Quick and Easy Lemon Cake

Lemon Jello Cake

This is the lemon cake that my Nana usually always makes for me when I go home to California. We both forgot about it during my last visit and I didn’t realize until I got back to Sicily that I hadn’t had my Lemon Jello Cake fix.

Luckily, I have the recipe! And lucky for you, I’m going to share it!

This is one of the easiest cakes you can make and I will argue that it’s one of the best-tasting cakes you will ever eat.

What makes this cake so great is the glaze. The cake is baked in a jelly roll pan so it is only about an inch thick. After it’s done baking, you pierce the cake all over with a fork and spread it with the sweet-tart lemon glaze. The glaze sinks down into the cake and the result is the best lemon cake EVER!

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Nana’s Lemon Jello Cake

1 package yellow cake mix
1 small package lemon jello
3/4 C. water
4 eggs, well beaten
3/4 C. oil

glaze:
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 C. powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 18 x 13-inch jelly roll pan.

2. Pour cake mix and lemon jello powder into a large bowl; whisk together to remove any large lumps. Stir in the water then add eggs and oil. Blend, using a wooden spoon, with 50 strokes. There will be lumps, this is ok.

3. Pour batter into a greased and floured jelly roll pan; smooth batter with a spatula so that it is even. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees, checking after the first 20 minutes.

4. While cake is baking, mix together powdered sugar. lemon juice and zest.

5. While cake is still warm, pierce with fork all over then spread glaze evenly over the top. Allow to cool, then cut into squares and serve.

Mixing the Batter

As you can see, the batter will be lumpy. It’s important to smooth the batter evenly with a spatula after pouring it in the jelly roll pan, so that it will bake evenly.

Cake Batter

One of the greatest inventions ever, the microplane grater is perfect for zesting a lemon in seconds!

Lemon Zest

How do you juice your lemons? I usually just squeeze them by hand, using a small strainer to catch the seeds.

Squeezing Lemons

When making the glaze, you don’t have to use a cute little whisk like this one. But it always puts a smile on my face!

Mixing the glaze

After the cake comes out of the oven, pierce it all over with a large fork. The holes will allow the yummy lemon glaze to penetrate the cake.

Piercing Cake

After the glaze is poured over the warm cake, make sure to spread it out quickly and evenly with spatula.

Pouring Glaze

As the cake cools, the glaze hardens just a bit. Now is the time to dig in with your fork before dividing the rest into squares!

Finished Cake

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45 Comments
  1. Ruby

    Lemons, lemons and more lemons! I love them!!!!
    This recipe looks simple and more importantly delicious! :)
    I’m going to try this out this weekend, I’ll let you know how it turns out.
    Thanks Nicole, beautiful pictures as always.

    7:10 pm  Sep 14th, 2007
  2. Corinne

    NANA’S LEMON CAKE! I loooooooooooove it. This is a MUST TRY for everyone. Even I can make it…it’s that easy! Man, now my mouth is watering. I want some of that cake!

    7:17 pm  Sep 14th, 2007
  3. Nicole

    Ruby: I really can’t believe that I don’t have more lemon recipes on here! I really need to get to work and post some more because I use lemons several times a week! Hope you guys enjoy the cake this weekend!

    Corinne: I know, this is a cake that really is rated “E” for everyone! So easy, soooooooo good! I had to take the cake to the guys in the office today because if I would have left the whole thing here, it would already be in my stomach! It got rave reviews from everyone there too.

    7:35 pm  Sep 14th, 2007
  4. Erin

    Wow! You’ve been baking up a storm. I hope you have lots of neighbors to share all of these delicious recipes with. Lovely images! How did you get pictures of actually pouring batter etc… Tripod? Husband? That’s where I always have problems since I usually cook alone.

    Best,
    Erin

    8:04 pm  Sep 14th, 2007
  5. Nicole

    Erin: I use a tripod and either set the timer on my camera or use the remote shutter release. It’s kind of a hassle to take photos while I’m in the middle of cooking or baking something so it doesn’t happen that often!

    9:51 pm  Sep 14th, 2007
  6. Joe

    So, you have a death grip on the lemon with one hand, and a camera in the other?
    Sounds like a recipe for a lemon-scented camera, if you ask me ;)

    Cheers,

    Joe

    11:29 pm  Sep 14th, 2007
  7. amy

    giving away our family secrets, eh? LOL i love this cake and can’t imagine anyone not liking it, even a little bit. looks amazing, nana should be very proud of you!

    4:06 pm  Sep 15th, 2007
  8. Mischelle

    Aloha, I’m relatively new to your site, and I love it. Thanks for sharing so much with us! Talk about a stroll down memory lane…my mother used to make this very cake for us growing up, but she used a bundt pan. Of course the glaze is the best part. In fact, it was the cake for my first birthday,…37 years ago!!! I just told my kids about that very thing not even a week ago. Now, I HAVE to make it this weekend.. too much of a coincidence to not accept the need for really good cake. We gotta continue the tradition here as well. Your photos are so delightful. Mahalo and aloha!!

    6:44 pm  Sep 15th, 2007
  9. Cynthia

    We thank you for sharing it with us!

    5:20 pm  Sep 16th, 2007
  10. christina

    you are right. it is the best lemon cake ever. thanks so much for sharing.

    7:27 pm  Sep 16th, 2007
  11. Nicole

    Joe: Yes, I actually did get lemon juice on the camera. And today I accidentally got flour and butter all over my remote shutter switch! But hopefully some good biscuit-making photos will come of it!

    Amy: Haha, some things are so good they have to be shared!

