Read // Eat: Lemon Cake from ‘The Great Gatsby’

Looking for an amazing recipe from The Great Gatsby? Look no further! Win your next book club meeting with this gorgeous, tart lemon cake. >>
Looking for a recipe from The Great Gatsby? Trying to impress your very own Daisy Buchanan? This is the recipe for you, brought to us by Alicia Johnston, of the sadly-now-defunct Jaybird blog.

This summer everyone’s talking about The Great Gatsby. Baz Luhrmann has turned Fitzgerald’s captivating novel into a visually stunning film—all vibrant colors, decadent parties, and dazzling conversation.
If you went to high school in the States, chances are you read The Great Gatsby, which is full of timeless truths and poignant observations about the human condition—none of which I appreciated fully in 9th grade.
But you know what I’ve always appreciated? Food! And thankfully, Fitzgerald serves up moments both tense and tender with a side of stunning 1920s refreshments. From awkward lunches at Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s to modest tea at Nick’s, some of the novel’s most important revelations occur over a bite.
When Nick hosts a tea to reunite Daisy and Gatsby, he relies on the delicatessen to provide a dozen lemon cakes. No wonder he and Gatsby scrutinize them while waiting for Daisy to come over. Homemade lemon cake is a tart and buttery treat that absolutely must be shared. Steep some sun tea and take a page out of Gatsby’s book by inviting friends over for a small gathering.
Gatsby on his house: “I keep it always full of interesting people, night and day. People who do interesting things. Celebrated people.”
Celebrated people love lemon cake.
Looking for an amazing recipe from The Great Gatsby? Look no further! Win your next book club meeting with this gorgeous, tart lemon cake. >>
Looking for an amazing recipe from The Great Gatsby? Look no further! Win your next book club meeting with this gorgeous, tart lemon cake. >>

Lemon Cake from The Great Gatsby

recipe adapted from Ina Garten
Note: For this recipe, make sure to set out your butter, eggs, and yogurt in advance so they can come to room temperature. I also suggest zesting and juicing the lemons before beginning.


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ½ cups granulated sugar, divided
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (from 6-8 lemons)
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
¾ cup plain, 0% fat Greek yogurt, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup granulated sugar
Glaze (optional):
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 ½ teaspoons lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two 8 ½ inch loaf pans.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, or in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer, cream the butter and two cups granulated sugar. With the mixer on medium speed, add eggs one at a time, then add lemon zest. This will become your batter.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Whisk (a shortcut for sifting). In another bowl, whisk together ¼ cup lemon juice, yogurt, and vanilla. Add the flour and lemon juice mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.
Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Use the back of a spoon to smooth the tops, then bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
While the cakes bake, combine ½ cup granulated sugar with ½ cup lemon juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook until sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, let them cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack set over a sheet pan. Slowly spoon the syrup over the cakes and give it time to soak in. Allow the cakes to cool completely before slicing and serving.
Optional: to make the glaze, combine the combine the confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth and drizzle over the tops of cakes.
This cake is lemony through and through: the middle has a light and sweet citrus flavor, while the browned crust and moist top benefit from the strong addition of lemon zest. The glaze is optional, but if you skip the syrup, you’ll pout like Tom Buchanan when Gatsby introduces him as “the polo player”. Trust me on this one.
Does your favorite book include a dish you can’t wait to try? 



Your timing is scary! I was just thinking of starting a book club with the new arts group in town … and as an extra twist, we'd do food and/or drinks that were featured in the book. Thanks for the motivation that I was on the right track!!

Alicia Johnston

Claire, I love this idea! Did you see Sarah's J.D. Salinger-themed dinner party post? When you get your book club started, I'd love to hear what books and recipes you choose.


Jacky Hackett

Literary Nibbles, LOVE IT! I loved this book when I read it back in high school, though a bit afraid to read it again now as I may not like it as much. Not sure I want to see the movie, or at least I can wait until DVD. But this cake sounds great!

Alicia Johnston

Jacky, I was the opposite! I didn't appreciate much about the book in high school, but as an adult, I better understood different characters' motivations and flaws. It made for a much more interesting read…and as you can tell, I enjoy a book better when there are treats to go with it!



LOOOOOOOVE THIIIIIIIIS! For fear of sounding like an excited 11-year-old (no offense meant): LOVE The Great Gatsby novel, LOVE The Great Gatsby film, LOVE lemon cake, LOVE Yes and Yes, LOVE the Literary Nibbles series… you've just made my YEAR! Thank youuuuuuuuuu!

Rachel Sedaker

Yum! When I saw The Great Gatsby, it really put me in the mood for a tea party- my sister and I love having afternoon tea parties (even if it's just us two). This sounds perfect!

Well, with books and food, I think of Anne of Green Gables and cordial. Cordial might be dangerous (it was in the book), but I've been reading a little bit about how to make it lately- sounds worth a shot!

Alicia Johnston

Ooh, I love this suggestion! Putting that into my recipe notes to try next time around. Any chance I can stuff things with vegetables, I take. 🙂


I'm loving the literary-themed food idea! Though the only food from a book I can think of right now is Turkish Delight from the Narnia books, but I've had it before and … well, I'm not a fan. 😉

I was thinking of having some friends over who are going through rocky times for a "When Life Gives You Lemons" citrus-themed snack-and-drink party, and this recipe is perfect!

Julie / Bound

This looks BEYOND good. Can there be a Yes & Yes subscription edition, where we are mailed all featured treats? I would sign up for that in a heartbeat. (And Jaybird is one of my faves! Love.)

eileen ragan | leaner by the lake

Yay! Alicia, this looks incredible. So much so, that I nearly bought an entire pound cake while picking up our CSA at the bakery down the street this afternoon. We need a get together in the Chi soon – I'll make Gatsby cocktails, you make this cake 🙂



This is an amazing idea and I'm going to raid your old Literary Nibbles posts too. More please! 🙂


I love this series. For my birthday last weekend, I had a literary themed party and made a bunch of food inspired by various books. I can't wait for your next instalment.


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