Although I am always and forever team chocolate, I do make an exception when it comes to lemon, particularly when the word “lemon” is being followed by the words “snacking” and “cake.” Here, I have riffed off of a lemon cake of my grandmother’s, one from which I enjoyed countless slices growing up. My grandmother’s cake, I learned many years after the fact, was actually one that she made using a boxed cake mix. It was over-the-top moist, uber lemon-y and each bite hit all the right sweet, yet tart, notes. Moreover, it didn’t hurt that the whole thing was drizzled in a lemon glaze that shattered wonderfully each time I took a bite.
My snacking cake version does not call for a boxed mix, in case you were wondering, but full disclosure: my goal with this recipe – and really with all my snacking cake recipes – is for it to taste just as delicious and to have just as soft a crumb, as the Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines’ cakes of my youth – and of those there were many. I did not grow up in a home where homemade cakes were offered up on the regular, and thus I developed a true – dare I say – passion for those of the boxed variety.
In this instance, I achieved the “cake from a mix” taste and texture via oil, instead of butter, a few yolks and only a single whole egg (for moistness and color), a little lemon extract for an added burst of flavor and cake flour, instead of all-purpose, for an extra tender and fine crumb. Moreover, I created a one-bowl lemon snacking cake, as the easy peasy assembly of a cake from a mix cannot be beat. Finally, on the off chance boxed cakes are not really your jam, and no worries: we can still be friends, I also added copious amounts of lemon zest and freshly-squeezed juice, as well as sour cream for tang and tenderness (and, yes, it’s true, you’d be hard pressed to find any of those ingredients in a lemon cake of Betty’s or Duncan’s).
In short, I am pretty confident you will love this lemon snacking cake, whether you are a boxed cake mix fan, or not. The ease and speed with which it comes together and bakes, the smell that will fill your kitchen when you pull it from the oven, and the arrival of something so bright, tart and citrus-y to go along with the shorter days and colder temps, is most definitely something with which we can all get on board.
One-Bowl Lemon Snacking Cake
For the cake:
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 3 tbsps lemon zest about 3 large lemons
- 1/2 tsp lemon extract optional
- 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 large egg
- 2 yolks
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice about 3 large lemons
- 2/3 cup sour cream
- 2 cups cake flour sifted
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the glaze:
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 5 1/4 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
To make the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x8x2-inch pan with cooking spray, or softened butter. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar and zest and using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until fully incorporated. Add the extracts and oil and whisk again. Add the egg and yolks, one at a time, whisking between each addition. Add the juice and the sour cream, whisking a final time to incorporate.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt onto a sheet of parchment paper. Using the paper as a funnel, pour the dry ingredients into the wet in three additions, folding gently with a flexible spatula after each (alternatively, you can sift directly into the bowl of wet ingredients in three installments).
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 33 minutes, rotating at the halfway point, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a moist crumb or two.
- Set the pan on a cooling rack and let the cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert the cake right side up on to the rack and place it in a baking sheet with sides.
To make the glaze:
- Place the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk vigorously until smooth. Gently pour the glaze over the cake, spreading it with an offset spatula so it drips over the edges. Let the cake cool to room temperature before serving.
- The cake is incredibly moist and will keep tightly wrapped in plastic wrap on the counter for 3 to 5 days.