Luci’s Grandma’s German Lemon Sheet Cake is the ideal summer cake: light and airy, subtly sweet and refreshingly tart, picnic-ready and super easy to make from scratch.
One of my favorite childhood memories is when my grandma’s orange VW beetle pulled into the driveway – and then Oma climbed out of the car, took off her leather driving gloves, and presented that tin full of freshly-baked Zitronenkuchen (German lemon sheet cake).
While I can’t share exactly that feeling or my grandma with you, I hope I can make you happier and your happy place better with the best German lemon sheet cake – tweaked to simple perfection and converted to US measurements.
Lemon Sheet Cake Recipe Ingredients
- 350 grams – margarine – (12.35 oz. = 25 tbsp = 3 sticks + 1 tbsp)
- 350 grams – regular/granulated sugar – (12.35 oz. = 1 3/4 cups)
- 1 teaspoon – vanilla extract – (or 1 packet of vanilla sugar)
- 2 – lemons – (for zest + 8 tbsp lemon juice)
- 6 – eggs
- 350 grams – all-purpose flour – (12.35 oz. = 2 3/4 cups)
- 3 teaspoons – baking powder
- 3 cups – powdered sugar
- Parchment paper or more margarine to grease large sheet pan
Lemon Sheet Cake Recipe Instructions
- Preheat oven to 190 C / 375 F.
- Wash and dry lemons, then grate outside skin to get the lemon zest.
- Cut and squeeze both lemons to get all of the lemon juice.
- Mix margarine and sugar (hand-mixer, stand mixer or food processor) until well-blended.
- Add lemon zest from 2 lemons. Mix again.
- Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Mix again.
- Add 3 eggs. Mix more.
- Add half the flour and baking powder. Mix more.
- Add remaining 3 eggs. Mix more.
- Add remaining flour. Mix more until batter looks light and fluffy.
- Spread cake batter on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (You can just grease baking pan, but beware cake will rise some.)
- Bake for 20 minutes or a bit more – until it’s lightly browned on top.
- Vigorously and quickly mix powered sugar and remaining lemon juice (6 – 7 tablespoons) until mixture is as smooth and without clumps.
- Using a spoon, spread sugar-lemon glaze gently over warm cake.
- Let cake cool for at least 20 minutes to let glaze settle.
Let’s get this one out of the way: food or drinks you’ve had in some special location at a special time can never be recreated quite like it. New York Pizza only looks, feels, tastes and folds over like that on a paper plate while standing on a sidewalk in NYC, French cidre only sparkles and refreshes like that while dancing at an August Festival in Britany, and Oma’s cake is only such a delightful miracle when it comes straight out of her metal cookie tin and she mercifully did not add those dreaded raisins.
But we can always try to recreate or enjoy those treats in the best way possible if we appreciate them for what they are: something delicious right then in that moment – and also a trigger of lovely memories of previous times of joy.
Just because we’re occasionally nostalgic doesn’t mean we can’t live in the moment and enjoy the here and now.
Specifically, German baking recipes have at least two small challenges: German baking powder is not the same as American baking powder. And vanilla extract is not an equal substitute for German vanilla sugar (aka Vanillin Zucker). However, in this recipe as in many recipes, just making a quick and simple substitution works just fine.
German baking powder is slow-rising single-acting, while American powder is double-acting. If you want to make your own German-style baking powder for this recipe, you’d have to mix 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar with 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
To make your own vanilla sugar: combine 1 cup of sugar with the vanilla seeds scraped out of 1 vanilla bean in a food processor. An appropriate substitute for 1 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar is 1 tsp vanilla extract + 1 tsp sugar. For this recipe, we skipped adding that extra teaspoon of sugar because it overly complicated things.
If you like to add a bit of complication, just to make this cake even lighter and fluffier: beat the six eggs until they’re all aerated before slowly adding them to the batter – alternating with the flour.
Let’s keep inspiring each other!
Have you tried this cake? Did you make it yourself? How did you like it? Any tips?
What foods do you like to take to garden parties and picnics?
What’s your favorite food made by your grandma?
Please leave a reply below – inspired by these questions or whatever you’d like to share…