Lemon-Spice Visiting Cake Recipe (2024)

By Dorie Greenspan

Updated Oct. 12, 2023

Lemon-Spice Visiting Cake Recipe (1)

Total Time
1 hour 25 minutes
Prep Time
15 minutes
Cook Time
70 minutes
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Whether you pack this cake as a gift or have it ready when visitors come to you, the imperative to share is implicit in its name. The cake is built for comfort and durability – make it on Thursday or Friday and have it all weekend. And if it stales, toast it; the heat will intensify the lemon and spice deliciously. The cake is easy to make (no machines needed) and, like all spice cakes, better after a day’s rest. Giving it a swish of warmed marmalade when it comes out of the oven is optional. What shouldn't be passed up is what I call the ‘lemon trick’: Use your fingertips to rub the recipe’s lemon and sugar together until the sugar is moist and aromatic. This easy step transfers everything essential from the lemon to the cake. Think of it as aromatherapy for the cake and you.

Featured in: A Cake You Can Take With You Anywhere

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Yield:10 servings

  • Butter and flour for the pan
  • cups/190 grams all-purpose flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • 1teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½teaspoon fine sea salt
  • cups/250 grams sugar
  • 1large (or 2 small) lemons
  • 4large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½cup/120 milliliters heavy cream, at room temperature
  • teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • tablespoons/75 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • cup marmalade, for glaze (optional)
  • ½teaspoon water, for glaze (optional)

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (10 servings)

335 calories; 14 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 49 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 32 grams sugars; 5 grams protein; 201 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Lemon-Spice Visiting Cake Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Center a rack in the oven, and heat it to 350. Butter an 8½-inch loaf pan (Pyrex works well), dust with flour and tap out the excess. (For this cake, bakers’ spray isn’t as good as butter and flour.) Place on a baking sheet.

  2. Whisk the 1½ cups flour, baking powder, cardamom, ginger and salt together.

  3. Step


    Put the sugar in a large bowl, and grate the zest of the lemon(s) over the sugar. Squeeze the lemon(s) to produce 3 tablespoons juice, and set this aside. Using your fingers, rub the sugar and zest together until the mixture is moist and aromatic. One at a time, add the eggs, whisking well after each. Whisk in the juice, followed by the heavy cream. Still using the whisk, gently stir the dry ingredients into the batter in two additions. Stir the vanilla into the melted butter, and then gradually blend the butter into the batter. The batter will be thick and have a beautiful sheen. Scrape it into the loaf pan.

  4. Step


    Bake for 70 to 75 minutes (if the cake looks as if it’s getting too dark too quickly, tent it loosely with foil) or until a tester inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a rack, let rest for 5 minutes and then carefully run a blunt knife between the sides of the cake and the pan. Invert onto the rack, and turn over. Glaze now, or cool to room temperature.

  5. Step


    For the glaze: Bring the marmalade and water to a boil. Brush the glaze over the top of the warm cake, and allow to it to set for 2 hours. The glaze will remain slightly tacky.

  6. Step


    When the cake is completely cool, wrap in plastic to store. If it’s glazed, wrap loosely on top.



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Cooking Notes


Zest a few lemons when they are on sale (or zest lemons you are using only for juice in other recipes) and freeze the zest in a small plastic bag. Then when you need the zest, just pull out the required quantity.

Jean Paulson

With this, as with any cake or sweet bread, I prep the pan with butter and sugar. Yes, sugar. Adds a crunchy note, and has never, ever produced a stuck loaf or cake. Taught to me long ago by a CIA- graduate co-caterer. Forget parchment,flour and all that other business...this is no-fail, and delicious.


Trader Joe's has shelf stable boxes of cream you can buy and keep in your pantry


I had a similar spicy, lemon cake recipe which I also used as a "visiting" cake. On Easter Sunday a few years ago, we packed up the cake to bring from Long Island to Connecticut for dinner. The traffic was so heavy, we were so hungry and the spicy, lovely scent of the cake was so good that after 3 hours in traffic we unwrapped the cake and gobbled it all up before we reached Milford. So be cautious of how long your trip when you plan to bring this cake.

Shweta Jani

Hi,This is what i do..I remove the seeds from the cardamom individually & grind it with one or two tablespoon of sugar. This always gives me cardamom scented sugar which can be readily used in cakes or other desserts. Hope it helps you too.shweta


Just curious: I keep all the ingredients at hand all of the time except heavy cream. Are there any options to substitute? I like the option of making the cake at a moment's notice but would not like to run to the store for the cream.


When I buy lemons, I grate the zest off before I squeeze them. If I'm not using the zest, I put it into a small plastic bag, squeeze out the air, and freeze it. I do the same for limes, and the frozen zest is still flavorful even after months in the freezer.


I freeze leftover cream. When I thaw it, I shake or stir it if it separated. It's worked well for me for many years.


I wish the New York Times would make a concise, printer friendly version of all recipes.This one straggles out in a single column.


Go to print but use the save as PDF option. Then save and/or print. It formats it perfectly.


Wonderful, dense cake. I'd recommend 1 cup of sugar (the full amount would be too sweet) and parchment paper to prevent sticking. The tin foil tent helps a lot with over-browning. I haven't ever needed to cook it more than 65 minutes. It might be dry with a full 75 minutes.


I will probably try this cake. But I wish you had published the recipe for the cake that comes together so quickly it is ready (or at least in the oven) by the time your unexpected visitors are comfortably settled in the living room.

Kathryn H

By googling Swedish Visiting Cake, found a recipe from D.G. for SVC Bars on saveur.com (12/9/16). It says: "This recipe, originally for a cake (not bars), was given to me by a Swedish friend who prized it for its flavor, and the fact that it could be made in minutes. I enjoyed it for years before discovering the pleasures of using the recipe to make bar cookies. The crisp, beautiful almond topping was a late and welcome addition as well. Adapted from Dorie's Cookies."


I baked this in a 9" loaf pan and it worked just fine. Made as written but didn't use the marmalade for the glaze--I had lemon glaze on hand and used that and liked it very much. I'm thinking of trying this with orange instead of lemon and the marmalade glaze. The texture of this is lovely and it slices beautifully.


I agree with myrna & Katherine, what happened to Ingela Helgesson's mother's recipe that was so quick?


I loved the lemon flavor of this cake but found the spice to be underwhelming…next time I will use grated ginger and cardamon peeked from seeds…


Made exactly as written and it’s tasty! Lightly spiced, not too sweet. I skipped the glaze and ate a slice warmed with salted butter. Yum!

Lisa Rosenberg

I brought this cake to a dinner party (for six) and it was devoured in record time. People seriously raved. I used a full 6 (rather than 5.5) tablespoons of butter and switched out the cardamom for cinnamon. (My cardamom was old and I thought cinnamon would work nicely with the lemon and ginger.)Also, I made my own lemon glaze instead of using marmalade. So delicious! I will be making this again the next time I go "visiting."


The cake bakes in 60 minutes, not 75. Within 75 minutes the cake becomes dry. Make sure you check it within 60 minutes


Easy and tasty, but the flavors were quite mild. Next time I will significantly increase the lemon, ginger and cardamom amounts. It was also a little dense, so perhaps a bit more baking powder.


I wanted to take this cake to a friend for his birthday but was disappointed when it burned around the edges and on the bottom when using a metal loaf pan. So, still having enough of the ingredients I just made another straight away using a pyrex loaf pan as the recipe suggests. Same thing happened. I think 350F/176.33C is just too high and 70 to 75 minutes is too long. for cooking. I think perhaps a fan forced oven at a lower temperature and shorter cooking time would help.


60 minutes was perfect. Wonderful cake!


I made this gluten free, with the following adiustments:Used "Better Batter" GF flour (scant cup and a half)2 tsp baking powder1.5 tsp baking soda1 cup sugarAn extra tablespoon lemon juice in batterAn extra egg (5 instead of four - GF flour tends to need an extra egg)Zest of two medium lemonsAnd lemon juice instead of water in the marmalade glaze.Baked at 350 for 35 minutes.Rave reviews! Will definitely make again.


Made this gluten-free with the following changes:Used an eight-inch square panUsed butter and sugar (rather than butter and flour) to line the pan -- not a bit of sticking!Used "Better Batter" GF flour2 tsp baking powder1.5 tsp baking soda1 cup sugarZest of two medium lemons (not one)An extra tablespoon lemon juice in batterAn extra eggAdded lemon juice, not water, to marmaladeBaked at 350 for 35 minutesRave reviews on flavors and texture! Making again soon.

lemon enthusiast

Just make the recipe as it's written! I didn't put any glaze on and it turned out beautifully!


Lovely texture and flavor. Can be sliced very thin. I ground fresh cardamom seed with a teaspoon of the sugar for this and cut the sugar to 1 cup, but next time I'd use a whole cup & 1/4. I also used sour cream, thinned with milk for the cream, because that's what I had on hand.

Kathleen O'Connor

Good, but not as moist as I would have liked. I used the amounts of cardamom and ginger called for in the recipe, but the cake could have used more. I made a glaze of 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup water, heated until the sugar dissolved. I'm not sure why folks thought this was a time-consuming recipe to make; I thought it came together quickly. I cooked the cake for 70 minutes, the last 20 of which I covered the pan with aluminum foil, but wish I had cooked it for at least 5 minutes less.


Great recipe, and super simple. I substituted 190g whole grain pastry flour (soft white) for the APF, reduced sugar to 200g, and baked ~35-40 minutes in an 8x8 cake pan. Substituted a simple lemon glaze of 2T lemon juice, 1T sugar since I didn’t have marmalade.

CC in DC

Delicious lemon flavor and texture. Maybe a little less sugar and a little less time in the oven (I baked for 70 min) or add a foil tent. The outside was a little too brown and tough. The marmalade glaze didn’t add very much. Just made the cake sticky,

Stephen Martin

Agree with Elise. Perfectly done after 60 minutes.And delicious.

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Lemon-Spice Visiting Cake Recipe (2024)


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