Moist Lemon Butter Cake (the secret to making moist cakes)

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Moist Lemon Butter Cake

Butter cakes can have incredible flavor, but I’ve found that they can have a tendency to turn out a little bit on the dry side (in comparison to oil cakes).  I’ve made plenty of dry cakes in my lifetime… none which I care to repeat!  Over time, I figured out a few tricks in converting a dry cake into a really yummy moist cake:

1.  Don’t over mix your batter!  Overmixing = tough dry cake.  (BAD!!)

2.  Don’t overcook your cake!  Set your timer a few minutes early, and check every 5 minutes until it is done (when the cake springs back after it is gently touched).

3.  Measure your ingredients accurately – do NOT tamp down the flour in your measuring cup – you want to just loosely scoop flour into the cup, then use the flat edge of a knife to level it off.

4.  Use butter for flavor, but add a few tablespoons of mayonnaise to lock the moisture into the cake.  (You heard me right… I said MAYO!  I know, it sounds weird… but TRUST ME on this one!)

5.  If your cake still turns out dry, try substituting two egg yolks for one whole egg in your recipe next time (egg whites have a drying effect on your cake).

This recipe will make a one-layer 9″ round lemon butter cake.  It is so buttery and rich, bursting with lemon flavor.  You will need about 3 lemons – use organic if you can get them.  When zesting the lemons, make sure you don’t remove any of the bitter white pith – you want just the yellow surface part of the zest only.

Moist Lemon Butter Cake:

You will need the juice of the 3 lemons for the cake batter and the glaze.

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 c. unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 T. mayonnaise
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • 1/3 c. lemon juice

Lemon Glaze:

  • 1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 T. lemon juice

1.  Preheat the oven to 340 degrees.  Line a 9-inch round cake pan with non-stick foil and spray with non-stick baking spray (pam with flour added).  Sift the flour with the baking powder and baking soda.

2.  Cream the butter, sugar, and salt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

3.  Add the eggs into the butter mixture, one egg at a time.  Incorporate the egg into the butter mixture with the electric mixer before adding the next egg.

4.  Add the lemon zest and mayo to the butter mixture.

5.  Pour the butter mixture over the sifted flour, and mix on low speed until just combined.

6.  Add the lemon juice, and stir in.

7.  Spread the batter in the prepared cake pan, and bake at 340 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

8.  While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze by whisking the lemon juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl.

9.  Remove the cake from the oven and cool.  Invert onto a serving plate.

10.  When cool, spread the glaze over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.  Serve warm or room temperature.


  1. I don’t know why I bother writing a blog when I can just follow yours and drool over all your recipes full-time! You had me at butter! <3

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hey! I’m waiting for more posts from you… I love your Indian Butter Chicken recipe… that’s one of my new favorites!

  2. Amy says:

    Hi Mika
    Just curious, why are you lining the pan with foil . Shouldn’t it be easier to butter and flour the pan or put a parchment paper on the bottom ? Or is it for insulation purpose? Also , just wonder if the mayonnaise trick will work for all cake or only certain type of cake?

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi Amy,
      I line the pan with foil… because I’m lazy!!! It makes it easy for me to remove, and I don’t have to worry about scrubbing the cake pan later (easy clean-up). You can certainly just butter and flour the pan (or use baking spray), or line with parchment. The foil is not essential… unless you are lazy like me. ;)

      And yes, I have found the mayo trick works pretty well with any regular butter cake batter I have tried it with (as long as you use real Mayo). However, I wouldn’t use this on anything like a chiffon cake, sponge cake, angel cake or anything leavened with whipped up egg whites.

      • harriet says:

        Hi Amy–saw this on another site, and did not see the glaze recipe. But I made the cake, using the 9″ cake pan, and it is delicious. However, I’m glad I put it on a baking sheet, because it overflowed by 1/4 and cooked onto the sheet. Have you had this issue? Thanks

        • JanetRenee says:

          If I’d have seen you comment sooner I would have used a springform pan! It puffed up and over within ten minutes of going into the oven and made a terrible smoky mess. I’ll have to clean the oven when it cools. Cake is quite tasty though and I measured properly

          • Mika Mika says:

            Sorry for the delay! This blog is a hobby of mine… and I do have to keep up with my regular job. Hope it turned out ok!

      • harriet says:

        Mika–I also wondered if 340 degrees is the correct temp, as opposed to 350?

        • Mika Mika says:

          Yes, I know it seems weird, but I like it a little bit lower than 350 for this particular recipe. So 340 is correct. Fahrenheit, of course!

  3. Amy says:

    As usual, I’m so impressed with your speedy response. So happy I discovered your blog

    • Mika Mika says:

      :) Thanks Amy!

  4. Mary R says:

    Oh my, Mika! This looks so good! I’m making it today! btw, can’t believe we missed you in NYC! This last week was busy, but I’ll write you a long email soon!

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hey Mary! Let me know how your cake turns out… hope you like it! (I guess our timing was off in NYC… we probably passed right by each other and didn’t even know!)

