I am trying to adapt a recipe for lemon cake. I want to add actual lemon juice to the batter and omit the lemon zest. The recipe I have goes as follows:

  • 250g butter
  • 250g sugar, half and half powdered and granular
  • 4 separated eggs
  • 250g flour
  • baking powder for 250g flour
  • zest of 2 1/2 lemons

I experimented with several ratios of lemon juice to the other ingredients. However, each time I tried it, when I took the cake out of the oven and looked at the cross section there was a dense, slightly darker layer at the bottom which disrupts the otherwise fluffy nature of the cake.

How can I get rid of this layer, while still adding lemon juice to the cake?

  • 1
    You should edit your question to include the procedure of the recipe as well as the ingredients (including how you incorporated the lemon juice, and how much you used).
    – Sneftel
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 16:59
  • 1
    I expect speed is very important after adding the lemon juice. It is going to set off CO2 production in whatever chemical leavening agent you are using. Wait too long before the oven gels things, and the lowest bubbles will rise towards the top, giving a dense layer as you describe. Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 17:03
  • @Sneftel Actually, the original recipe does not include instructions... I always add the ingredients in the given order (but I mix the zest with the butte first) Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 17:06
  • So you don't beat the egg whites into a meringue?
    – Sneftel
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


The original recipe is leavened with baking powder, which these days is a mixture of baking soda, an acid, and a special acid which activates at high temperatures.

Lemon juice is strongly acidic, and will react with all the baking soda in the baking powder. This means you won't get as strong a leavening effect during baking. (Some people also feel that the un-reacted acid from the baking powder results in a metallic taste.)

To compensate for this, you can try adding baking soda (in addition to the baking powder) to the recipe; I've heard 1/2 tsp baking soda to 1 tbsp lemon juice, but I don't have any direct experience with that. I don't know what this will do to the overall leavening or taste of the cake.

It is unusual to see lemon cake recipes which use much lemon juice in the batter. Drizzling lemony syrup in afterwards is more common. You might want to try that instead.


Most of the lemon sponge recipes I’ve used do say use just the zest in the batter then add the juice in a syrup when you take the cake out of the oven. However, Delia does have a lemon sponge recipe where she suggests 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in the batter and 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder. If the eggs are separated I’m assuming you have to beat the whites to a soft peak to add lightness? But any recipe that uses acid and bicarbonate of soda( in baking powder) will fizz and needs to go into the hot oven ASAP so the extra lift can be produced in the batter before the fizzing stops. You’ll see this in any Soda bread recipe. I hope this helps


Ina Garten has an amazing lemon loaf cake recipe that calls for lemon juice. I've made it several times and loved it and have never had an issue. It does bake for an hour at 350 F.

  • 1
    That doesn’t explain what’s happening or how the asker can modify their cake, it simply says “use Ina Garten’s recipe”. Please take the tour and browse through the help center, especially How to Answer to understand the site’s rules and mechanisms bet. You can always edit your post and improve it.
    – Stephie
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 11:17

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