Lemon Cake for the French Republic

Lemon Cake with Marzipan Lemons

It’s been a minute since we’ve posted here . . . I’ll just blame COVID and get on with it.

This recipe comes from The Prayer for the French Republic that James stage managed at Manhattan Theater Club back in February/March of 2022.

As we know, James is a full-service stage manager and often makes birthday cakes for the cast and crew members. This one was for actress Nancy Robinette’s birthday.

Happy birthday Nancy!

Lemon Cake for the French Republic

For the Cake:

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature

3 tablespoons grated lemon zest (takes about 3 lemons)

1/4 cup lemon juice (from above 3 lemons)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup granulated sugar

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 egg yolk, room temperature

For the Glaze:

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons buttermilk


1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Grease a 9×13 inch rectangular baking pan and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

3. Combine buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla in liquid measuring cup.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat granulated sugar and lemon zest until moist and fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer 1/4 cup of the sugar mixture to small bowl, cover, and set aside. Add butter to the remaining sugar mixture and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs and yolk, one at a time, until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of buttermilk mixture, and mix until smooth, about 30 seconds.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with an offset spatula. Bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 25 to 35 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes.

6. To make the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and buttermilk until smooth. Using an offset spatula, spread glaze over warm cake and sprinkle evenly with the reserved sugar mixture. Cool completely, at least 2 hours. Serve.

Marzipan lemons for (optional) decoration:

Blend together in a food processor:

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fine ground almond flour

9 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 1/2 1ablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon rose water


1. Process until smooth and dough like. Shape into a log and refrigerate.

2. When ready to decorate, pinch off a golf ball size lump and set aside. Add just a drop or two at a time of yellow food coloring to the remainder (wear gloves when kneading food color into the marzipan.) Shape into lemons. Lightly roll the shaped lemons over a fine grater to give slight indentations. (May I please note that these instructions make it sound so easy. My “lemons” looked like cheddar cheese curds because a) I added too much food coloring at the top and b) I have no idea how one makes something lemon shaped. But you should definitely try this. Look how cute they look in the picture!)

3. Take that lump you set aside and color it green to make the leaves. Roll them out and cut into leaf shaped. Use a toothpick to run a line down the middle of each leaf as a vein.

Good luck!

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