  5. Evette says:

    My cake turned out too oily. Has yours ever been this way? It semlls delicious,a nd the batter was so velvety and light, but the finished product was a bust. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but the texture (if you took some of the oilyness away, is just what I was looking for). It wasn’t super heavy, again, just oily as ever. Is this your tried and true…been making it for years cake? I want to try it again, but I’m afraid to waste my butter. Do you have any photos that are closer up for viewing? Any advice?

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi Evette,
      I’m not sure why your cake turned out oily. Mine usually turns out perfect and moist – but I’ve never had an oily texture. Did you use 2 regular sticks of butter (1 cup)? And only 2 T. of mayo (that’s two tablespoons)? Maybe check your other ingredients and make sure you added all of them in the right proportion – if you accidentally used less flour, that could change the recipe. When you measure, do you level off all of the ingredients? When measuring cups, I always use the flat side of a knife to level off, and do the same thing when measuring Tablespoons and teaspoons – try not to eyeball otherwise you might get too much of one thing, not enough of another. Otherwise, I’m not sure… I’ve never had that problem before.

  6. Suzana says:

    Hi Mika,
    I am so happy to search your blog. I found what I want for so long..the moist buttery cake..I did it…mm so yummy! Thank you so much for the steps and recipe.

    • Mika Mika says:

      Thanks! Glad you liked it! :)

  7. Christina says:

    Hey Mika,

    i made this cake. it tastes amazing, but it sunk in the centre. the batter look just like yours etc. Just wondering why it sunk in the middle. Any clues? You have the best recipes. Keep’em coming!

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hmm… I’m not sure? How badly did it sink? Did it start out level, then sink with cooling? If that happens, usually it is because it wasn’t fully set. Did you use a different sized pan or a smaller pan (like 8″ instead of 9″ round pan)? Maybe try baking it 5 minutes longer. The way I usually test, is I poke the center of the cake with a clean finger. If it springs back, then it’s usually done. If the cake sinks in a bit when you poke it in the center, then it needs to bake a little bit longer. Hope this helps! :)

  8. Sacha says:

    Hi I’d love to try this recipe. What are the weights that you use in grams? As I’m in the UK and every time I do a recipe using’cups’ I mess it up. X

    • Mika Mika says:

      I’m sorry, I don’t have the weight measurements. I normally measure using volumetric cups. If you have these measuring cups, the trick is not to pack the flour in or tamp the edge to make the flour settle down – you’ll end up with too much flour and a dry cake. Stir up or sift your flour first to ‘loosen’ it up, then scoop the loosened flour into the cup. Use a straight edge (like the back of a dinner knife) to level the top off. When the recipe calls for “T” or “Tablespoons”, make sure you use an actual Tablespoon measuring spoon – not cutlery from the drawer (as these are not standard volume). Same for “tsp” or “teaspoons”. Next time I make this cake I will try to remember to weigh the ingredients for you.

  9. Christina titus says:

    Oh it’s level when I take it out and then sinks in a minute. It’s all cooked ,the skewer comes out clean and all. Maybe I’ll try leaving it the oven longer? I’m using 9″ pan. It tastes amazing. Really want to work it out. Will try leaving it longer to bake. Thanks mika.

    • Mika Mika says:

      I’m not sure then? Maybe try baking it a little bit longer and see if that helps. Also, make sure you start out with room temperature ingredients. If your starting ingredients are chilled, then it might increase the baking time.

  10. merlene Isaacs says:

    I am Totally impress and Excited to Try this lemon cake..The Mayo capture my taste bud..i made other lemon cakes curious to see this outcome..I know it will be AWESOME..Thanks for sharing..

  11. amea says:

    Hi Mika :-)
    i was thinking about making this tomorrow, and is it okay if i used lite mayo, or do you think i should use the normal mayonnaise?

    • Mika Mika says:

      It should probably be fine with lite mayo – I’ve used it before and haven’t had any issues.

  12. Rosette says:

    Can’t wait to make this cake! Silly question, your site is 350-degree-oven, but this cake is baked at 340… is the temperature that fussy? I know, silly… thanks!

    • Mika Mika says:

      The reason why the temperature is 240 F… the original recipe that I was translating indicated 115 degrees C. So, 240 F would be the ideal temperature.

      ETA: Sorry! I made a typo here… the original recipe was 170 degrees Celsius, so the translated temperature would be about 340 degrees Fahrenheit.

  13. Christina Titus says:

    Hey Mika,

    Your last reply to the Rosette answers that the temperature needed to bake this cake is 240 F. Whereas the blog says 340F. Which one is it? going to give this a try again …

    • Mika Mika says:

      Sorry it took me so long to respond to your comment… I was looking for my original recipe (paper copy) to verify the temperature (and I had misplaced it!). Apparently I made a typo in the comment section above – thanks for catching it! ;) The correct temperature is 170 degrees Celsius or 340 degrees Fahrenheit.

  14. Christina Titus says:

    all good.. want to try this cake out again this weekend. i think my oven wasnt hot enough . which is why it was sinking when i take it out. will try increasing it…
    Thanks Mika,…

    • Mika Mika says:

      You’re welcome! One thing I always like to do is put a ceramic pizza stone in the bottom of my oven to make sure that as the oven is cycling on and off – that the temperature stays somewhat even. It’s a little trick that helps with everything I make, but especially with cakes that are somewhat finicky.

