January Lemon Cake

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes:


    -portion cake

Appears in

This buttery sponge, sandwiched and iced with lemon frosting is a lovely winter cake. Highly aromatic Primofiori lemons arrive from Italy in January, their fresh astringent flavour so welcome in the depths of winter. If possible, use wax-free, organic fruit.

Oven: 180°C / 350°F / gas mark 4
Baking time: 30–35 minutes


  • 175 g / 6 oz butter
  • 175 g / 6 oz caster sugar
  • 1 small lemon
  • 3 eggs
  • 175 g / 6 oz self-raising flour


  • 90 g / 3 oz butter
  • 1 small lemon
  • 230 g / 8 oz icing sugar, sifted


  • two 18 cm / 7 in. sponge sandwich tins – buttered and base-lined


Cream the butter with the sugar and the finely grated zest of the lemon until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Fold in the sifted flour with the strained juice of half the lemon. Divide the mixture between the prepared cake tins and smooth level.

Bake until golden brown and just beginning to shrink from the tins. Cool for 3 minutes then turn the cakes on to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, use a zester to remove long strands from the peel of the lemon. Use a grater to remove the rest of the zest and set aside with the strands. Squeeze the juice from the lemon, add the juice of the remaining half-lemon from making the cake.

In a small glass or stainless steel pan, melt the butter with 3 tbs of the strained lemon juice. Bring to the boil, allow to bubble for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat and cool for 1 minute. Stir in the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Stand the pan in cold water for 1 minute to cool the frosting. When thick but still spreadable, pour half the frosting over the top of one cake. Place the other on top and pour the rest of the frosting over the top. Sprinkle the reserved strands and grated zest of lemon on top to decorate and add extra flavour to the cake. Set aside for the frosting to set before serving.