lemon trees and cake

lemon cake 7-27-14My father scorned Meyer lemons. Growing his own lemons made him, and all of our family, partial to the intensity of a Normal Lemon. If anyone wants to give me lemons, Meyer or otherwise, I will never turn them down, but I also prefer what I grew up with.



When I cook with lemons I usually think of my father and our trees. If as I child I ever found my father lying on the living room floor it was not because he’d been wrestling with my brother, but more like he’d been wrestling with those trees. During pruning season he’d invariably put his back out doing that necessary work on our ten acres (We had twenty more acres in oranges.) That would be more than a thousand lemon trees.

precious zest

I learned to drive a tractor before I was old enough to drive a car, because Daddy needed me to pull a trailer between the rows when my sisters and I were picking the second, smaller crop of lemons that wasn’t worth hiring a whole picking crew for.

In those pictures that I retain in my mind, my brother wasn’t old enough to buckle down and help yet. He was sitting under a lemon tree crying, and the dust mixed with his tears to make a miserable face.  I must say that he’s more than made up for it in the years since, and is one of the most buckled down and hardworking people on the planet.P1100844eggs

a grandma’s trusty old sifter

The latest thing I cooked with lemons is this meltingly appealing cake, which Mr. Glad requested for his birthday last month. That he wanted cake was very strange, because it’s been Blackberry Pie as long as anyone can remember, and a good month to be born if you want that. But I was happy to oblige with the cake, and I devoted most of one Saturday to making it, so I had plenty of time to enjoy the process.

In the past I’d only baked this glazed cake for tea parties that I used to have in a bygone era. Now that it’s been revived in my repertoire I’ll want to make it more often. It uses a lot of lemons in the form of juice, and in this recent case, even more fruits to get enough lemon zest to impart the deep lemony flavor. It can be made up to three days ahead and freezes well.

Lemon-Sour Cream Cake


1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large or extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon minced lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 cup sour cream

The Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely minced lemon zest


Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9-inch lightweight Bundt pan. Sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder together into a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

very thick and fluffy batter

In a medium mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, or in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, minced zest and lemon extract and mix for 2 more minutes.

Reduce the speed to low or pulse with the food processor. Add half of the flour mixture and mix until well combined. Add half of the sour cream, mixing constantly, then add the rest of the flour and sour cream, ending with the sour cream.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and remove the pan. Make the glaze while the cake is still warm.

P1100842To make the glaze, using a fine-meshed strainer, sift the powdered sugar into a small, non-aluminum bowl. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest and whisk to break up lumps.

Transfer the cake to a rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet lined with wax paper. Using a long skewer, poke holes in the cake at 1-inch intervals, almost going through to the bottom. Slowly pour the glaze over the cake, giving it time to absorb as you pour. Let the cake cool to room temperature. Cut into wedges and serve.


Every time I make this cake, about 1/4 cup of the glaze ends up on the baking sheet under the cake, and would be wasted and washed down the drain in all its precious lemonzestiness if I didn’t find a way to use it. This timP1100881e I whipped some heavy cream and slowly drizzled the syrup into it at the end when it was getting nice and thick. I froze the mixture in custard cups, and ate one of them the next day. It was quite delicious!

17 thoughts on “lemon trees and cake

  1. that’s lovely; what a good lemon cake! and that lemon cream, how delicious! and what a neat story of your childhood with lemon and orange trees! sounds magical, beautiful and very worth remembering. Now I wish I could share a cup of tea with you to go with it! Will light a candle instead in prayer for you and your family with love!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my, I want to come live at your house! All this delicious lemony goodness! The cake looks really delicious, but I am a true devotee of whipped cream so your frozen concoction is what really appeals to me right now on this hot Southern California afternoon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s a lot of lemon (and orange) trees for your father to prune. No wonder he spent time laying on the floor.

    We are thrilled that we have one producing Meyer lemon tree here in our garden on Vancouver Island. Meyers can take a little more cold than sharper lemons.

    Your cake sounds delicious! Lemon is a great favourite around here.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing. I love a REAL, tart lemony dessert, and cakes so often trick the eater — they MIGHT be lemon, the glaze is lemon, but the cake (sadly) is just an ordinary pound cake. Blah. A good lemon cake is a treasure! I’ll come back to this recipe if I need one.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am going to make this lovely lemon cake. I bet it is so wonderful. In our other house we had a standard lemon tree. I miss that tree. It produced lemons better than any tree I have ever had. My Mom and Dad bought us a Meyer Lemon when we moved here. My kids eat the lemons like candy, peel and all when they get ripe. They are nice. I miss my other lemon though. I always had enough lemons and juice to freeze.

    I love that you worked in the groves with your sister. Your poor Dad working so hard. We started our fall trimming Ron and I and I still can’t sew yet because my wrists took such a beating. I know how much work goes into trimming trees like that.

    I loved your remembrances thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How funny 😉 I thought the same when I planted a Eureka lemon and not a Meyer. This cake sounds scrumptious and I’m looking forward to trying it (with GF flour). I bet the house smelled heavenly while this was baking.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the story of your lemony childhood driving tractor during picking time. It made me smile. The lemon cake looks and sounds really delicious. I love lemons of any kind. We have to find ours at the grocery store. I absolutely love the lemons I get from my friend who lives in Phoenix during the winter months. SO ripe and juicy!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love your description of driving the tractor. Now, did you dad sell lemons and oranges? What a treat to grow up with these. I love all things lemon and lemon cake is a favorite of mine. Your little concoction of lemon glaze and cream sounds delicious, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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