The Lemoniest Lemon Sheet Cake
If you’re looking for a simple to make lemon cake with bold citrus flavor and a soft and fluffy texture, look no further! This cake is bright and refreshing with a tender crumb that melts in the mouth!
Attention all “Lemaniacs” around the world!
Listen up and look closely, for I have THE cake for you!
A super lemony, pucker-up-your-lips, tangy cake with your name written all over it.
It is the cake for serious lemon lovers who can’t get enough of that refreshingly zesty flavor, and have a hankering tooth for that sweet-tart deliciousness.
Fellow Lemaniacs…I present you with sunshine in a pan.
Nothing subtle or mild about this one. It is as in-your-face, loud and clear with citrus flavor as can be.
It is the lemoniest lemon cake I’ve ever had! Even more-so than the reader favorite, Lemony Lemon Bundt with its fancy lemon syrup and all.
Lemon Bundt…you fed our lemon cravings for the past 3 years and I thank you for never disappointing, but I guess the time to graduate to some next-level citrus-iness (if that’s even a word) has come.
This simple lemon sheet cake is so bright and refreshing, and packed with a lemon punch that delivers its titled promise.
It has a soft, velvety crumb, incomparable moistness, and a light, fluffy texture that just melts in the mouth.
This cake is not for those who prefer dense cakes with a tight crumb. It is for those of us who have been spoiled by the fluffiness of boxed cake mixes.
The crumb on this is so light and airy…I can’t even!
Fluffy cakes are my favorite kind, and this one is seriously one of the fluffiest, softest from-scratch cakes to have entered my mouth.
I really can’t sing enough praises about its flawless texture and I feel like the pictures aren’t doing it justice.
Wait…get closer. Maybe I can show you.
Will you take a look at this golden fluff on a fork!
The cake makes for the perfect Spring or Summer treat. It is easy enough to make on a weekday and enjoy as an anytime snack or over tea and coffee.
It is baked in a standard 13X9-inch pan, and served straight from it. So there’s no flipping, cooling, trimming, layering, frosting and all that shebang.
So low-key and simple, just the way it sometimes needs to be.
And if you want to fancy it up a bit, a border of berries will always do the trick.
The lemony cake is topped with a crystalline-thin layer of lemon glaze, just like the one that covers donuts.
The glaze adds another hit of lemon and….
….a welcomed crackly, crisp shell that beautifully contrasts the cakes softness.
I just love how it shatters to the touch, yet dissolves on the tongue.
So what makes this cake so good?
A triple hit of lemon in generous amounts!
The cake gets its bold lemon taste from both grated lemon zest, and freshly squeezed lemon juice that goes into both the batter and glaze.
Nothing new I know…
But have you seen a cake that has a whopping 4 tablespoons of zest?!!
Yep…that’s a lot, and your arm will get sore from all the zesting, but it’s totally worth it.
It’s all in the zest!
Lemon zest is where all the flavor lives. It is packed with potent flavor oils that go a long way. Unlike lemon juice which loses its brightness when exposed to heat, the zest keeps it all in. While testing the cake recipe, I found my self upping the zest amount to reach the desired level of brightness I was looking for, exceeding most recipes I’ve seen.
Four tablespoons proved to be the perfect amount for my lemon-loving self, but it was too strong for the kiddos. It is definitely not for lemon rookies, so feel free to scale it back to 3 tablespoons, if you prefer a milder flavor.
Just make sure you only use the thin, yellow zest layer, which contains the lemon oils, and avoid the white layer (pith) which tastes very bitter.
The cake process begins with rubbing the zest with the sugar using the mixer. The friction caused between them helps release the flavor oils even more, so the cake comes out even more fragrant.
The secret’s in the yogurt!
Remember when I was waxing poetic about the cake’s moist softness and fluffy texture?
It’s all thanks to Greek yogurt. Although buttermilk and sour cream work well here, I found that Greek yogurt gives me the best texture without weighing down the cake. Buttermilk resulted in an ever-so-slightly less moist cake, while sour cream, made it a tad denser. The difference is barely noticeable and I wouldn’t pass on any of them, but Greek yogurt wins by a hairline. It also reinforces the tangy flavor brought through by the lemon juice.
The juicy details!
While the zest plays the key role in bringing out the lemon flavor, lemon juice rounds it out and creates an acidic environment in the batter, that when combined with the Greek yogurt, makes for a tender, fluffy cake.
