• Yield: Makes 10 portions

There are those among you who swear the best damn lemon cake is The Best Damn Lemon Cake. I thought so too…until this recipe was sent to me by my daughter, Toni, who lived on East 62nd Street when she began to make it. When I sent this recipe to my friend Craig Claiborne, he printed it in the New York Times. It became amazingly popular. Devin, the young man who took care of our swimming pool, once even baked this cake on his charcoal grill (he didn’t have an oven). It came out perfectly!

Note: I have a Key lime tree. I have made this with 1/2 cup Key lime juice in the glaze in place of the 1/3 cup lemon juice and it is divine. (But you should continue to use the lemon zest in the cake itself.)


  • 3 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 cup milk

  • Finely grated zest of 2 large lemons


  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

  • 2/3 cup sugar

Happiness is Baking Happiness is Baking by Maida Heatter


Adjust an oven rack one-third up from the bottom of oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a plain or fancy tube pan with an 11- to 12-cup capacity and dust it lightly with fine, dry bread crumbs.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In large bowl of electric mixer, beat the butter to soften it a bit. Add the sugar and beat for 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs individually, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula to keep mixture smooth. On lowest speed, alternately add the dry ingredients in three additions and the milk in two additions, scraping the bowl with the rubber spatula as necessary and beating only until incorporated after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Stir in lemon zest. Turn the batter into prepared pan. Level top by rotating pan briskly back and forth.

Bake for 1 hour and 5 to 10 minutes, until a cake tester comes out dry.

Let cake stand in the pan for about 5 minutes and then cover with a rack and invert. Place over a large piece of aluminum foil or wax paper.

For the glaze:

The glaze should be used immediately after it is mixed: Stir the lemon juice and sugar together and brush all over the hot cake until absorbed. Let cake cool completely. Use two wide metal pancake turners or a cookie sheet to transfer it to a cake plate. Do not cut for at least several hours.

Recipe excerpted from Happiness is Baking by Maida Heatter. Copyright 2019 Little, Brown and Company.

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