Lemon or Orange Cake

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

You can use this recipe to make either a lemon or an orange cake. Whichever you choose, you’ll get a beautifully tight-grained loaf cake with an intense citrus flavor. In the States, we think of cakes like these as pound cakes, but in France, they are called “weekend cakes” because they are sturdy (sturdy enough to be packed in a weekend picnic basket), keep well (they’ll last the weekend and then some), and easy to enjoy with anything from Saturday morning coffee to Sunday afternoon tea. Not surprisingly, at Montmartre favorite  Patisserie Arnaud Larher, these weekend cakes sell out on weekdays too. To get the most flavor out of the grated zest in this recipe, you mix the zest and sugar together with your fingertips, rubbing the two ingredients together until the sugar is moist and grainy and the piquant aroma of citrus fills the kitchen. Do this once, and you’ll find yourself doing it often in other recipes.

KEEPING: Wrapped airtight, the cake will keep for 1 week at room temperature or up to 1 month in the freezer. Stale cake is delicious lightly toasted and spread with marmalade.

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS: I’ve used this recipe to make a wonderful vanilla cake. I substitute the pulp of 2 plump, fragrant vanilla beans for the zest and rub the pulp into the sugar just as the zest is rubbed in. Keep the rum in the recipe—it’s lovely with the vanilla.


Cooking Methodbaking



Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes


Recipe Coursedessert, snack

Mealbrunch, tea

Taste and Texturebuttery, sweet

Type of Dishcake


  • 2¼ cups (250 grams) cake flour, sifted
  • ¾ teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 2/3 cups (335 grams) sugar
  • Grated zest of 3 lemons or 2 oranges
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (165 grams) creme fraiche, homemade  or store-bought, or heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) dark rum (for the lemon cake) or Grand Marnier (for the orange cake)
  • 7½ tablespoons (3¾ ounces; 110 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled


Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter and flour a 9 x 5 x 3-inch (22.5 x 12.5 x 7.5-cm) loaf pan, dust the interior with flour, and tap out the excess. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two stacked regular baking sheets and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together and keep close at hand. Toss the sugar and zest together in a large bowl and rub them together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, beating until the mixture is pale and foamy, then whisk in the crème fraîche and rum. Switch to a large rubber spatula and gently stir the sifted flour mixture into the batter in three or four additions—the batter should be thick and smooth. Finally, fold in the cooled melted butter in two or three additions.

3. Immediately spoon the batter into the pan and slide the baking sheet(s) into the oven. Bake for 1 hour and 25 to 30 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out dry and free of crumbs. (Check the cake at the 40-minute mark. If it is browning quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent for the remainder of the baking period.) Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes on a cooling rack before turning it out of the pan; invert and cool to room temperature right side up.



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