A timeless, classic lemon cake from the queen of desserts, Maida Heatter, with a lovely texture and brushed with a lemon juice and sugar glaze.
Originally published in in the New York Times in the 1970’s, this lemon cake went viral when viral meant it was showing up in every kitchen and the recipe was being written out to share with everyone they knew! And for good reason. This lemon cake is timeless and simply perfect. It’s easy to make and made with standard pantry items. And it’s a cake that can be enjoyed plain with tea or dressed up with fruit and whipped cream.
The original recipe comes from the queen of desserts, Maida Heatter, who apparently was given the recipe from her daughter, who lived on East 62nd Street in Manhattan.
This cake can be made in either a bundt pan or a tube pan. In either case, it should have a 12-cup capacity. The bundt cake will be inverted after baking. The tube pan will not. I kind of love the soft top from baking it in a tube pan. That’s what I’ve used here. I like to leave the base of the tube pan on until the cake is glazed and cooled, to prevent any breakage from trying to move a warm cake. It works just fine.
Interestingly, this cake recipe was published with two different baking temperatures. The original New York Times version specified 325F. for 75 minutes. When the recipe was published in Maida Heatter’s “Book of Great Desserts” some time later, the baking temperature changed 350F. while still recommending about 75 minutes. It would seem that both can’t be true. Having made this cake several times with different pans and times and temperatures, I think 325F for 70-75 minutes works nicely. If baking at 350F, the timing would be closer to 60 minutes, but note that this temperature tends to make quite a dark crust, darker than I prefer myself.
Top Tip! Don’t mix up the lemon juice and sugar glaze until right before brushing on the cake. It’s important that the sugar not have time to dissolve. That way the sugar crystals make a lovely, crisp coating on the cake.
The sugar glaze on this cake nicely seals the outside and helps to keep it fresh for several days. Simply cover the any cut ends with plastic wrap and keep on the counter.
Get the Recipe: East 62nd Street Lemon Cake
For the cake:
- 3 cups (360 g) all purpose flour
- 2 tsp (8 g) baking powder
- 1/2 tsp (1/2 tsp) salt, reduce to 1/4 tsp if using salted butter
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter
- 2 cups (380 g) white sugar
- 4 large (4 large) eggs
- 1 cup (227 ml) whole milk
- finely grated zest of 2 lemons, about 2 Tbsp
- 1/3 cup (75 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
- 3/4 cup (142 g) white sugar
- Preheat oven to 325F. with rack in lower third of oven. Grease and flour a 12-cup capacity/9 x 4 1/2-inch bundt or tube pan (with removable bottom, greasing the tube as well). Set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl with an electric mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With mixer on lowest speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternately with the milk in 2 additions, scraping the bowl as necessary. Beat only until smooth after each addition. Stir in lemon zest.
- Spoon batter into prepared pan. Let top by rotating pan back and forth.
- Bake for 70-75 minutes, or until a tester comes out dry.
- For a bundt cake: Let cake stand in the pan for about 3 minutes, then cover with a rack and invert. Remove pan, leaving the cake upside down. For a tube pan, let stand 5 minutes, then run a knife around the outside and centre hole. Carefully push up from the bottom to remove cake from outside ring. Place onto cooling rack with the base still attached. Proceed to brush with glaze and cool, then remove from the base by running a knife underneath the cake and using two spatulas to lift the cake off the base of the pan.
- Place a baking sheet under the cooling rack and prepare glaze by stirring together the glaze ingredients. (Glaze must be used immediately after it is mixed). Brush glaze liberally all over the hot cake until absorbed. Let cake cool completely. Do not cut for at least several hours.
More Lemon Baking Recipes from the Seasons and Suppers Archives
Hi! I’m Jennifer, a home cook schooled by trial and error and almost 40 years of getting dinner on the table! I love to share my favourite recipes, both old and new, together with lots of tips and tricks to hopefully help make your home cooking enjoyable, stress free, rewarding and of course, delicious!
Hi there from the Canary Islands! My husband and I live in Northumberland county Ontario and while on vacation we got caught in the pandemic! So feeling a little homesick I gathered what I needed to make my favourite lemon cake (this recipe!) Just finished glazing it and hoping it turns out just as well here in Spain as it does back home! Love your recipes!
Oh goodness, Joanna! I guess on the upside there are worse places to be than the Canary Islands :) So glad you can enjoy this cake there and hoping you can get back home soon. Thanks!
I just finished making your lemon loaf which was amazing like my grand daughter said and came across this recipe for 62nd street cake. In these times with no one visiting each other, i was wondering if the cake can be frozen with that glaze on it. Looking forward to your response. Thank You
Hi Marsha and yes, it can be frozen. The glaze may soften some and may be more moist after thawing, but will still be delicious :)
This is my dream lemon drizzle cake . Finally , after all this time . Im making it for my son’s 3rd birthday for its simplicity and deliciousness .. another winner to put alongside your lovely french pear cake.
I always get compliments but I know its really all down to you . Best wishes from London !!
So happy to hear, Louise! I love this cake, too :) Thanks so much.
Jennifer how can I make this cake in at least two smaller tins ? Sometimes there just isn’t enough people to share cake with on the day and I avoid freezing if I can – sometimes I just want a smaller cake. I like the height I get with bundt tin recipes – can I use two 6 inch tins or two 8 inch tins ?
Hi Louise and I hear you. I avoid freezing too, mostly because my freezer is always full :) I’m assuming by tin you mean loaf pan. (If not, let me know :) I’m thinking you would get at least two 8-inch loaf pans, with a little batter left over. I think the tube pan holds 12 cups and the 8-inch loaf pan holds 6 cups, so by that math, you would get 2, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way exactly in practice. Instead of two 8-inch loaf pans, maybe one 8-inch and one 9-inch would use up all the batter.
I have a recipe for brownies that is from Maida, they are amazing so I’m giving this a try.
I think you will love this one, too! Enjoy :)
I’ve never heard of this cake but it sounds and looks divine! Lemon cakes are the best! :)
Thanks Laura :)
Lemon is my fave in baked good and this cake looks so fluffy, Jennifer! Wishing I could grab a hunk from my screen right now!
Thanks Dawn :)
Thank you for sharing this! I didn’t know I was craving it until I saw it!! YUM!
Oh…I just fainted.
I was going to make your Glazed Lemon Pound Cake Loaf but it looks like it will be this one instead!
As soon as I saw Maida Heatter, that was it. Lemon cake is my all time favourite.
I’ll make it in a couple of weeks. Far too busy right now :(
Do enjoy, Randi! You won’t go wrong with this one :)
I hoard lemon recipes, and this looks like a winner! I have one of Maida’s cookbooks, but I don’t think I’ve seen this cake, lovely!
Thanks Sue. It’s in her “Book of Great Desserts” cookbook, along with a bunch of treasures :)
I absolutely adore lemon desserts, so this is going right on my baking list! Can’t wait to give this famous cake a try Jennifer!
Thanks Mary Ann! This one is a classic. One of my favourites :)
This is my kind of dessert Jennifer! So pretty and the texture looks terrific. Timeless and classic really describes this great recipe. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much, Tricia :)