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How To Make The Best Easy Lemon Cake

Published: June 12, 2021 • 
Last Modified: March 22, 2024
Published: March 22, 2024

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This Cake Recipe Is Truly An Oldie But A Goodie

This easy lemon cake is a sunny, yummy classic. I still use a recipe from the 1960s that circulated among the staff at the bank where my mom worked when I was still in high school.

Eventually, the bank employees put together a cookbook. The lemon cake recipe, along with a few other favorites, was typewritten on a manual typewriter. (There are LOADS of good recipes in that little book!) The instructions were often incomplete, and the staff made the whole thing on a mimeograph machine (a forerunner of today's amazing copiers!)

Some of you will have to Google that term! But my age group still remembers turning the crank to make copies and the wonderful smell that emanated from the device!

I think the cookbook project ended up being a lot more work than the staff anticipated, which is why it was given the title "1st & LAST' edition.

The orange cover fell off my original copy of that little book, and it got lost when we moved from the farm. Two big blue rubber bands from celery stalks held it together towards the end. (I still save rubber bands.) The copy I have now belonged to my mom. As you can see, the cover has been taped. Between the pages are yellowed recipes she had clipped from newspapers.

The most-used pages are spattered with grease stains and bits of batter. The very best recipes in any cookbook are always bookmarked that way. And often, our favorite recipe cards in the box are stained, dog-eared, and handwritten.

You And Everyone Else Will Love This Cake

My best high school friend Nancy had uncanny lemon cake radar and would mysteriously show up somehow whenever my Mom baked one. (Or, I called and told her!) Lemon cake is a perfect dessert for spring (and summer, and fall, and winter!)

I have baked more lemon cakes than every other cake combined because everyone loves it.

"When life gives you lemons, make lemon cake!" ~Nancy Rogers Williams


Working Women And Cake Mixes In The Age Of Aquarius

In the 1960s, women began entering the workforce in large numbers. That changed what happened in kitchens everywhere. Cake mixes and instant pudding were embraced enthusiastically. Women became very creative in using them and invented all kinds of fun cakes and desserts with them.

It was a legendary age, to be sure. Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and Lemon Cake were all icons of an era. To this day, it's still a winner and a family favorite. It's moist, dense, and topped with a slightly crunchy glaze. Pure bliss! It's great topped with ice cream, heaped with spring berries, or all by itself.

This awesome recipe uses a lemon cake mix and instant lemon pudding. It works best with a basic lemon cake mix, one without pudding in the mix or "extra moist."

If you use a more deluxe cake mix, you often end up with a swaybacked cake with a caved-in center. In my experience, the cheapest, most basic lemon cake mix works best. I stock up and buy two or three every time I find them on sale!

Here's How To Whip Up This Easy Delicious Cake In A Jiffy

Dump the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, and oil in a mixing bowl and beat it at medium speed until everything is well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a time or two while you're at it.

Don't overbeat. The added pudding produces a thick batter. Stop mixing when everything is well blended. If you beat too long, the cake will poof up when it bakes like a '60s bouffant hairdo and then deflates, leaving a sad-looking swaybacked cake. 

I like to set the mixing bowl right in my sink, so any splatters are corraled and easily rinsed away! It's a lazy lady's time saver! Pour the batter into a 13" by 9" pan you sprayed or buttered. Bake it in a 350-degree oven for about 25 minutes.

While the cake is baking, stir up the glaze. You'll pour it onto the cake while it's still hot from the oven. The glaze is just powdered sugar, lemon juice, and a little bit of oil. If you want to give it a boost, you can add some butter flavoring and lemon extract. I always do; I guess I like kicking things up a notch.

It's very important to bake the cake until it pulls back a little bit from the edges of the pan. If it's underbaked, the middle will sink, and your cake will taste great but not look as pretty. The edges should look like this before you pull it out of the oven.

Add The Tangy Glaze For The Finishing Touch

While it's still hot from the oven, you'll poke it full of holes with a big fork. If you don't have a big fork, use the fork you have to make more holes! Poke, poke, poke!

Now, pour the glaze over the hot, thirsty cake. Use a rubber spatula to work the glaze into the cake, pulling it up from the edges of the pan until it's evenly distributed. The glaze will disappear into the cake!

It looks perfect! Now, just let it cool and get ready for a treat! There are pictures from several different batches because I make it so often! It's a winner every time!

