This lemon snack cakes uses both fresh lemon juice and zest to help bring out the delicious citrus flavor.
Introducing my cake baby. What I mean is this is the very first ever cake recipe I have created and I am sharing it with you. This is my cake child, my cake baby and I am so proud of her. This cake had many trials and errors, lots of education reading, and I think I made about 7 of them until I landed on this recipe. It is full of lemon flavor, but not overpowering either. It pairs beautifully well with cream cheese frosting (flavored with lemon or not).
I was so hesitant at first to create a cake recipe. It is still a huge learning curve for me, so I read articles from King Arthur Baking and Bob's Red Mill (to name a few). I also read other dessert blogger's recipes and method explanations to try and understand why they created the dessert the way they did. Dessert bloggers such as Sam from Buttermilk By Sam, Kayla from Broken Oven Baking, Sally from Sally's Baking Addiction and Jenna from Butternut Bakery. All enormously talented and creative in their own unique way.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Easy To Make. If you are a cake enthusiast, or a cake newbie, making cakes can sometimes be...a lot. Lots of methods, lots of ingredients, lots of work. I tried to keep this one simple. Single layer, nothing too fancy - but that doesn't mean we skimp on flavor.
Smaller Portion. Most cake recipes are made to create a 2 or 3 tier cake. That's fabulous if you are hoping to feed 15+ people. This recipe is intended for those intimate celebrations, smaller scale group - roughly 6 to 8 people. Can you double to make a two layer? Absolutely.
Room Temperature Ingredients. This is probably the most important for this recipe because your cake will not come out as intended if you are using cold ingredients. Don't melt your butter either - that will not yield the same cake within this recipe. Take your cold ingredients out at least 30 minutes to 1 hour prior. I recommend cutting the butter into large 1" cubes to help speed along the process. You can place your eggs in warm water to help cut down on time as well.
Weigh Your Ingredients. You will have a better chance of success with this recipe if you weigh your ingredients. A kitchen scale is a low cost investment - as low as $10 if you purchase a simple one on Amazon. Volume measurements are provided for your convenience as well.
Use An Oven Thermometer. I just purchased a new oven thermometer for $6 from Amazon. Our ovens can run hot or colder than what is shown, so I highly recommend an oven thermometer so you can ensure the recipe you are baking is not under or over baked.
Follow The Recipe. I am guilty of sometimes skipping over steps, or combining ingredients even when a recipe clearly says not to....and I've realized to just trust the author's process.
- Cake Flour. We are utilizing cake flour in this recipe to help achieve a soft and tender crumb. If you do not have cake flour you can make a substitute using 105 g (¾ cup + 2 tbsp) of all purpose flour with 14 g (2 tbsp) of corn starch for each cup of flour. You can use only all purpose flour but your cake will be denser (but still delicious!).
- Butter. You want to use softened butter here. To soften butter simply remove from the fridge at least 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to use. You will know the butter is ready when you push a finger into the butter and it gives a bit but does not entirely mush. You can help speed along the softening process by cutting the butter into slices or cubes.
- Kefir. My friend Sam from Buttermilk By Sam introduced me to Kefir about two years ago. It is a great substitute for buttermilk and has become my go to as a replacement. While buttermilk is a fermented milk, kefir is a yogurt resulting from bacterial fermentation of milk (read more about it from Bob's Red Mill). Kefir lasts much longer than buttermilk and provides the same amazing tenderness.
- Lemons. We can't have lemon cake without lemon. But no extract here. Instead we are going to rely on the lemons juice plus its zest to help enhance the flavor of the cake. We will zest the lemon over the sugar and then use our fingers to help distribute its oil among the sugar. The lemon juice we add in during the prep process to help pull out even more lemon flavor.
- Canola Oil. You can also use vegetable oil. The oil will help give the cake moisture so don't skip this step. I would not recommend substituting with another flavored oil such as avocado, coconut or olive. Those can disrupt the flavor of the lemon we are trying to achieve.
Let's Make Some Lemon Cake
This recipe uses baking tools and ingredients that can be found in most homes. Please see recipe card for full list of equipment and ingredients.
Step 1. Weigh out the sugar in a small bowl, and then zest both lemons over sugar. Using your fingers you will rub the sugar and zest together to release the oils. Do this until the sugar looks/feels like wet sand.
Step 2. Add softened butter and using a hand mixer or stand mixer (whisk attachment), mix on medium high until the mixture is light and pale yellow (about 3 to 5 minutes).
Step 3. Butter sugar mixture should have soft peaks and be light yellow.
Step 4. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the oil. Once all added turn mixer on medium low and mix until well combined - about 1 minute.
Step 5. Butter, sugar and oil mixture should be well combined and smooth when done mixing.