      • christina titus says:

        Will need to figure out where ill get one of those…

        • Mika Mika says:

          You can always used an unglazed ceramic tile (or terracotta tile) from the home improvement store. It’s basically the same thing!

  15. Miu Miu says:

    Hi Mika,

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. I tried to make the lemon butter cake yesterday and the result was amazing! All my friends love the cake. My kitchen was full of fresh lemon smell while the cake was baking.
    But because I’m not really getting use to the measurement of CUP. Especially for the butter, I tried to search on the web 1 Cup of butter = approx. 227g. Just want to clarify is this measurement correct? or is this the amount ’227g of butter’ that you used for this cake?
    Also, for the flour and sugar, did you just use a measuring cup to get the right portion? What I did was I convert them into grams first.

    • Mika Mika says:

      For butter, 1 cup = 1/2 pound, which does convert to about 227 grams. Butter is packaged that way – so the cup to weight measurement works out nicely.

      However, for flour and sugar… you can’t really convert a volume based measurement to a weight based measurement. I would just use a volumetric measuring cup set if you can find it.

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  17. Wanda says:

    This is the best cake I have ever made from the Internet. I am left stunned. Delicious, moist, scrumptious! This will be the cake I show off! Thank you so much.

    • Mika Mika says:

      I’m so glad that it worked for you. Thanks for taking the time to comment and let me know how it turned out! :)

  18. Chrystal says:

    Hi I was reading all the comments and there was one that said that their cake fall in the middle mine did the same

    • Mika Mika says:

      Yeah I’m not sure why that happens for some people. I will say that baking soda leavened cakes can sometimes do that… if it is a problem for you, you can try using a bundt pan next time.

  19. Victoria says:

    Hi there what type of flour do you use I couldn’t see if it was was A/P or S/R ?? Thank you I really want to try this cake tmrw

    • Mika Mika says:

      For this recipe, I use just regular all purpose flour.

  20. Theja Shrea says:

    Hi Mika,
    Tried this recipe. Turned out lovely. I had less of an egg. Therefore, substituted with 10 teaspoons of milk. Gave the cake a really nice feel but the cake sank in the middle.
    The taste is remarkably WOW. Thank you for this recipe. ❤❤❤

  21. Anna says:

    Hi Mira

    I hv been searching for a moist butter cake recipe for over a year now.
    Have tried many sites and none turned out moist! I would like to give yours a try . I feel yours is just the one I have been waiting for. Your picture looks exactly how I wanted it.

    Please can you clarify your measurements. How many ml is your cup / tsp/ tbsp?
    Are you using US/ UK / JAP or Australian measurements? They don’t seem to be exactly the same :(

    Looking fwd to hearing from you soon.


    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi there. I’m using US volumetric measurements. The approximate conversions are as follows:
      1 c. = 237mL
      1 T. = 15mL
      1 tsp. = 5mL

  22. naomi says:

    Hi. I halved the recipe and am baking in 12 heart shaped mini cakes… with the oven at 340 and less minutes… i hope it turns out. I never time stuff. i just wait for the scent to let me know it’s ready. would u suggest lowering the heat? thx. :)

  23. naomi says:

    Well. they taste good. but they fell in the center. cooked to long maybe. should have used a timer. next time i’ll try the full recipe. thx :)

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi there. Did you cook at 340 degrees F (I hope)? Just FYI my recipes are in Fahrenheit, not Celsius.
      Underbaking can cause a cake to fall, baking at too high a heat, too much leavening (or expired leavening), opening the oven during baking, overmixing, or if you are at high altitude.
      When you cut the recipe in half, did you remember to cut the leavening (baking soda and baking powder) in half too?

  24. Msspunky458 says:

    Does any brand mayo work better than another?

    • Mika Mika says:

      I normally use Best Foods mayo. I’m sure brand doesn’t matter… although I wouldn’t use miracle whip.

  25. Yanti says:

    Hi Mika,
    Finally my lemon butter cake is done!!! It was moist and beautiful. I used to have volcanoes butter cake. Dark at the side and uncook in the middle. So thanks to you and ur MAYO!!

    • Mika Mika says:

      You’re welcome! I’m glad the recipe turned out well for you! :)

  26. Sonya says:

    This recipe is amazinggg , made cupcakes, they turned out so lemony , fluffy , moist and tangy , thank you mika , but i would use a little less lemon juice next time though

  27. Marge says:

    I just saw your recipe for lemon and butter! In love both so I will try your recipe after I move, which I hope will be within a month! I am moving to a travel trailer and the oven is somewhat small but i have all the gadgets needed to do a good job…i hope! So I will look for your recipes. Thanks

  28. Sonya says:

    Love this cake,so lemony , turns out amazing everytime ❤

  29. Shama says:

    Hi Mika, I want to bake this lemon cake but need measurements in metric (kg and grams). I don’t know how cups work. Please advise. Thank you.

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi there. I don’t have weight measurements, sorry. The “cups” that we use in the US are volume-based measurements. 1 “cup” = approx 237 mL.