Granny’s Lemon Cake A Modernized Mid Century Throwback Favorite

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Hello, lovelies. Lately I have found myself pouring over boxes of recipes my sweet little Granny has collected over the past several decades and reminiscing… thinking back on family gatherings, special times, and favorite dishes my Granny used to make.

Now as I have said before, my grandmothers were excellent cooks. Granny’s recipe cards often require the reader to do a fair amount of guessing, mind-reading and hoping. I know for fact that all these little notations and abbreviations made perfect sense to Granny, but cracking some of the codes has been a little Indiana Jones Bakers of the Lost Ark.

In midcentury America, home cooks attempted to put Jell-o in everything. Some things more successfully than others… I came across a recipe for a luncheon salad that incorporated lime Jell-o, canned tuna fish and celery. Na, ma’am. This recipe however is a tremendous success and results in a super moist, ultra-tart lemon cake.


  • 1 box Betty Crocker lemon cake mix
  • 1 lemon Jell-o (the small 3 oz. box)
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • the zest and juice of 2 lemons (1/2 cup of lemon juice, must be fresh squeezed)
  • pan release
  • flour
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
It’s always charming to read a recipe in someone’s own handwriting, especially someone you love

As you can see these are very basic rudimentary ingredients. The trick is in the execution. Not that it’s difficult. It’s just a bit specific. Also you can use a bundt pan or a regular 9×13 cake pan. Dealer’s choice.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray and flour your chosen pan.

Combine the box of Jell-o with the hot water and allow it to dissolve.

In the bowl of your stand mixer beat the egg whites until fluffy. Not to merengue level stiffness, but definitely they should have some body. Incorporate 3/4 of your grated lemon zest, reserving the other for later. Set aside in another bowl so you can re-use your mixer bowl (unless you have multiples).

Again in the bowl of the stand mixer, combine cake mix, egg yolks, dissolved Jell-o and water, and oil. Mix at a medium speed until everything is well incorporated.

Fold in the beaten egg whites until everything comes together.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pan of choice.

Bake in the preheated oven: 20 minutes for the 9×13, 40-45 minutes for the bundt. This also does really well in mini loaf pans and mini bundt – very cute.

You can see what a delightful sheen the top of the cake takes on.

Allow to cool thoroughly.

Once the cake is cool combine the 1/2 cup lemon juice, the remaining zest and the 2 cups of (sifted) powdered sugar. Stir to form a drizzle with some body to it. Poke a few holes in the top of the cake and generously ice it with the glaze.

Serve to the delight of your guests.

For printable PDF click here: Granny’s Lemon Cake

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