Essential ingredients for my family’s lemon cake recipe, photographed on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Essential ingredients for my family’s lemon cake recipe, photographed on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kalifornsky Kitchen: Great-grandma’s lemon cake

It’s not much, but it’s also everything.

By Victoria Petersen

For the Peninsula Clarion

This recipe was developed by my great-great-grandma. She was a Danish immigrant who moved to Washington state when she was young. According to my grandma, she spent a lot of time deep-cleaning her kitchen and riding her motorcycle.

I’m not sure if she is the origin of other family recipes, but this recipe is by far one of the most sacred. Which sounds silly because it’s a box mix-turned-Jello-poke-cake. It’s not much, but it’s also everything. It’s the most requested birthday cake on my mom’s side of the family. There’s really nothing that exciting about this cake, but maybe that’s why we love it? It’s just a golden yellow sheet of unfrosted cake. But the cake is incredibly moist and super lemony because of the poke technique.

My boyfriend’s cousin is getting married this month. While we’re sad we can’t make it to the wedding, we helped create what we hope will be memorable gift for her and her soon-to-be husband: a customized recipe book filled with recipes curated from her family and his. My contribution was this lemon cake recipe, because it’s a crowd pleaser in a pinch. I also included my family’s Cornish pasty recipe, which I’ll feature in the coming weeks.

If you can make a box of cake mix, you can make this cake. It’s very easy. The hardest part will probably be finding lemon Jell-O, which can be sparse at stores for some reason. If you’re a little tired of fall and winter flavors (I am, slightly), then maybe this could be a lemony relief?

Great-grandma’s lemon cake

For the cake:

1 package of lemon cake mix — I use Betty Crocker

1 3-ounce package of lemon gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O

Eggs, per cake mix instructions

Vegetable oil, per cake mix instructions

Water, per cake mix instructions

For the icing

2 cups powdered sugar

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients — except the powdered sugar, lemon zest and juice — and beat with a spoon or using a stand mixer until mixed well, about four minutes.

Pour the cake batter in a greased cake pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on the top, and when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes up clean.

While the cake is baking, prepare the icing by mixing the powdered sugar with the lemon zest and juice until a runny icing forms.

Once the cake is baked, remove from the oven and poke small holes all across the cake with a fork. Pour lemon icing all over the cake, letting the sugary lemon juice seep into the holes.

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