Contestant, Wisconsin State Fair, 2013


Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance



Wisconsin State Fair

August 4, 2013




Grandma’s Lemon Cake

Cindy Paul, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin



I used to spend a lot of time with my Grandmother and Grandfather on my Mom’s side. I always remember my grandparents being quite old – they were already in their 40’s when my mom came along and I am the youngest of her children. Grandma was born in 1893 and she did all the cooking and baking – my mom hated to cook. I think most of my passion for being in the kitchen came from her – oh yes – and out of necessity; my mom could bum water!


Grandma made some weird stuff I didn’t like such as grilled cheese sandwiches with Crisco instead of butter and a cherry float made with ice cream and cherry juice rather than cherry soda – yuck! However, she taught my brother how to make her delicious cherry bars and chocolate toffee bars. But for me, it was her lemon cake. Grandma was in Jobs Daughters and even became High Priestess. Therefore, she had lots of ladies functions to go to and she always took that lemon cake. She said it was so easy to make but more importantly, no mess because there was no frosting on it to get stuck on the cover of the cake pan.


She had a special fork that she used to poke the holes into the cake with. She told me to only use that fork and none other because the “modern” day forks had prongs that were too thick and would ruin the cake. Before she passed away she gave me her pan and her fork that I still use today. She used to make it with a box mix but moved away from the box to save money she said.


I found her basic lemon cake on the Internet when I was doing some research but there are some important differences. The main thing I noticed is that the common one for that era used a powdered sugar glaze for the top and didn’t punch any holes in the cake. Grandma used granulated sugar which makes the top glaze crispy and crunchy yet very tart. I of course like it better Grandma’s way.


To continue her tradition I have made the cake many times to bring to functions and of course everyone loves it – especially the topping. My brother-in-law recently told me that he had me make it for him to bring to a 7th grade bake sale years ago and everyone bought his pieces of cake right away. He said it was the first thing gone and he was really proud. I made it for my co-workers once at their insistence and when I turned away from it to tell them that it would have to cool, they started laughing. When I turned back around to the cake, there were many hands in it scooping it out. I guess they couldn’t wait for the forks. Not only did it NOT get a chance to cool, I then had to make another right away for everyone else.


Grandma always served her lemon cake with cool whip (she said for those who couldn’t handle the tartness). I don’t find it necessary. But if you can’t handle lemon, then you might need to go buy some cool whip before you try it. However, if you love lemon, then this cake is just for you – warm or cold! ! !




Grandma’s Lemon Cake

Cindy Paul, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin





I pkg (30z) lemon gelatin

I cup boiling water

2/3 cup oil

3 large eggs

I Y2 tsp lemon extract Y2 cup buttermilk

2 14 cup all purpose flour I Y2 cups sugar

I TBL baking powder



I cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup lemon juice

Optional: cool whip




1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.


2) Whisk the flour, sugar and baking powder together in a mixing bowl


3) Add eggs and oil and mix


4) To the cooled gelatin liquid, add the lemon extract


5) Pour the gelatin liquid into the cake batter and stir until smooth


6) Pour batter into lightly greased 9×13 inch pan


7) Bake in oven for 35 minutes.


8) While cake is baking, mix lemon juice with sugar in a bowl


9) As soon as cake comes out of the oven, prick very many times with thin pronged fork


10) Pour lemon sugar over the top and spread until entire cake top is covered


11) Let cool for at least an hour in the pan


12) Serve with cool whip if desired


YIELD – 9×13 inch cake