How to bake a lemon cake which for some reason makes French men want to marry you. Approach with caution.

Tasty, tangy lemon drizzle cake, with a crunchy sugar topping.

Good recipe for a lemon cake

The Secrett Kitchen seems to be over-run with lemons at the moment. I keep buying them thinking we will have a civilised gin and tonic hour, and then realising that we polished off the gin weeks ago. Whilst lemons do grow on trees (right outside our window in fact- which I also always seem to forget when I start stock-piling them from the supermarket), sadly, gin does not.

A gin tree!

Imagine a world where gin DID grow on trees....

So with gin and tonic off the agenda, and wondering what to do with the lemons that were coming out of my ears, I decided I wanted to make a really delicious lemon cake recipe that I used to make for my clients when I was doing daily catering in Sophia Antipolis a few years ago.

The husband has banned me from making us more cakes “just to have in the house”, as the bikini season is practically upon us in the South of France and he is conscious about weight. I am not sure whether he means his, or mine, and I don’t like to ask.

But last night there was a loophole in the cake-making ban, as I was heading off to my friend’s house in Cannes for a girly evening of wine, natter and food. Knowing that there would be seven sweet-toothed girls to share the cake between gave me a good excuse to reach for the butter and sugar to whip up this tasty, tangy lemon cake.

Good recipe for a lemon cake

The yummy lemon cake I made, before the girls demolished it

What I hadn’t considered whilst I was busy being a domestic goddess was the fact that I would be transporting the cake by train, and that due to a train strike (mais bien sûr!), I was going to have to arrive in Cannes an hour earlier than the girly evening started. As soon as I got on the train, a young French man started making conversation about my gâteau au citron.

“C’est vous qui l’a fait?” he enquired with disbelief.

Yes….it WAS me that made it, Monsieur.

“C’est vrai? C’est genial!”

Why thank you, I thought, flattered that my cake-making skills were being appreciated.

However, this flattery continued as soon as I got off the train and popped into the tabac.

“Un cadeau pour moi? C’est vous qui l’a fait?” said the man behind the counter as I juggled the cake with my handbag.

No, my cake is not a present for you Monsieur.  But I would love it if you could just help me balance it whilst I get my wallet out. And P.S, yes I did make it.

Apparently baking one’s own cakes in France, and certainly carrying them around, is just not normal.

By the time I had walked up to Boulevard Carnot, I had been stopped three more times on the street by random people wanting to talk about cake with me. I paused at the pedestrian crossing, only to be accosted by yet another cake suitor.

“Ca sent vraiment bien. C’est vous qui l’a fait?”

Again, a complete disbelief that someone who was not a professional patissière would actually make their own cake.

After five different cake-related conversations in the space of just 25 minutes, I needed a glass of wine. So I installed myself in a café near to my friend’s house to kill some time before I was due to arrive. Now normally I’m not afraid of sitting myself down alone with a book in a public place to pass some time with a spot of people watching. But no sooner had I ordered a glass of rosé, I was accosted by the waiter, who wanted to have yet more conversation about baked goods. Hearing my English accent, he told me he was going to London the following week and perhaps I would like to go with him. I politely answered that I was very happy to remain in France and not go to London to bake for a strange French man on his holiday.

He then started enquiring as to whether I was going to have crème anglaise with my cake.

He thought he was hilarious. I thought he was being a bit perverted.

His friend came over to add his two centimes to the matter of sussing out the strange English girl who was seemingly on a date with a cake. When he realised that I could speak his language, he announced to the café,

“Not only does she make cakes, but she speaks French. I would like to make her my wife.”

So the lesson I learnt from last night’s events was that carrying around a freshly baked lemon cake in the South of France is quite a dangerous undertaking, unless you are looking to pick up a few dodgy admirers…or husbands.

But if you are willing to take the risk, here is the recipe for the lemon cake which caused such a stir on the streets of Cannes.

Lemon cake

Me on a hot date with a cake and a glass of rosé in a Cannes café

Recipe for a seemingly dangerous lemon cake


To bake the cake

  • 225g unsalted butter , softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • finely grated zest 2 lemons
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • Juice of ½ a lemon

To finish off the lemon cake

  • juice 1.5 lemons
  • 85g caster sugar
  • A few thin slices of lemon to decorate (optional)


  • Non-stick loaf tin that measures 24cm lengthways and 10 cm widthways (this is the width at the base of the tin, not the top where it is wider).  If your tin is not exactly this size, don’t worry too much, but I have found that this recipe works best with one as close to this size as possible. If your tin is too small, the cake might rise over the top, and if it is too big, it can end up a bit flat.


  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Beat together 225g caster sugar and 225g of softened unsalted butter until pale and creamy, then add 4 eggs, one at a time, slowly mixing through. Sift in 225g self-raising flour, then add the finely grated zest of 2 lemons and the juice of ½ a lemon and mix until well combined.
  2. Take the loaf tin, lightly grease it with butter, and then cut out a piece of non-stick paper to line the base. Spoon the lemon cake mixture into the tin and level it out.
  3. Bake the cake for 45-50 minutes on a medium shelf and then test the lemon cake by inserting a skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean, the lemon cake is done. If not, pop it back in for another 5 minutes, test and repeat. The ideal time to take out the cake is when the skewer is only just clean, which will ensure the lemon cake stays nice and moist. Everyone’s ovens are different, and cooking times can vary quite a lot. In my oven, the total cooking time for a delicious, moist lemon cake was 55 minutes.
  4. While the cake is cooling in its tin, mix together the juice of 1 ½  lemons and 85g caster sugar in a jug. Prick the warm lemon cake all over with a skewer, then slowly pour over the lemon drizzle mixture, letting it sink into the holes. Leave the lemon cake in the tin until completely cool, then gently slide a knife around the outside before removing the cake from the tin.

The sugar mixture that you poured over the top of the lemon cake, will have made a crispy sugar layer that is just delicious!

Bon courage!

3 thoughts on “How to bake a lemon cake which for some reason makes French men want to marry you. Approach with caution.

  1. Je souhaite que mon pâtissière locale faisait des gâteaux comme ça! Je vais essayer de faire mon gâteau au citron première fois cette soirée!

  2. Pingback: If Carlsberg made carrot cake….. | The Secrett Kitchen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s