Sometimes the simplest cakes are the best cakes. In this case, one lemon has enough bright-tasting zest to flavor a tender white sheet cake. Its juice is combined with powdered sugar and drizzled on top where it hardens into a sweet-tangy, crunchy coating. The familiar and comforting flavors make this easy cake one to cut slivers from all week long.
How to Get the Most Lemon Flavor
To get the most lemon flavor into your cake, zest the lemon (we like using a Microplane for the finest, fluffiest shreds) directly into the mixer bowl so that every drop of essential oil ends up in the cake and not on your cutting board or counter. And while you can certainly drizzle the lemon glaze onto the cake while it's still warm, the center will get very moist. If you prefer a crunchy top, wait until the cake is completely cooled before you make and pour on the glaze.
Easy Lemon Drizzle Cake
For the cake:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
For the lemon glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Make the cake: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.
Place the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.
Place the butter, sugar, and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is incorporated before adding the next, then beat in the vanilla. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
With the mixer on low speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of the milk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and the remaining milk. Finish by beating in the remaining flour mixture until just incorporated; do not overmix.
Scrape the batter into the pan and spread into an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the baking dish and bake until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached and the edges are starting to turn golden-brown, 10 to 15 minutes more (metal pans bake faster than glass or ceramic, so check on those early).
Place the baking pan on a wire rack and cool completely to room temperature. Whisk the powdered sugar and lemon juice together in a medium bowl until smooth. Spoon evenly over the cake, spread with an offset spatula or rubber spatula, and let sit until the glaze hardens, about 15 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.
Storage: Leftovers can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 4 days.