Sunshine Lemon Cardamom Sheet Cake

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Lemon desserts are happy desserts. They remind me of springtime and sunshine, of picnics and visits to the park. My husband does not share this view. He thinks they are too tart. He is wrong.

I mean, I kind of get it. A bad lemon dessert can be, well… really bad.

They can taste artificial, or the lemon isn’t present enough, or the texture is dry.

We won’t stand for that, will we? We want a soft, luxurious slice of lemony heaven, because good lemon desserts can be SO GOOD! This is a good one, friends.

Sheet cakes are awesome for many reasons.

  • they are very easy to make.
  • you don’t need a mixer.
  • they feed lots of people, thus making them perfect for things like baptisms, baby showers, parties, barbecues, big family dinners, and Mother’s Day brunches. Oh, how I’m looking forward to those things again. We’re almost there!
  • the leftovers (if you have any) are awesome the next day.
  • they travel really well.
  • you don’t have to decorate them.

I’m very proud of this particular sheet cake, as it’s my first original cake recipe. It’s soft, brightly lemony, and slightly spiced with cardamom. The glaze goes on when the cake is hot, so it soaks into the cake a little bit, and shatters pleasantly when you bite into it.

My husband, remember, the one who “doesn’t like lemon desserts,” loved this one. I know he wasn’t just trying to make me happy too, because I saw him eating pieces when he didn’t know I was looking. You hear that? He had seconds! And thirds! It was a hit. Also, my almost-two-year-old kept running up to the counter where the cake was with her little mouth open, waiting for a bite.

Let’s get to it! Here’s how you make it.

For the cake, heat the butter, lemon juice, and water together on the stove. While that heats, add the sugar and lemon zest to a large mixing bowl, and rub them together until they smell like summertime. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk. If you don’t have ground cardamom, you can skip it, but really go get some. It’s so yummy. It adds a comforting spice to the cake, but it’s very gentle.

Here’s where it gets fizzy! Yes, this cake batter will fizz when you add the wet ingredients to the dry because the baking soda reacts with the lemon juice. The key is to wait a few seconds after you pour the wet ingredients in, to let the reaction run its course a little bit, and then whisk until combined. If you don’t wait, the mix will be puffy and not all the batter will fit in the pan. It’ll bake up just fine though.

After the batter comes together, add the sour cream and whisk. This will cool the batter down enough to add the eggs and the vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan (13”x18”), and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes.

While the cake bakes, make the glaze. You just zest a lemon and combine the ingredients. Easy peasy! I sift the sugar too, so the glaze is nice and smooth on the cake. Glaze the cake while it is still quite warm, then let the cake cool completely for maximum deliciousness.

This really is a very simple cake, and I love a cake that just comes together in a bowl. Let me know when you make this! I’d love to see. Muah!

Lemon Cardamom Sheet Cake

A soft, bright lemon cake infused with an earthy spice from ground cardamom, with a shattering lemon glaze.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 48 servings


  • Half sheet pan


For the cake:

  • 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the glaze:

  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water


For the cake:

  • Prepare a 13″x18″ half sheet pan with baking spray, or flour and butter.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Zest 1 lemon.
  • In a small saucepot, add the butter, lemon juice, and water and bring just to a good simmer, then remove from the heat.
  • While the butter, lemon, and water are heating, add the sugar and lemon zest to a large mixing bowl. Be sure to use a large bowl to account for the reaction between the lemon juice and baking soda later.
  • With your fingers, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until very fragrant. Have fun with it.
  • Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cardamom to the mixing bowl with the sugar and lemon zest.
  • Carefully pour the butter, water, and lemon juice into the mixing bowl. The baking soda will react with the acid in the lemon juice, causing the mixture to fizz and puff up. Wait a few seconds and the fizzing will die down.
  • After the fizzing dies down, whisk until combined.
  • Add the sour cream and whisk to combine. This should cool down the mixture enough so that your eggs won’t scramble. When in doubt, wait a minute before adding the eggs.
  • Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
  • Pour batter into the prepared half sheet pan, and use a rubber spatula to smooth it out and get the batter into the corners.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes. This cake will not brown much due to the reaction of the lemon juice and baking soda, but it is done when you press on it and it springs back.

For the glaze:

  • Zest 1 lemon.
  • Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl.
  • Add the lemon juice, water, and lemon zest to the bowl, and whisk until smooth.
  • After the cake comes out of the oven, while it is still hot, pour the glaze over the cake and spread with an offset spatula.
  • Let cake cool completely, slice, and dig in!
  • This cake, like most, is even more delicious the next day.
Keyword Cake, Cardamom, Lemon

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