looking at the recipe posted HERE they obviously made changes to the recipe and did not let the readers know. 1 1/2 C butter,2 c flour, 3/4lbs lemon, 2 c sugar, only bkg powder, 2/3 c milk,2 tsp vanilla & oven temp 400*. Shame on you Martha! I feel betrayed and broke$!
Rating: Unrated
Sorry guys wrong receipe.
Rating: Unrated
I have it in the oven right now. Aganist my better judgement I put it in the 9 in pan and it has now been in the oven for almost 57 minutes as the center still wet. I wish I would have read the reviews about the pan size before I made it as my inclination was to use a spring form pan. Keeping my fingers crossed as I am supposed to be bringing this to a lunch date.
Rating: Unrated
I made this once and wasn't impressed; the cake was dense and heavy and didn't have much flavor. I love the idea of this recipe, though, and if someone's had success with it, I may try it again.
Rating: Unrated
I have made this recipe 5 times...and everyone LOVES it!!!! Definitely a winner!!....Just don't bake it too long...it needs to be very moist.