Step 6. Add eggs one at a time, and mix on medium until well combined. Repeat with each egg.
Step 7. Add lemon juice and mix on low until just combined. Mixture should look light and creamy.
Step 8. Sift together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt), and add ½ of dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix on low until the dry ingredients are just combined.
Step 9. Add in kefir and mix on low until just combined.
Step 10. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix on low until you see only some streaks of flour remaining.
Step 11. Using a rubber spatula to gently fold in the remaining flour into the mixture until just combined. Do not over mix.
Step 12. Butter and flour a 8x8 baking pan (or a 9x9 as shown in the photo), and add in lemon cake batter.
Step 13. Use spatula to gently and evenly distribute batter across the baking pan. Gently shake and tap on counter to help even it out. Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes (in a 8x8 pan), or until a toothpick comes out clean/only a few crumbs.
Step 14. Remove from oven when done and place on wire rack to cool. Allow to cool in pan for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then remove from baking pan and allow to cool completely on wire rack.
Room Temperature Ingredients. Do not make the mistake of beginning this recipe without having the necessary ingredients to room temperature. Butter, eggs and kefir should all be at room temperature when beginning the recipe. If your ingredients are not room temperature it can cause the batter to curdle (see Troubleshooting tips below).
Don't Over Mix. This is especially important towards the end when you are combining the dry ingredients with the wet. After adding the last of the dry ingredients mix on low until you see most of the flour incorporated. Then use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the remaining flour. The batter will be light and airy and over mixing can result in excess gluten formation which can lead to a denser cake.
Baking Pan. You can bake in either a 9x9 or 8x8 aluminized steel pan. I have not attempted this recipe in a glass baking dish. If you are baking in a 8x8 you will bake for about 40 minutes (test for doneness with a toothpick), and if baking in a 9x9 you will bake for about 30 minutes (make sure to use toothpick to test for doneness).
Frosting. This recipe pairs beautifully with a lemon cream cheese frosting. I used Kayla's Cream Cheese frosting recipe but added 1 tbsp of lemon juice to help enhance the lemon flavor of the cake. American Buttercream also pairs well, and is my go to frosting for decorating cakes (as shown in the photos).
Batter Curdles. Your batter will curdle (look like cottage cheese) if your ingredients were not at room temperature. When the batter curdles it essentially 'breaks' - or the cake batter is unable to emulsify. If you find the batter curdling simply add 3 to 4 tablespoons of the sifted dry ingredients to the batter and mix on low.
This cake is meant to be enjoyed the same day or the next day after baking for optimal freshness and flavor. You can refrigerate for up to 5 days but I recommend wrapping well in plastic wrap to trap in freshness. Remove from refrigerator a few hours prior to enjoying to allow it to come to room temperature. It can also stay fresh on the counter for up to 3 days if not frosted.
Lemon Snack Cake
- 8x8 pan
- stand mixer or hand mixer with whisk attachment
- silicone spatula
- mixing bowls
- 2 cup cake flour 250 g
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened 227 g
- 1 cup sugar 200 g
- 3 ea eggs, room temperature
- ⅓ cup canola oil 60 g
- ½ cup Kefir plain, room temperature 110 g
- 1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 2 ea lemons
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Measure sugar into a small bowl. Zest both lemons over sugar, and rub zest and sugar together until the oils are well distributed. Sugar should feel like wet sand. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl measure together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sift well and set aside.
- Combine sugar and butter in a bowl and mix on medium high speed until well creamed - about 3 to 5 minutes.
- With mixer on low speed slowly drizzle in oil into butter sugar mixture. Turn on medium speed and mix for 1 minute until well combined.
- Add one egg to mixture and mix on medium low until well combined. Repeat with each egg making sure to mix well before adding the next.
- Add lemon juice and mix on low until just combined.
- Add ½ of dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix on low until most of the flour is incorporated.
- Add kefir and mix on low until just incorporated.
- Add remaining dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix on low until just a few streaks of flour remain.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in remaining flour until just combined.
- Butter and flour 8x8 baking pan. Pour batter into baking pan and use spatula to distribute batter evenly.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs.
- Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool. After 20 minutes remove cake from baking pan and allow to completely cool on wire rack.
- Decorate with cream cheese frosting or American buttercream.
- Make sure the butter, eggs and kefir are at room temperature. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before baking. Slice butter into cubes to allow to come to room temperature faster. Place eggs in warm water to help come to room temperature faster.
- Use a kitchen scale to weigh ingredients to ensure best results.
- Recipe calls for 8x8 baking pan, but you can use a 9x9 as well. If using 9x9 bake for about 30 minutes or until tooth pick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs.