La La La Lemon Cake

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Anyone who has ever dabbled in the kitchen has an arsenal of recipes that always work.  Call them what you want: sure things, shoo-ins, ace-in-the-hole.  It doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that they turn out every single time.  Ina Garten’s Lemon Yogurt Cake is one of those recipes.  As versatile as Ryan Seacrest (wait…did I lose you there…sorry).  Let’s try this again.  As versatile as a pair of black Manolo Blahnik pumps, this little gem does everything.  Call it a loaf and you can serve it for breakfast or at brunch.  Call it a cake and magically, it’s dessert.  Smother it in blueberry sauce and you can call it whatever you want.  People will still devour it.

Let’s talk a moment about that “Y” word in the title.  Yes. Yogurt.  Or Yoghurt.  Back when I was a little girl, my mom used to make frozen yogurt pie as a dessert.  Yes, she also used to feed us carob by the pound.  Explains a lot doesn’t it?  Anyhow, her yogurt pie was literally yogurt from the carton (usually berry), poured into a pie tin and then frozen in the freezer.  And while it tasted about as good as you think it would, it was healthy.  True, Lemon Yogurt Cake does have yogurt in it.  However, I make no pretense that it is healthy.  The yogurt makes it extra moist.  And extra good.  And that should be enough without pretending to add “healthy” to the whole thing.

I should note here that while the recipe below makes a single loaf, I always double it because really, what else are you going to do with plain, full-fat yogurt?  Doubling the recipe works great.

Lemons abound in this recipe.  They are in the batter, in the syrup and in them glaze.  Mmmmm….lemony….

This is also a no-machinery, two bowl recipe.  Dry ingredients get mixed into one bowl.  In another goes all wet ingredients but the oil.  And please, take the time to whisk in each egg individually.

After the dry ingredient are mixed in to the wet ingredients, adding the oil is the final step. It’s a little laborious, but be gentle.  And patient.

While your loaf is loafing in the oven, it’s time to make the syrup.  This is just a simple syrup: lemon juice and sugar.  Pour them into the pan, bring to a simmer, turn off the heat and let it cool (you could strain-out the lemon pulp but I don’t).

When the cakes come out, let them cool for about 10 minutes.

Then, while they are still warm you want to remove them from their cozy little pans, ambush them, and stab them all over with a bamboo skewer.  This is where the “adapted” part of the recipe comes in.  I’ve always done this.  However, when recently reviewing the recipe I realized that Ina’s recipe in no way suggests this form of violence.  There is a reason we always hurt the ones we love.  In this case it is to better distribute the syrupy goodness.

Once the cakes are liberated from their pans and resting on a cooling rack over a cookie pan (or a similar contraption that will allow the wayward syrup to drain), slowly pour syrup over loaf.


Things can easily end here.  Just let the loaf cool and you are in business.  I usually end here if serving this for brunch.  But if you want to add one more layer of lemon, a simple icing of confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice makes this recipe even better.

Lemon Yogurt Cake

Slightly adapted from Ina Garten


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease, flour and line pan with parchment.

Sift  together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.  In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pierce cake all over with a bamboo skewer than pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

5 thoughts on “La La La Lemon Cake”

  1. Wonder what would happen if I made this as a more traditional “cake” (aka: round and two layers) and covered it with fondant… I’m looking for extra moist cakes to use. Maybe without the glaze? or does the glaze soak in enough do you think?

  2. I love this recipe and make this cake all the time. Last time I added fresh blueberries, which did not add much (in fact, they weighed down the cake, making it rather soggy). I’ve never tried the icing but it looks beautiful!

  3. I think the glaze definitely soaks in enough. In fact, many professional bakers add a syrup in between the layers of a layer cake just to keep the cake moist. The cake might be a little heavy (I am literally referring to weight…even a single loaf is substantial)–but, I definitely think it would work. I think a single batch would make one 8 or 9 inch round (a thick one though).

  4. I’ve always thought blueberries or raspberries would be really good in this recipe–I love the flavor combos. I’m sad to hear it didn’t quite work. I wonder about using dried fruit.

  5. Made it to the Global trips meeting a couple of weeks ago. People love it and they thought that I was such a master of baking. Nope, the secret is it was your recipe, Shannon. Thanks a lot for sharing the recipe. Everyone who ever tried this, they love it. Even my husband, who is a chocolate monster, does eat a lot of this lemon cake that doesn’t have chocolate. THANKS

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