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Spring Citrus Cake

The 1st May, or May Day, harbours more reasons for a holiday than possibly any other date in the year. In many cultures it is Labour Day, a tradition that began in the nineteenth-century USA when unions went on strike on this date, demanding that the working day be shortened.

In Britain, however, it is a joyful celebration that marks the return of spring. Historically, festivities included gathering wild flowers, weaving garlands, crowning a May king and queen and plenty of dancing around a maypole.

Overhead shot of a cake with slices cut out
© Original Image by Kris Kirkham Quercus Books

Such exertions definitely require sustenance and this citrus-flavoured cake, zingy with merriment, is just the ticket. Decorate it with a colourful maypole and ribbons made out of citrus peel; it is sure to be one of the ‘darling buds of May’.

A zingy, citrus cake recipe soaked in a Lime and Lemon Syrup. Decorated with strips of Lemon and Lime zest.

Publication: A Year of Cake Chapter – ‘May’ page 78.

Overhead shot of a cake with slices cut out

Spring Citrus Cake

A zingy, citrus flavoured sponge cake soaked in a Lime and Lemon Syrup. Decorated with strips of Lemon and Lime zest.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, British
Servings 12


  • 1 round cake tin 20cm
  • Cake liner Use this if the cake tin is a loose bottom


  • 220 g self-raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 280 g caster sugar
  • 80 g unsalted butter melted and cooled
  • 120 ml double cream
  • grated zest of 1 lime and 1 lemon
  • tablespoons mixture of lemon and lime juice


  • 150 ml water
  • 75 g caster sugar
  • pared zest of 1 lime and 1 lemon cut into very fine matchsticks
  • 50 ml lemon juice
  • 50 ml lime juice


  • 50 g icing sugar
  • juice of 1⁄2 lemon


  • Preheat the oven to 190oC/fan 170oC/gas 5. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin with a cake liner (especially if using a loose-bottomed tin).
  • Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and leave to one side. Beat the eggs and sugar for about 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
  • Gradually add the cooled melted butter, cream, citrus zest and juice and mix together until well combined. Fold in the flour and give it a good mix so that there are no lumps in the batter.
  • Pour into the cake tin and bake for 40–45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave in the tin to cool.

Make the syrup.

  • Place the water, sugar and citrus strips into a pan and simmer over a low heat until all the sugar has melted. Add the lemon and lime juice, turn up the heat a little and continue to simmer until the syrup has reduced by half. Take off the heat and leave to cool a little.
  • Make small holes in the cake with a skewer and pour the syrup with the lime and lemon strips over the top, arranging the strips attractively.

Icing (optional)

  • If icing the cake, place the icing sugar in a small mixing bowl and gradually add the lemon juice until a thick, slightly runny consistency is achieved. Pour the icing into a small piping bag and pipe it over the cake in a spiral petal-like pattern, or any way you wish.


Publication: A Year of Cake Chapter – ‘May’ page 78
Keyword Citrus, syrup
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