Other than that, the cake batter comes together, the traditional, good ‘ol way, where you cream the sugar with the butter until light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time, then alternate between dry and wet ingredients (in that case a lemon Greek yogurt mixture).
The cake is lusciously thick and you won’t be able to stop licking it, but try your hardest to leave some to spread into your pan.
While the cake is baking, make a simple glaze by whisking together lemon juice and powdered sugar. The juice cuts through the sweetness and make the glaze taste just like lemonade. YUM!
Then as soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pour it over the surface and spread it evenly to cover.
Practice some patience and let the cake cool completely, so the glaze can set and the cake doesn’t fall apart as you’re serving it, because yes…it’s that soft.
So soft, so lemony, so refreshing, so good.
I hope you love this cake as much as we do. It has now became a new favorite at my house and I have a feeling it will show up a lot at yours.
The Lemoniest Lemon Sheet Cake
If you're looking for a simple to make lemon cake with bold lemon flavor and a soft and fluffy texture, look no further! This cake is bright and refreshing with a tender crumb that melts in the mouth!
For the cake:
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (252g) all purpose flour*
- 1/4 cup (28g) cornstarch*
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (170g) plain full-fat Greek yogurt, at room temperature*
- 1/4 cup (59ml) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon if using imitation vanilla flavoring)
- 1 1/2 cup (300g) granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons (about 20 grams) lemon zest (reduce to 3 tablespoons for a less strong lemon flavor)*
- 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 egg yolk, at room temperature (freeze egg white for later use)
For the glaze:
- 2 cups (227g) powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup (59ml) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
For Garnish (optional):
- Mixed Berries
- Lemon slices
- Mint leaves
To make the cake:
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 162C/325F.
- Spray a 13X9-inch (33X23 cm) baking pan with non-stick cooking spray, or grease the bottom and sides with butter and dust with flour.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a liquid measuring cup (or small bowl), whisk together the Greek yogurt, lemon juice and vanilla. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl and electric hand mixer), beat together the sugar and lemon zest on medium speed until the sugar has moistened and smells fragrant; about 1 minute.
- Add the butter, and beat together until the mixture lightens up in both color and texture; 2 to 3 minutes. The color should turn very pale (almost white) and texture should look fluffy.
- Add in the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until well incorporated.
- On lowest speed, add in one-third of the flour mixture and mix until mostly combined. Add in half of the lemon/yogurt mixture and lightly stir until almost mixed in. Continue with adding another one-third of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining lemon/yogurt mixture and ending with the last third of flour mixture. Mix until just combined and a smooth, thick batter forms. Do not overmix. With a rubber spatula, give the batter one good, final stir to make sure that everything is well incorporated. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean or with a few cooked crumbs attached. While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze (recipe below).
- Take the cake out of the oven, and while still hot, immediately pour on the glaze and spread to cover the surface. Allow the cake to cool completely over a wire rack, at least 1 hour. Garnish with berries, lemon slices and mint leaves if desired.
- Cut into squares and serve at room temperature. Store leftovers covered tiightly with plastic wrap or in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
To make the glaze:
- Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth, and a thick but pourable consistency is achieved. Cover until ready to use.
- Cornstarch is used in combination with all-purpose flour in this recipe to imitate the results of cake flour, which produces a finer and more tender crumb. Cake flour could be hard to find in some countries, so this trick works like a charm in this recipe. If you have cake flour on hand, feel free to use that instead of the all purpose flour/cornstarch combo. You will then need to use a total of 2 cups plus 6 tablespoons (280g) cake flour.
- Buttermilk and sour cream may be substituted for the Greek yogurt. However, note that buttermilk will produce a slightly less moist cake and sour cream will produce a relatively denser one; still amazing though.
- I have not tried natural-style yogurt in this recipe, so can't vouch for its success. I'd concern that the excess moisture will make the cake soggy. If it's all you have, I'd recommend straining it over a cheesecloth-lined sieve overnight in the fridge, to rid it of its excess liquid. Remeasure amount called for in the recipe before using.
- Note that 4 tablespoons lemon zest makes for a super lemony cake, that is slightly sour but not bitter. If you prefer a milder lemon flavor, feel free to reduce the lemon zest amount to 3 tablespoons (15g). You'll need about 6 large lemons for the cake.
- The cake bakes at a lower than normal temperature, to decrease the chance for doming, creating an evenly flat top.
Measurements Note: All recipes of this site have been developed using weight measurements. Although US volume measurements have been included for your convenience, it is highly encouraged that you weigh your ingredients using a kitchen scale to get the best possible results. Due to the sensitive nature of baking, kitchen scales are proven to yield more accurate and consistent results than measuring cups. Enjoy!
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Can’t wait to try your suggestion to mix the zest and and sugar together first, I LUV lemony treats!! Even when I use cake flour I always use a wisk to loosen it up before measuring, it doesn’t make a huge difference but even 3 or 4 Tablespoons can wreck a cake.
I hope you love every bit of this one Judy! You’re absolutely right about how a few tablespoons of flour over or under can ruin a cake. Cake flour can be particularly lumpy too. I’ve actually converted from measuring cups to kitchen scale several years ago and have never looked back. They’re so accurate, you can never go wrong ?
This looks delicious! I appreciate the metric weights given in the recipe, but you’ve forgotten to put the weight in for the granulated sugar. The conversion site I use reckons that’s 150g?
Whoops! That was a typo…thanks for the heads up! It’s fixed now. One cup of sugar is 200g, so the 1 1/2 cups of sugar called for in the recipe equal 300g. Enjoy!
I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Lemons and I have baked your lemon bundt cake so many times and it has turned out delicious every time. Thanks for the great recipe Tasbih, I will definitely bake it this weekend.
It’s my pleasure Gurmit! Hope you love this one just as much ? Would love to know how this one compares once you try it out.
Thank you for using the metric weights but why dont you say the size of the baking sheet also in cm?
You’re most welcomed Iman! I forgot about that one. Just added it ?
if we use cake flour, do we still have to add the baking powder and baking soda?
Hi Nani! If you use cake flour, be sure that it’s NOT self-raising, because you’ll want to control the amount of leaveners yourself. In that case, you still need to add in the baking powder and baking soda.
The cake looks so amazing. Absolute treat to eyes. I would love to bake this. But could you just tell any replacement for eggs, if possible. It would be really helpful. Thanks
Thank you Shipra! Thank you for your wonderful words. I’m happy this appeals to you.
I’m so sorry but I personally don’t have experience with substituting eggs in baking. However, I think this article would really help you out to do so.
What a fabulous cake. It was as promised
I’m happy to hear that it delivered Nandi! Thanks for your feedback ?
Hi Tasbih. Its winter over here and we have an abundance of oranges atm. Do you think I could swop out the lemons for oranges?
Hi Aneesah! I wouldn’t recommend that, as 1/4 cup of orange juice won’t add enough flavor, because its not as strong as lemon juice. Likewise 4 tablespoons of orange zest would make the cake so bitter. I have a great orange cake recipe that is very similar in texture to this one and that is just as simple. I suggest making that one instead. Enjoy ?
Mmmmmmm, mouth is watering right now, can’t wait to try
Thanks Meilani! I hope you love it ?
Will this work if I double it in quantity?
Hi Meilani! I’ve never actually tried doubling it, so unfortunately I’m not so sure of the outcome. But I honestly don’t think there should be any issues. Best of luck!
Hey Tasbih! Thank you for these stunning recipes! I adore lemony desserts and this one is spot on!
I would like to ask you something else, I can’t help but admire your styling skills! I am an aspiring baker and I am constantly looking for new ways to improve my styling and photography skills, any readings or sites do you recommend?
Thanks a lot
Thank you so much Anis for your flattering comment! I still think there’s a huge room for improvement in my photography/styling skills, but I’m happy with how far I’ve come from when I started. As cheesy as this may sound, but I’ve actually learned through tons of practice. I’d get images with elements that I like of off Pinterest and use those as inspiration. I’ve also learned some great editing techniques from Broma Bakery. She also has an online Photography school, which I haven’t enrolled in myself, but I’ve heard great things about it.
Amazing recipe. I have a question, can i bake the cake in 9*13 pyrex dish instead? Would it be the same as baking pan?
Hi Hira! Absolutely. Just keep in mind that timing with vary. The edges might also brown a little more than in a metal baking cake, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Enjoy ?
Hi, if I use self raising flour do I still need to add baking powder and baking soda?
Hi Sab! If you use cake flour, be sure that it’s NOT self-raising, because you’ll want to control the amount of leaveners yourself. In that case, you still need to add in the baking powder and baking soda.
I made this cake and it has come out to be soooooo good!!
Do I need to keep it in the fridge or can this cake be left out at room temp? Will the frosting go bad if the cake is left out for long?
So happy to hear that you loved it Sana! The cake keeps well at room temp for about 3 days. No worries about the icing going bad as it doesn’t contain any dairy. Generally, it’s not recommended to refrigerate butter cakes, because it dries out the crumb ?
Hi, is there a substitute for egg? We are vegetarians who don’t consume egg and would like to know if there are any replacements for the same
Hi Smri! I’m so sorry but I have no experience in egg-free baking. I’ve previously read about a water and flax seed substitution, as well as a mashed banana one. Definitely worth exploring. Best of luck!
Hi TASBIH! Thank you for sharing this about the lemon sheet cake. I like to eat cake. Last time i ordered online cake delivery at my home on my birthday but next time i will make this lemon sheet cake at my home with the help of this blog post.
I hope you enjoy every bit of it Rupnarayan!
Hi Tasbih – this cake looks divine so am hoping to bake it for a friend who LOVES anything lemon and cake. My only query is the ingredient granulated sugar – for cooking in the UK we use castor sugar (refined granulated) is this the equivalent sugar I should use in your recipe? Many thanks xx
Hi Zahra! Hope your lemon-loving friend loves this one. Yes castor sugar is the UK equivalent to granulated sugar. Enjoy ?
I’m on a roll! I made this cake for a lunch party and added rosemary to it. Rosemary was too subtle but the lemon flavor was soo delish and refreshing, especially I loved the crackle of the glaze. Again everybody enjoyed and ate. Thank you for sharing this! Definitely a keeper!
Rosemary sounds like a wonderful addition Maheeen! I’ve never tried it in sweet recipes before but I love to use it in savory dishes. I’ll take your advise and try it the next time I make this cake.
making this cake today. just checking, does the glaze go on the piping hot cake straight out of the oven?
Hi Kanan! So sorry for my late reply. Yes, the glaze goes on as soon as you take the cake out of the oven.
The cake is looking delicious. I love lemons I’ll definitely try this. I appreciate your work. Thank you!! Looking for more from you.
Thank you! I hope you love it when you do get a chance to try it.
I made this cake for a lazy weekend and it’s incredible. The crumb is so fine that the cake simply melts in the mouth. Paired with the glaze it’s a match made in heaven. The texture is delicate making it perfect for tea parties. This recipe is a keeper.
I served mine with warm custard on the side to complement the sharpness of the lemon with the velvet blanket of custard.
I’m so glad you love it so much Maryyam! It looks so beautiful and I can imagine how serving it with custard can take it to a whole new height.
I love cakes. Thank you for sharing lemon sheet cake. Every time i order online on my sister’s birthday but next time i will make this cake at my home with the help of your blog. Keep it up.
I’m happy you like it Alisha! I hope you can give a try soon.
The best recipe I have ever made. It was gone in no time.
This looks so pretty Meenu! So happy it was such a hit!
I made this cake for Valentine’s day and it was absolute success 😀 although I didn’t have that many lemons so I substituted fresh zest with dry zest + spoonful of juice and the result was fantastic ^^
It looks beautiful Smetanka! So wonderful to hear that you loved it.
Does this cake freeze well
Hi Lorriane! I’ve honestly never tried freezing it to be able to know for sure, but I don’t think it should be a problem,
I just made this lemony cake. Its a lot work. But worth it.
So glad it was worth the work Susan. I’m happy you enjoyed the results.
Fabulous cake, a real true lemon cake…..we ate it all up so fast that I have nothing to take a picture of.
Hahahaaaa! Always a good sign ? I’m happy you liked it so much Sipkin.
This recipe looks great, I plan on making it for my friend’s mother’s birthday. I want to make and frost it a day ahead, so should I store it in the fridge or would it be fine on the counter? Thanks!
Hi Flora! You can store it at room temperature. Happy birthday to your mom ?
Haven’t made myself a birthday cake for a few years so I went looking for lemon cake recipes and this one came up. Made it this morning and it was a big hit with everyone, so soft and melt in the mouth with a real lemon hit. I did the zest of 4 lemons and that was the perfect amount for me and I only had about a cup of icing sugar left but that was enough for a sugary crust on top with a real lemon zing that added to the flavour, it will be the cake I make next year as well.
Happy birthday Stuart! So happy this lemon cake got to be a part of your celebration and that it hit the spot. Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback!
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All I have on hand is vanilla flavored Greek yogurt. Am I better going with buttermilk?
Hi Julia! Vanilla Greek yogurt would work great here ?
Thank you so much for this recipe! I had many blood oranges on hand so I used those instead of lemons and this cake turned out wonderfully. I’ve baked only about a handful of cakes and this turned out so light and fluffy! My husband and children really enjoyed the cake and couldn’t stop saying ‘Mmn’ thank you so much for sharing! Looking forward to trying out your other recipes! This recipe is a keeper for me! Thank you
Really happy you loved this cake Angela! It’s wonderful to hear that it worked so well with blood oranges ? I might have to try it some time myself.
Even better than you can imagine. Absolutely delicious, great lemon taste. I am making another one to cut and freeze in individual portions so I can enjoy it whenever I want to. Excellent !
That’s music to my ears Ann! So excited that you loved it so much ?
This cake is awesome, but the sweetness is more our family’s tastes. I cut it down to 3/4 cup sugar in the base and 1 cup of the powdered sugar for the glaze and it turned out fantastic. Next time, I would actually further reduce the sugar inside the cake to 1/4 cup. My Egyptian MIL has diabetes, so I have to watch how much sugar I put into our diet 🙂 However, the flavor was beautiful. Extremely decadent and delicious! I would definitely make this again.
Really happy you loved this cake Kate! It’s wonderful to hear that it still worked out so well with your modifications ?
Love you recipes did the basbousa after suffering for years . What is corn starch in Arabic pls
Yay! It always makes my day when I hear that someone has had success with the basbousa recipe, because I know the struggle ?
Cornstarch is ‘nesha.’
I made this cake and it was AWESOME. Light and fluffy as promised and full of lemon flavor. Can i make this as an orange sheet cake?
It’s great to hear that you enjoyed it Antoinet! Yes, you can convert it to an orange cake. However, I do have an orange cake recipe that you might love just as much.
Thank you Tasbih. I will DEFINITELY try your orange bundt cake recipe. Loved your lemon sheet cake so much that I have recommended your blog to friends and family. This is a photo of a slice of the lemon sheet cake. Hope it works as I am not tech savvy! Love your writing style too!
It worked Antoinet! This looks lovely ? Thank you so much for recommending my blog. So sweet of you.
I just made this lemon cake and it was THE BEST lemon cake I’ve ever made or tasted!!! Thank you for sharing such a lovely recipe. I made it in a jelly roll pan bc i like that icing to cake recipe. Thank you for sharing!!
So glad you loved it so much Laurin ? Thank you for your wonderful feedback!
Hey Tsabih. I’m gonna try this one but I’ve a question regarding the yogurt because I can’t find it. Do I use buttermilk and sour cream or just one of them? and how much? Thank you.
Hi Marwa! I only tested the recipe with sour cream and buttermilk individually but not together. Using them together sound like a good idea and will probably give you the most similar results to Greek yogurt. You can go with 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/4 cup buttermilk or even 6 tablespoons sour cream and 6 tablespoons buttermilk. I hope it turns out amazing!
Fabulous cake!!! Thank you for a fantastic recipe. I’ve been craving a super moist, super lemony cake with a light glaze – and boy did this recipe deliver. I’ll take the glaze over buttercream frosting any day.
Hi do I have to half the recipe to fit into a round 9 inch pan or would the whole recipe fit just fine?
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Pleasure to go through such wonderful work!!
I had to reread the comments to verify I hadn’t reviewed this cake before now and shame on me for not! I’ve made it about 6 times in the last 18 months and am back to make it again for a party this weekend! I always make it exactly as written and pictured, down to the garnish. Everyone loves this cake, but none more than my family. It’s a phenomenal recipe and I’m grateful to have found it. Thank you.
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Hi! I have a question please. Is the texture too crumbly to make it in round pans to make it a layer cake? Also approx how many lemons should I buy?
Incredible recipe! Total knockout❤️ but one suggestion. Eat it fresh. It gets too dense and heavy in the fridge.
Tasbih said that the cake MUSTN’T be kept in the fridge. Must be kept at room temp
I would like to use a buttercream frosting instead. Any suggestions?
I love layer cakes! Is this cake stable enough to do two or three layers? Buttercream as a filling/icing over the glaze? Or lemon curd filling?
Would this recipe work if I halved it? There is just 2 of us. Could I make cupcakes (for either a full or half recipe) and if so, do you have a suggestion on adjusting the cooking time?
Hi Paula. Just my two cents
Cupcakes would work beautifully. I tried it out in mini cakes and it was tops. Start checking after 10/12 mins.