If you’re looking for a lemon cake that’s surprisingly moist, slightly dense and full of flavor, then look no further! Pierre Hermé’s recipe is easy to make and can be used for a Bundt cake, a loaf cake or even cupcakes.
To make this lemon cake, you will need to prepare two things: the lemon cake batter and a syrup, to brush over the cake once it’s baked. All the steps are straightforward but I thought I’d share some tips with you first, to make sure you get the best cake possible!
Tips To Achieve The Optimal Texture And Flavor
- Don’t overbake the cake: Check for doneness before the recommended baking time as it might differ in your oven. If you bake it for too long, your cake will be dry.
- Use cake flour: Cake flour has a lower protein content (6-8%) than all-purpose flour (9.5-11.5%), which means less gluten is formed. Using cake flour will yield a soft and tender cake with a fine crumb. If you don’t have cake flour, you can make it yourself by using all-purpose flour and cornstarch. You simply replace part of the flour with cornstarch and sift them together 2-3 times (you can find the amounts in the recipe card notes).
- Mix as little as possible: Once you add the flour, mix just until the batter looks smooth to avoid developing too much gluten, which would lead to a tough cake.
- Don’t skip the syrup: The cake will absorb the syrup, making it very moist. You’ll also be able to enjoy the cake for several days without it drying out.
- Weigh the ingredients: I would recommend weighing all the ingredients, even the liquids such as the heavy cream and lemon juice.
Making Lemon Cake, Step-by-Step
Make lemon sugar
- Place the sugar in a large mixing bowl.
- Wash and dry the lemons then grate the top layer of the lemons over the sugar. Don’t grate the pith (white part) of the lemon which is bitter. Use organic lemons if possible, to avoid any pesticide residues.
- Rub the sugar and lemon zest with your fingertips to release the essential oils. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare your pan. Grease and flour a 26 cm (10 1/4 inch, 10-cup capacity) Bundt pan. You can use a 9-inch loaf pan if you prefer. If you do, I would recommend greasing the pan then lining it with parchment paper as we did when making the marble cake.
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside. Sift the cornstarch as well, if making homemade cake flour. You’ll need to sift 2-3 times if you are using all-purpose flour instead of cake flour.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C (338°F), conventional setting.
Prepare the lemon cake batter
- Melt the butter in the microwave (or on the stove) and set aside to cool down while you prepare the cake batter.
- Add the eggs to the sugar mixture and mix on low speed until lightened in color, about 5 minutes.
- Add the rum (or lemon juice), heavy cream and salt and mix again until combined. Scrape the bowl as needed.
- Gradually add the sifted flour mixture (in 4-5 additions) to the batter and fold it in using a spatula. If you have trouble getting rid of flour lumps, briefly mix using a hand mixer. Don’t overmix to avoid developing too much gluten, which would make your cake tough.
- Add the melted (and cooled) butter and fold it in just until combined and the batter looks homogeneous.
Bake the lemon cake
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. If using a loaf pan, you will need to bake for longer, about 60 minutes. It’s best to check the cake 5-10 minutes before the recommended time to ensure your cake isn’t overbaked and dry.
Brush the cake with syrup
A few minutes before the end of the baking time, start preparing the syrup.
- Simply boil together the sugar and water, stirring occasionally to make sure the sugar has fully dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Don’t boil the syrup for too long. If too much water evaporates, the syrup will be thick and won’t seep into the cake properly. Turn off the heat when you see bubbles forming.
- Once the cake is fully baked, let it cool down slightly for 5-10 minutes before inverting it onto a wire rack (if using a Bundt pan). If using a loaf pan, lift it out of the pan by holding the parchment paper and place it on the wire rack. Brush the hot cake with syrup. Gradually add all the syrup. Don’t pour it all at once or the top of the cake will get soggy and start falling apart. Wait a little for the cake to soak up the syrup before adding more. If you feel like the cake isn’t absorbing the syrup properly, you can poke a few holes in the cake. Some of the syrup might drip from the sides. If you don’t want to dirty your work surface, place a tray under the wire rack to collect the syrup. If using a loaf pan, you can brush the cake while it is still in the pan, to minimize syrup leakage. You’ll just have to be more careful when you unmold the cake. Wait 5 minutes after you’ve finished brushing it with syrup and then unmold it. I haven’t tried inverting the Bundt cake after brushing with syrup so I’m not sure if it would work without ruining the cake.
- Let the cake cool completely on the wire rack before transferring to a serving platter. Optional: Cover tightly in plastic wrap while the cake is warm, to keep all the moisture in. This step is much easier when making a loaf cake but you could just cover the top of the cake if using a Bundt pan.
And that’s it! This lemon cake is really easy to make and is the perfect travel cake! It will keep very well for several days and will actually taste even better than the first day!