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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 cake.” Here, I have riffed off of a lemon cake of my grandmother’s, one I enjoyed countless slices from growing up. Many years later, I learned my grandmother’s cake was actually 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. 

Related Reading: A Chocolate Snacking Cake with a Secret Ingredient

Although my lemon snacking cake does not call for a boxed mix,  my goal with this recipe—and really with all my snacking cake recipes—is for it to taste just as delicious and have just as soft a crumb as the Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines’ cakes of my youth. I did not grow up in a home where homemade cakes were offered up on the regular, and thus I developed a true love—nay dare I say passion—for boxed cakes.

Jessie Sheehan

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). Plus, I’ve included a little lemon extract for an added burst of flavor, and cake flour instead of all-purpose for an extra tender and fine crumb. 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). Lest you worry, these ingredients succeed in firmly cementing this lemon snacking cake’s place in the “made-from-scratch” lane.

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In short, I am confident that you will love this lemon snacking cake, whether you are a boxed cake mix fan or not. No matter where your cake allegiance lies, you’ll appreciate that it only calls for one bowl, mimicking the easy peasy assembly of a cake from a mix, as well as the smell that fills your kitchen when you pull it from the oven. The arrival of something so bright, tart, and citrusy to go along with the shorter days and colder temps is definitely something we can all agree on.

One-Bowl Lemon Snacking Cake Recipe

This cake is super moist and will last out of the fridge for three to five days—that is if you don’t devour it as soon as it emerges from the oven.

One-Bowl Lemon Snacking Cake

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Ingredients
  • For the cake: 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp 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 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • For the glaze: 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 5 1/4 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Instructions
  1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8x2-inch pan with cooking spray, or softened butter. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. The cake is incredibly moist and will keep tightly wrapped in plastic wrap on the counter for 3 to 5 days.

Header image by Jessie Sheehan.

Jessie Sheehan is a cookbook author, food writer, recipe developer, and baker. She is the author of The Vintage Baker (one of the Washington Post’s best cookbooks of 2018) and the co-author of Icebox Cakes (both published by Chronicle Books). She has developed recipes for many cookbooks, besides her own, and has contributed recipes/and or written for Rachael Ray Everyday, the Washington Post, Better Homes & Garden, Yankee Magazine (October 2020), Epicurious, Food52, Fine Cooking, TASTE, Chowhound, Yummly, Spruce Eats, and Little Sous, among others. She blogs at jessiesheehanbakes.com and can be found on Instagram at @jessiesheehanbakes. She likes layer cakes with lots of frosting and cookies that are thick and chewy. Oh, and she has a soft spot for chocolate pudding. She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn, with her husband and two boys, not far from her beloved Baked, the bakery where she got her start.
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