Easy Lemon Cake Travels Like A Champ

I love baking lemon cakes in a disposable pan; the ones with a clear plastic lid are available at the dollar store. There's no frosting to mess up in transit, so it travels well. This cake keeps for days, but in my experience, it never lasts that long!

It's always a favorite at a bake sale, church picnic, or funeral dinner. I've had so many requests for the recipe that I always tape a copy on the lid!

If You're Real Lucky You Get A Corner Piece Of Lemon Cake

Who will be the lucky one? It's a true story. My grown daughters love this cake, but they ADORE the slightly crispy, glaze-soaked edges.

When they think I'm not looking, they sneak pieces an inch wide all along the sides of the cake until it looks like an island in the pan!! It makes me laugh every time, but they know how to find the choicest bites!

Once, I made this into a two-layer lemon cake for a birthday party. I used some of my homemade lemon curd for the filling and lemon buttercream frosting on top. It was a hit, too!

Here are some more sweet goodies that start with a cake mix! Triple Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake, GB's Candy Bar Poke Cake Recipe, and Coconut, Chocolate "Almond Enjoy" Cake


Yield: 15 servings

Best Lemon Cake Ever

lemon cake

A moist, dense cake with a tart, crunchy, lemony glaze. This recipe has been around since the 1960s!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 2 minutes
Total Time 37 minutes


  • Cake:
  • 1 box lemon cake mix without pudding in the mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 small box instant lemon pudding
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • Glaze:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice, you can also use orange juice or lime juice.
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon extract (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. butter flavoring (optional)


    Combine the cake mix, oil, eggs, pudding mix, and water.

    Beat until well mixed but do not overbeat because you’ll get a poofy cake that may sink in the middle.

    Pour the batter into a sprayed 9" x 13" pan.

    Bake for about 25 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

    While cake bakes, mix the glaze ingredients.

    To test if the cake is done, a cake tester or toothpick should come out clean, the top should spring back when touched lightly, and the cake should pull back slightly from the edges of the pan. Do not underbake.

    While the cake is still hot, use a fork to poke holes all over the cake. Pour the glaze on the hot cake. Use a rubber spatula to coax the glaze into holes.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 351Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 51mgSodium: 313mgCarbohydrates: 49gFiber: 1gSugar: 32gProtein: 3g
Yield: One pint

Five Ingredient Lemon Curd

lemon curd

Incredible smooth and silky spread that's tart but sweet and buttery for desserts and more

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3-4 fresh lemons zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup butter cut into pats
  • pinch salt


  1. Use the fine side of a grater (or a zester if you have one) to remove the zest from lemons. Use only the yellow part. Set zest aside to put in the lemon curd.
  2. Put lemons in a bowl of hot water or microwave whole lemon until warm, then roll on the counter to soften.
  3. Extract the juice with a juicer or squeeze the lemon half between your hands. Remove seeds. Measure 1/3 cup of juice.
  4. Whisk egg yolks and sugar together until well blended, then put on a low-medium or low stovetop or double boiler.
  5. When the egg/sugar mixture begins to warm, add lemon juice, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt. Mix well.
  6. Cook slowly over low heat, constantly stirring until the mixture begins to look translucent and coats the back of the spoon. Do not let it boil.
  7. Once bubbles begin to form as it approaches boiling, remove from heat and stir the butter in a few pats at a time until completely melted.
  8. Pour into a wide-mouth pint jar and put the lid on immediately. If you pour the mixture into a bowl, put plastic film directly on the surface so a film will not form on top.
  9. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 weeks.
Yield: Enough for oOne layer of cake

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Here is a light, luscious, tangy lemon buttercream frosting recipe.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 3/4 cup of butter (one and 1/2 stick) at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 4 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream


  1. Beat the powdered sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter. Begin with the mixer at low speed.
  2. Gradually increase the speed until all the ingredients are well combined.
  3. Add whipping cream gradually and continue beating until you achieve the desired light, smooth, and silky spreading consistency

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4 comments on “How To Make The Best Easy Lemon Cake”

  1. This is the exact recipe my family has used! It is my go too birthday cake for myself. Perfect for dreary days! It always makes me smile!

    1. I wish you lived next door, Jane. We could have a ton of fun! I have both recipes and they are both yummy. Recently, there was a mysterious pudding shortage in the local stores and I made the jello version. It's awesome, too! The one with pudding was in the bank cookbook where my mama worked, so it's been our go-to for years!!

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