    Mischelle: I’m sure this cake is great in a bundt pan, too! Isn’t it funny to find out that the exact same recipe can be a tradition in other families? I think it’s great! I hope you make the cake and that your kids love it as much as we do :-)

    Cynthia: You’re welcome! Thank you for the visits and nice comments ;-)

    Christina: Did you just make it or have you tried this recipe before? I gave most of this last batch away and now I’m wishing I still had some left!

    7:56 pm  Sep 16th, 2007
  12. Steven Vollmer

    What variety lemon did you use? I suppose it doesn’t matter. While researching this I found out that a lemon is technically classified as a berry! I prefer lemons with tartness that can be offset easily by its’ sugar content.

    12:31 am  Sep 17th, 2007
  13. Ruby Berry

    I made them and they turned out yummy!
    One problem I’m having is I can’t stop eating them!
    Thanks again!

    1:13 am  Sep 17th, 2007
  14. Nicole

    Steven: Just regular lemons, any variety should work but I wouldn’t use Meyers because for the glaze you need something very tart to balance all the sugar: But I don’t think you’d find meyer lemons yet anyway :-)

    Ruby: I was wondering if you made it over the weekend. Glad you liked it!

    8:05 am  Sep 17th, 2007
  15. Augustina

    This cake reminds me so much of my childhood–my mom used to bake lemon cakes for our birthdays (also from cake mixes) and we loved them! i’ll definitely give this one a try. looks good!

    6:44 pm  Sep 17th, 2007
  16. Mrs. L

    This sounds so good! And good info about the lemons, I was wondering if I needed to go get Meyer lemons but I’ll just use the regular ones. Thanks!

    7:45 pm  Sep 17th, 2007
  17. Nicole

    Augustina: Food is wonderful for bringing back memories, isn’t it?

    Mrs. L: Hope you enjoy it :-)

    8:16 pm  Sep 17th, 2007
  18. Jason

    I wish somebody would make me some lemon cake.

    Have you tried using the zest from those big Sicilian lemons?

    10:27 pm  Sep 17th, 2007
  19. Nicole

    Jason: No, I’ve never tried zesting one of those but I think it would be hard since they’re so bumpy!

    10:44 pm  Sep 17th, 2007
  20. Jason

    What of the rind then? Have you found any use for that?

    11:39 pm  Sep 17th, 2007
  21. Bruce

    What is the size of a jelly roll pan? Is this the same as a half sheet?

    2:58 pm  Sep 18th, 2007
  22. Nicole

    Jason: Well, you eat it, remember! The thick white part is dipped in chili-salt and eaten as a snack. I can’t remember if I told you that I tried it at a festival after you guys left.

    Bruce: It is a half sheet pan, 18″x13″. The cake can easily be baked in a regular rectangular cake pan though, just add extra baking time since it will be thicker. Just bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    3:10 pm  Sep 18th, 2007
  23. christina

    i just made it for the first time. and i got RAVE reviews from my husband–who doesn’t like desserts without chocolate–and everyone i’ve given a piece to. i want to hoard it!

    4:15 pm  Sep 18th, 2007
  24. Soph

    i’m really late on this so i don’t know if you’ll get it, but… i just made this, except at the last second at the store i decided to buy pineapple jello instead. try it some time! it’s like lemon-y pineapple upside down cake. so delicious

    3:53 pm  Jan 31st, 2008
  25. Nicole

    Soph: Thanks, I’ll give it a try sometime!

    4:17 pm  Jan 31st, 2008
  26. Sheri Shenk

    Oh My Goodness!!! My mom began a tradition, bringing this cake to our second son on his birthday every year from the time he was about 3 years old. He turns 39 this week, and his only request was “Grandi’s Lemon Jello Cake.” Hiding his cake became the ultimate challenge for his 3 brothers. No one ever felt satisfied with one serving . . . I found the remaining cake still in the pan in some pretty peculiar places, well hidden from the birthday boy! Will be baking this on Friday . . . once again. “Grandi” went to Heaven in 1995, but her cake lives on forever!

    9:07 am  Sep 29th, 2008
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  28. Ann Scott

    I made this cake one Sunday afternoon and it is so easy to make and so delicious. My husband got up the next morning for work and had a piece of cake @ 6:00am and made the comment “sweety this cake is so delicious”. Very easy to make and so moist and delicious.

    11:39 am  Feb 2nd, 2009
  29. Nicole

    Ann:So happy to hear that you and your husband enjoyed the cake so much! It will always be one of my favorites (especially when my grandma makes it for me!). :-)

    1:37 pm  Feb 2nd, 2009
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  34. Emily

    My grandmother makes the same, or a very similar recipe, but she bakes it in a bunt pan. It’s ridiculously good for something made with jello. We made it a couple of years ago for a graduation party, and we just kept adding lemons to the glaze. It was delish.

    2:50 pm  Nov 7th, 2010
  35. Carrie

    Is it made with lemon jello or lemon pudding by jello?

    12:28 am  Nov 13th, 2010
  36. sheri

    It is made with lemon jello. A standard birthday/special occasion cake made regularly by my mother for one of our four sons. He’s now 41 and still asks for it 80)

    9:17 am  Nov 13th, 2010
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  38. Lorene

    No waaaaaay!! MY nana (in California) made this exact same lemon jello cake for me every year on my birthday. I think we must share a gene pool. The sweet-tart crumbly glaze on the top is my favorite part.

    6:00 pm  Jan 4th, 2011
  39. SB

    Absolutely wonderful. An older couple that were neighbors to my parents make this cake and when I moved, I scoured the web trying all sorts of different combinations and finally found the right one!! Thank you so much! I’ve used this for birthdays, Christmas, and office parties and it’s always a hit!

    12:40 pm  Jan 6th, 2011
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  44. dessert recipes

    Fantastic lemon cake. Absolutely great tasting and easy to prepare. Love it. Nice work on the images too.

    9:45 pm  Nov 6th, 2012
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