Lemon love

A moist, perfectly textured cake that makes a weeknight dinner seem special.


I love lemons. I buy a dozen of them every week. Every day I drink a gallon of lemon water, and I can think of a dozen recipes that require them off the top of my head. They’re good to have around.

I’ve been contemplating lemon pasta recipes, and was just about ready to try one when I came across this recipe for Tablespoon Italian Lemon Cake. The name of the recipe was what stopped me, especially when I read that everything was measured by the tablespoon — 24 tablespoons of flour, 10 tablespoons of vegetable oil — you get the picture. Thankfully, the recipe also included the translation into cups or grams.

I’ve been talking to my son about what constitutes a good baker, and it keeps coming around to following the directions precisely — never my strong suit. I like to experiment by tossing in ingredients that aren’t on the list, or leave one out if I don’t have it or don’t like it. That attitude is going to kill your next batch of cookies.

This time, I tried my best to stick to the printed recipe. And guess what? It works! I even leveled off the top of the measuring cups and spoons, something I never do. And I sifted the flour and baking powder together, another thing I rarely take into consideration. There were a few goofs along the way — I forgot to put the oil in until the last minute, and I beat the sugar and eggs together on high instead of low.

I didn’t have a proper square or round cake pan, so I decided to try this in a loaf pan, and it was fine. It did have to bake for almost an hour. Maybe 50 to 55 minutes. The cake was simple, delicious, and easy to make. We had it for dessert, and then with coffee the next morning. My only complaint is that it wasn’t quite lemony enough for me, but I bet if I upped the lemon zest that would make it even better. The texture was amazing, and like some other Italian cake recipes I’ve tried in the past, it is super-moist and not overly sweet. If I can come home from work and whip this up, I bet you can too. It was definitely a treat for a weeknight, and made our leftovers from the weekend seem more palatable because it was waiting for us at the end like the treat at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jack.

Tablespoon Italian Lemon Cake

All tablespoons (and teaspoon) are level, not heaping. Eggs and sugar should be beaten on low speed, never on high speed. When adding the flour, mix on low speed.

24 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (1½ cups; 195 grams)
1 tsp. baking powder
16 Tbsp. sugar (1 cup; 200 grams)
2 large eggs*
zest of one lemon*
2 Tbsp. lemon juice*
10 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I used canola) (½ cup and 2 Tbsp.; 125 grams)
10 Tbsp. milk* (½ cup and 2 Tbsp.; 150 grams)
2-3 Tbsp. powdered sugar for dusting finished cooled cake

* Room temperature; remove from the fridge 45 to 60 minutes before using.

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour an 8- or 9-inch cake pan (I used a loaf pan).

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. (I sifted them together, and it did not disappoint.) In a large bowl, beat on low speed sugar and eggs until very fluffy and light, approximately 5 minutes.

Then add the zest, juice, oil, and milk; beat until combined on low speed. Then add the flour mixture, and beat on low speed until smooth.

Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. (For the loaf pan, it was closer to 50 to 55 minutes.) Let cool in the pan, then remove to a cake plate.

Let cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar.