Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Maida’s Lemon Cake

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

Everyone needs those back-pocket recipes at their fingertips and Maida’s Lemon Cake is one of mine. Maida Heatter’s, “The Best Damn Lemon Cake” comes from her cookbook, Cakes and her New Book of Great Desserts. She explains in the recipe’s summary the cake got its name from the first thing her friends said after taking one bite. She is the guru of baked desserts and celebrated her 90th birthday last year. I have always found her desserts reliable and well tested, especially her cake recipes. They are all classics that never go out of style.

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

Lemon cakes come in so many shapes, sizes and styles and this recipe is no exception. It is a loaf cake with a light lemon glaze on top that soaks into the cake. Early in my marriage, I made this lemon cake all the time. Unfortunately, I stopped because baking for pleasure was replaced with the pleasure of taking care of my children with a couple of baking projects squeezed in between.

Recently, I was reminded of this lemon cake recipe after being treated to a slice of Lemon Lulu Cake from Mother Myrick’s Bakery (A bakery in Manchester VT.) They are different types of lemon cakes, but the bright lemon flavor is similar. Lemon Lulu cake has a lighter texture and made in a Bundt pan, whereas Maida’s Lemon Cake has ground almonds in the mix and keeps its’ moisture even after a couple of days.

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

The only downside to this recipe is, it is not something to make at the last minute. Ideally, the cake rests for 12-24 hours before you serve it. During this resting period the cake’s lemon flavor gets more pronounced and the cake becomes very moist from the glaze. You must plan accordingly. Yet, the advanced planning has its merits too. Bake it a day or two before you need it leaves you with more time to do other activities on the day of. Also, this cake gets better with age. It freezes well, is perfect for travel, picnics and gifts.

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe

Best Types of Cake pans for Lemon Cake

My lemon cake did not rise as high as it should because my aluminum loaf pan is larger than the one specified in the recipe. It is hard to come by an 8½ x 4½ x 2¼ inch (21 x 11 x 6 cm) heavy-duty aluminum loaf pan that does not have a Teflon coating, made of glass, or made with a dark metal. These materials are all no-no’s in Maida’s book. I am partial to Nordic Ware baking pans, but their loaf pan has an 8 cup (2 L) capacity. Chicago Metallic makes a loaf pan with the right dimensions and material as well as Wilton and Williams and Sonoma.

My cake is also darker, because it cooked faster because the pan was not made with heavy-duty aluminum. My pan is a generic lightweight aluminum pan I bought over 30 years ago at the grocery store.  It might be a lightweight, but it is still going strong and baked it fair share of Pumpkin Bread over the years.

This baking experience reminded me, I should trust my instinct and not always follow a recipe blindly, I knew I should have checked the cake earlier than specified, but I followed the directions instead. Fortunately, I do not mind a darker crumb and the glaze keeps everything moist. See the links in the Notes of the recipe for the types of adjustments to make if you use glass or dark metal pans.

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

 Lemon Cake

The only adjustment I made to the recipe is I added almond meal (flour) instead of blanched almonds. It is not always easy to grind nuts as fine as you can get with almond meal. Often the almonds start turning into a paste before you get the right consistency you want. Do not add a half cup of almond meal, measure the almond meal by weight, not volume. The two measurements are not equal. You may use the volume and weight measurement for the blanched almonds.

If you have the almond meal use that to flour the pan instead of bread crumbs. It will do the same job and add extra almond flavor to the loaf.

Why all the fuss about baking pans?

More Lemon Desserts

Maida Heatter’s Lemon Mouse, Lemon Saffron Syrup Cake, Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi’s and Passion Fruit Glaze

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

Maida's Lemon Cake

When Maida Heatter explains her name for "The Best Damn Lemon Cake," came from the first things her friends said after taking a bite. You just know it is good. Everyone needs a reliable lemon cake to bring to friends or just add some sunshine at the end of a meal. This loaf cake has great sweet lemon flavor but is not too sweet to turn you off. It is great paired with coffee and tea. I also like it with fresh berries. 

The instructions say to let the cake sit for 12-24 hours before serving so plan accordingly. I found the cake is even more delicious the day after it is made.

See recipe Notes for specifics about the loaf pan used to make the cake with. If you do not have the exact loaf pan, no worries. Just make the necessary adjustments recommended in the articles. 

Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 8 -10 people
Author Ginger


Lemon Cake

  • ½ cup (60 g) blanched almonds (or 60 g almond meal)
  • cup (185 g) sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ lb (115 g) butter 1 stick
  • 1 cup (235 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup (125 ml) whole milk
  • 1 oz (29 ml) real lemon extract 1- 1 fl oz bottle
  • Freshly grated zest from 2 extra large, or 3 medium lemons

Lemon Glaze

  • 1/3 cup plus 2 TB (113 g) granulated sugar (4 oz)
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) fresh squeezed lemon juice


Lemon Cake

  1. Set the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven at 350°F (175°C / Gas Mark 4). Butter an 8½ x 4½ x 2-inch (21 x 11 x 6 cm) loaf pan with a 6 cup (1.5 L) capacity. Lightly dust the loaf pan with very fine bread crumbs or almond meal and set aside. (See note about pan). Line the bottom of the prepared loaf pan with a piece of parchment paper. 

  2. Ground the almonds in a food processor or nut grinder till they are very fine but are not getting pasty. Or use the almond meal. 

  3. Add the sifted flour, baking powder and Kosher salt to a small bowl and stir with a wire whisk until the ingredients are well incorporated. Set aside

  4. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan set over low heat. Cool slightly before using.   

  5. In a bowl of a stand mixer, add the melted butter and sugar. (Make sure the eggs are cool enough so they will not cook the eggs.) Turn the speed to medium and beat to mix. Turn down the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, thoroughly mixing each egg in the batter between each additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions. 

  6. While the mixer remains on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions and alternate with the milk in two additions. Beat in the ingredients thoroughly between each addition but be careful not to over-mix the cake batter. Also, stop the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition. Add the lemon extract and beat it in. 

  7. Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl. Add the lemon zest and ground almonds (or almond meal) to the batter and stir in with a rubber spatula. 

  8. Pour the cake batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 65-75 minutes. The cake is done when a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake and all the way to the bottom, comes out "just barely clean". The cake will crack down the middle because the outside cooks faster than the inside of the cake. This causes the cake to crack as the insides cook and the cake rises. 

  9. Remove the cake from the oven and let it rest in the pan for 2 minutes on a cooling rack. 

  10. After the two-minute cool, slowly baste the lemon glaze over the top of the cake. Take your time basting the cake so a nice even glaze coats the top of the cake and soaks into the body, about 5 minutes. 

  11. Let the cake rest in the pan until it is tepid, mostly cooled down. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake to loosen it out of the pan. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake. Turn the cake right side up and cool on the rack. 

  12. Once completely cooled, wrap the cake with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and let it rest on the counter for 12 - 24 hours. Or place in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Or the freezer for 2 hours before serving. I prefer the results after the 12-24 hour period, but if you need it for the same day then the freezing options works fine. Just let it defrost before you serve it. 

Lemon Glaze

  1. A couple of minutes before the cake is done cooking, make the glaze. Add the sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice in a small sauce pan set over medium heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not let the syrup come to a boil. Turn off the heat and set aside until needed. 

Recipe Notes

Maida is very specific about what type of pan will produce the best results. You might think it is a lot of smoke about nothing but for baking, everything you use from ingredients to the oven affect the final outcome of your baked good.  She is adamant about not using a non-stick pan, dark metal pan, and glass loaf pan. Her pan of choice is a heavy-duty aluminum pan. From my experience, I agree with her about the dark metal pans and glass pans, they do not bake as nicely as a heavy-duty light-colored aluminum pan does.   

I used a large aluminum loaf pan, but it was not a heavy-duty one. It cooked up faster than the recipe suggested and got darker. It was either that or use my dark metal non-stick pan, which would have been two strikes against me. If you can't take her advice, use the loaf pan you have, but be forewarned. Why you should not bake a cake with a dark pan. Why you should not bake a cake in a glass pan. These articles give advice how to work with these types of pans when you need to bake with them.  

Maida's Lemon Cake. Recipe for a lemon cake, with sweet lemon flavor and is very moist. The unexpected ingredient is ground almonds for more texture and a nuttier flavor. Easy dessert recipe. From Maida Heatter's cookbook, Cakes, "The Best Damn Lemon Cake".

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Impulse Baking, Saffron & Lemon Syrup Cake from Honey and Co, The Cookbook

Saffron and Lemon Syrup Cake a recipe.

Some people have a habit of impulse buying; I have a habit of impulse baking. Thanks to the Westchester Library System, and a well stocked pantry, my impulse baking does not also include an impulse buy. On occasion, I will be browsing through a cookbook, whether one of my own or from the library, and start flipping through the pages, and then glance at a few recipes to get a feel for the cookbook. But now and then I will come across a photograph of food that is ever so stunning and with an enticing name, calling out me to take a closer look. Sometimes I wished I could to defy all laws of nature, and transport myself into the photograph and claim the food for myself.

Saffron and Lemon Syrup Cake, a recipe.


This loss of willpower happened to me not too long ago when I was scanning over Honey & Co, The Cookbook by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer. Honey & Co is a restaurant in London, England owned and operated by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer, the cookbook is a collection of their favorite recipes featured at their restaurant. I picked up Honey & Co, The Cookbook and randomly opened the book. What immediately appeared before me was a simple but stunning photograph of their Saffron and Lemon Syrup Cake. Hello sunshine. At that time, I did not realize I had dreamed of this cake. It was something bright, something different, something special, something I had to make.

Saffron and Lemon Syrup Cake, a recipe.


The saying goes, “… a picture is worth a thousand words”; this picture spoke to me, by repeatedly chanting, “Saffron Lemon Syrup Cake…” a thousand times over. The cake was pictured on a glass shelf placed next to a large tomato can vase, overflowing with bright orange anemones. (I also love flowers.) The bright orange flowers and the glowing lemon cake was simple but elegant. It was such a tease. I longed to be right there, standing in front of the restaurant in London. I had no choice and brought the book home. Within a couple of hours the cake was finished and cooling on my kitchen counter.

Saffron and Lemon Syrup Cake, a recipe.


But, I couldn’t resist….

But, the book opened right to the recipe… It must be a sign….

But, it is such a grey day and this cake is so bright and cheery….

But, I love to bake cakes.

I love it when an impulse bake works out, and what I imagined is not far from the truth. Saffron and Lemon Syrup Cake was everything its appearance suggested it would be: a sweet and bright lemon flavor, moist from the syrup, and the warmth of saffron subtly presenting itself with each bite.

Thank you Honey and Co, The CookbookThank you Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer.

Saffron and Lemon Syrup Cake a recipe.

Saffron and Lemon Syrup Cake a recipe.

Saffron & Lemon Syrup Cake from Honey and Co, The Cookbook

Get immediately transported to a Mediterranean Holiday with by making Saffron Lemon Syrup Cake. This cake is as delicious to eat as it is beautiful to look at. This is a novel cake with traditional Mediterranean roots. A real delight with a tempered lemon tang from the saffron.

Based on my little bit of research, Saffron Lemon Syrup Cake is an adaption of traditional semolina flour syrup cakes from the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The semolina flour and the almond flour give the cake a nice texture, even when soaked in saffron syrup.

This recipe is from Honey and Co, The Cookbook by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer and shared with their permission.

Course Dessert
Cuisine Mediterranean
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 8 people
Author Ginger


For the cake:

  • 13 tbsp/200 g butter
  • 2 cups/270 g cups/270g sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups / 200 g ground almonds (almond meal/flour)
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • 3/4 cup / 140 g semolina flour
  • 3 tbs pastry flour
  • 1 lemon- the zest and juice
  • A pinch A pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp tea baking powder

For the Syrup and Topping

  • 2-3 lemons very thinly sliced preferably using a mandolin
  • Enough water to cover the lemons x2
  • 1 3/4 cups/ 400 ml water for syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups / 250 g c/250g sugar
  • A pinch turmeric
  • A pinch saffron


  1. Prepare lemons and syrup

    With a mandolin, or a very sharp knife, very thinly slice the lemons. A mandolin is the best tool for this job, but if you do not have one evenly slice the lemons about 1/8 inch thick. Place the lemon slices in a saucepan and cover them with water. Bring the pot of water and lemons to a boil and immediately turn off the heat and drain the water. Repeat one more time.

    After blanching the lemons twice, put 1 3/4 cups/400ml water, 1 1/4 cup/250g sugar, the lemon slices, and a pinch of turmeric and saffron in a saucepan. Set the pan on the burner and turn on heat to medium high. Bring to light boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 6-8 minutes, just until the syrup has thickened, and the peel has softened. Turn off the heat and bring the syrup over to your prepared cake pan.

    Arrange the lemon slices around the bottom of the prepared cake pan. Lift the lemon slices out of the syrup with a fork and arrange them partially up the sides of the pan and all around the bottom of the cake pan. The slices can partially overlap, but you want to fill the whole bottom with the lemon slices. You might not need all the slices, so save the extras for a treat. They are delicious. Pour 2 Tb of the saffron syrup over the arranged lemon slices, then set aside. Pour the remaining syrup in a 2 cup/ 500 ml liquid measuring cup and save the syrup for later. (Any small pitcher will do.)

  2. Make the cake

    In a small bowl mix the semolina flour, pastry flour, salt and baking powder until just combined. Set aside.

    Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer or by hand. You want the butter and the sugar to be thoroughly mixed together but not fluffy. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, then the ground almonds and turmeric and mix together until well combined. Add the semolina flour mixture, the lemon juice and the lemon zest then mix well.

    Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan then bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Rotate the cake around to encourage even browning and baking. Continue to bake for 10-15 minutes more. The cake is done when the cake is an even golden brown and is firm to touch. A cake tester inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean. 

  3. Finishing touches

    Take the cake out of the oven rest the cake, still in its pan, on a wire bakers rack. Pour the reserved syrup evenly over the entire cake. Do this slowly and carefully. You want the cake to evenly absorb all the syrup so that there are not dry spots within the cake. Once all the syrup is poured over the cake, let it rest for at least 20-30 minutes before you unmold the cake from the pan.

    To unmold the cake, put a plate large enough to rest on top of the cake pan and hold the cake, (top of plate and top rim of pan will be touching). Holding the plate and the pan together, flip the plate and the pan over so that the cake pan is now on top of the plate. Gently lift the cake pan up so that the cake releases. Let the cake rest until you are ready to serve. The cake will keep on the counter for a couple of days, wrapped in plastic wrap.


    1-Meyer Lemons are a good lemon choice for the cake. You want lemons that have a thin peel and not a lot of the bitter pith. I have had difficulty with the Eureka lemons from the super market. They tend to disintegrate more from being cooked in the syrup.

    2- A pinch is a relative amount. The turmeric and saffron add both flavor and color to the cake. You can start with 1/4 tea of each. Saffron is a very expensive seasoning with a distinctive taste. A little goes a long way. You do not want to be skimpy, but you do not want to overdo it either.

Recipe Notes



1-Meyer Lemons are a good lemon choice for the cake. You want lemons that have a thin peel and not a lot of the bitter pith. I have had difficulty with the Eureka lemons from the super market. They tend to disintegrate more from being cooked in the syrup. 

2- A pinch is a relative amount. The turmeric and saffron add both flavor and color to the cake. You can start with 1/4 tea of each. Saffron is a very expensive seasoning with a distinctive taste. A little goes a long way. You do not want to be skimpy, but you do not want to overdo it either.



Saffron and Lemon Syrup Cake. A lemon syrup cake recipe with saffron from Honey and Co, The Cookbook. A spectacular cake for any occasion.




© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Food Blog Theme from Nimbus
Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: