Citrus Cake From Yasmin Khan

March 28, 2022
39 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Alya Hameedi.
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

This citrus cake is a stunner in every way. First of all, just look at it. Secondly, the recipe—from Yasmin Khan's even more gripping cookbook Ripe Figs—comes together in essentially one bowl and one step (two if you count the twirl of extra-tangy frosting). No need to cream the butter and sugar, add eggs one by one, or pre-sift dry ingredients. In it all goes, with mindful mixing and full-fat yogurt to keep it tender.

As Yasmin writes in Ripe Figs , “Cyprus is known for its abundance of citrus fruit and throughout the island, you can find oranges, lemons, limes, pomelos, grapefruits, tangerines, and many other local varieties that blossom in its fertile Mediterranean climate. You can use any kind of citrus for this cake, though I’ve suggested starting with oranges and lemons. The recipe is inspired by a tangy orange cake I ate at the Home café in Nicosia, a unique space that sits within the Green Line separating the North and the South of the island. I loved the flavor so much that I immediately went to the counter and asked what was in it, and they let me in on the secret of plain yogurt in the batter, which gives the cake a lovely soft crumb. As there is a lot of zest used in this recipe, I recommend buying organic or unwaxed citrus fruit. This cake keeps well in an airtight container for a couple of days, although I doubt it will last that long.”

A few more tips: Unlike heavily sweetened cream cheese frostings, this recipe is tangy and bright from yogurt and citrus, and may run gorgeously over the sides of your cake. If you’ll be garnishing soon before serving, you can finely zest the orange and lemon over the top with a Microplane or other grater. Or, if you’d like it to make it earlier in the day, thicker curls of zest will hold their color and fragrance for longer. You can use either a cocktail zester or peel thick strips of zest with a vegetable peeler, slice them thinly, and (optional but fun) curl them around your fingers. The result will be similar to the cake in the photo above, inspired by the beautiful version in Ripe Figs.

Recipe adapted very slightly from Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus (‎ W. W. Norton & Company, May 2021).

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Hear more about this recipe from Yasmin herself on our podcast The Genius Recipe Tapes.Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Citrus Cake From Yasmin Khan
  • For the cake
  • 1 cup (225 grams) softened unsalted butter, plus more for the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups (225 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) full-fat plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated unwaxed orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • For the frosting
  • 2/3 cup (80 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 12 ounces (350 grams) full-fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) full-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Orange and unwaxed lemon, to zest for garnish
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter two 8-inch (20cm) round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. Place all the ingredients for the cake together in a large bowl and beat just until the streaks of flour disappear—an electric mixer will make quick work of it, or you can easily beat by hand, especially if the butter is quite soft.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake until lightly golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack.
  4. To make the frosting, mix together the confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, yogurt, and orange and lemon juices and beat until smooth. Place this in the refrigerator to chill and firm up while the cake cools.
  5. When the cake is completely cool, use an offset spatula to spread half the frosting on one cake. Place the other on top and cover with the rest of the frosting. Finish by decorating with a scattering of orange and lemon zests (see Author Notes above for tips).

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Saskia Akyil
    Saskia Akyil
  • linda
  • Irene Y.
    Irene Y.
  • JensF52!
  • DMStenlake
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

56 Reviews

Fran J. April 6, 2024
Just baked this cake for the second time. First was excellent. This time, both layers are sunken in the middle. May have overmixed. Ideas?
Cake January 12, 2024
This cafe is wonderful and my house smells wonderful too. It’s minus 49 today in Alberta, so baking a cake is the thing to do.
SO June 2, 2023
Fantastic cake that’s easy to prepare. Following the recipe carefully, like having the butter at a very soft consistency, will result in perfection. I watched the video first and kept that in mind when preparing. People have commented that the butter didn’t blend in well. That’s totally ok. My batter didn’t look great but don’t overbeat it, just pour in the prepared pan and watch the magic happen. Can’t wait to make it again and again!
Saskia A. April 30, 2023
I can't stop making this cake. The only change I make is to use mascarpone in place of cream cheese, as I prefer the taste and texture. I have never made a cake so many times in a row. Not only is it easy, but it's delicious and beautiful.
Cassie F. February 26, 2023
The final product is absolutely delicious. It is a great cake for people like me who don't like overly sweet cakes/frosting. It was great as a dessert, and as part of breakfast! Love it and can't wait to make it again.
Having said that, I would tweak the recipe a touch and beat the butter first, then add the other ingredients for the batter.
sararanawaywiththespoon December 31, 2022
Can you make this cake into cupcakes? Will the frosting work or is it runny? This recipe looks great and I can't wait to make it.
Dianne December 29, 2022
I'm sorry to say this was not a great cake, to say the least. I thought it would be fun to make, one bowl and all and I usually like Food52 recipes. It was hard to get the batter smooth, even though my butter was very very soft. I didn't want to overmix so I thought it might smooth out in baking. The cakes rose nicely, but then sank in middle. The frosting was also a but grainy. I usually use warm temperature cream cheese or at least slightly softened, but since the recipe did not say this, and was so specific on the butter, I made it with cold cream cheese. Perhaps that was the problem. At the end, the cake was bitter and not at all sweet. It might be that my orange juice was bitter, it might be all the baking soda, but whatever it was, it is not a good cake and one never to be made again. Right now, ingredients much too expensive to experiment with.
KDH9966 March 24, 2023
She actually says "very soft cream cheese".
liz O. December 21, 2022
Have not made this cake yet. I like to go through reviews to get a feel for a recipe and ideas/suggestions from others. I'm chuckling at how many of you did not let your butter soften thoroughly and then complain that it's hard to beat smooth. It's a basic, easy thing to do. Leave it out for a day or two before you get going. Not rocket science.
linda July 3, 2022
This is delicious! Wonderful citrus flavor and super easy to make. I microwaved my cream cheese 1st (20-30 sec) to be sure it was very soft and had no issue w my icing being lumpy. Will definitely make this again! Thank you
Irene Y. May 20, 2022
I had a problem with frosting, which remained too lumpy no matter how hard I tried to incorporate cream cheese. I was using a stand mixer, increasing power to the max, and still no luck. I felt like it needs more liquid or maybe substitute part of the cream cheese for more yogurt. Not sure what I did wrong, but I know I measured all ingredients very carefully. Oh, and I had a lot of leftover frosting afterwards (would be enough for another layer). Any advise? I still liked the cake though...
Kathy G. May 21, 2022
The cream cheese needs to be absolutely soft - did you know you can leave it out of the refrigerator for days as long as it hasn't been opened? I left mine out for a day before using it. Also, I would use an electric hand mixer for this rather than a stand mixer. There's not enough icing for a stand mixer to really get into and for this amount you have a great deal more flexibility with a hand mixer.
Cassie F. February 26, 2023
I had the same issue with the frosting, although it didn't effect the taste at all. I will be letting my cream cheese sit out for at least a day before making this again. I will start with it, beat it with my mixer, then add other ingredients one at a time.
Dean1115 May 17, 2022
Does this cake have to be refrigerated after frosted or can it be left out. If refrigerated does it dry out?
Kathy G. May 17, 2022
I didn’t refrigerate it and it was fine. But it went pretty fast (it might have been on the counter for three days), so I don’t know about longer.
Fran J. May 3, 2022
Outstanding cake. Made it twice in two weeks for Easter dinners. Consistency of icing is not as soft as depicted. Not sure how to do that. Otherwise a huge hit with adults and kids alike. Not too sweet, easy to make. Don't see how to add a photo.
jewelgreenberg May 2, 2022
This was delish, though I made some adjustments after reading other reviews. I creamed the butter with the sugar first, then mixed up the cake batter. The cake was great - moist and not too sweet. The icing I found far too cream cheesey in flavor, so I added more yogurt, more juice, and some orange and lemon zest. Then, I greatly enjoyed it. It was a big hit for a tea with family.
JensF52! April 27, 2022
Made this cake for Easter and it was loved by all! I had the same issue with my butter not being soft enough so I over beat it to try to get the butter lumps out, which didn’t really work anyway. As a result I do think cake cake out more dense than it should have. IMO the recipe should specify the need for VERY soft butter. Next time I will leave butter out overnight to soften. Also, my frosting came out chunky … not at all runny. I used a full fat yogurt that have cream on top. Was that the issue? Looks like it as made with cottage cheese vs yogurt. Everyone loved it anyway, but it looked a bit odd.
Kathy G. April 27, 2022
Jens52!, when a recipe calls for softened butter, I always leave it out overnight. That's something my Nana taught me 50 years ago and it has stood the test of time.
As for the yogurt, I've never seen a yogurt, full fat or otherwise, that has cream on top. I used Cabot Whole Milk Yogurt and didn't have any trouble with it being chunky. It was very smooth and not at all runny, even though I put the zest in it.
JensF52! May 3, 2022
Thanks for the feedback/suggestions! I’m making the cake again this weekend for Mother’s Day, so I’ll incorporate your advice!
DMStenlake April 18, 2022
I give the recipe a 5 star and my cake a 3 1/2. It was dessert for Easter and everyone really enjoyed it but it was flat. I thought the butter was soft enough but after reading Terri H review guess not. Also, it was a little dry. Any suggestions.would be appreciated Wish I could post a picture because it was very pretty. We have one of those bar tools! You should get one! Happy springtime. Oh yes I’ll definitely make it again.
Terri H. April 14, 2022
Followed the recipe and it turned out great - beautiful and delicious! Much like others, my butter wasn't quite soft enough but it's so tasty that no one cared about it not being its fluffiest. It was great for dessert and lovely the next morning with tea. I will definitely make this again and leave the butter out longer!
Jephrey S. April 16, 2022
I had the same issue with my room temperature butter... I won't know the outcome till tomorrow as it is being served for Easter dessert.
MBen April 6, 2022
This was easy to make (I am NOT a baker!) and it turned out to be phenomenal in taste and appearance. I will be making it again and will not change one thing.
Jr0717 April 4, 2022
I made this with lemon zest and lemon juice and found it delightful! It's delicate and tender - just right for an afternoon treat (or a brunch dessert!). I tried a naked piece with a ginger-cardamom whipped cream, and will definitely be adding both ginger and cardamom to the frosting next time I make this!
Patti M. April 6, 2022
Oh ginger and cardamom are both excellent ideas!
Patti M. April 4, 2022
Delicious cake! Not too sweet. I did cut the sugar in the icing a bit. Next time I would like to add cardamom in the cake.
Charles April 3, 2022
Terrific recipe! It was a hit at a family gathering yesterday - my granddaughters (11 through 16) are my severest critics and it passed the test. I made a few changes which, in no way, affected the recipe. I baked it in two 6-inch by 3-inch pans - it required the same amount of batter - just needed a longer bake time (I placed foil over the pans for the last third or so of the bake time to keep the cake from browning). Reduced the frosting quantities by one-third to account for the smaller surface area of the 6-inch layers. I also candied the orange and lemon peel strips (I did this step first to allow the strips to cool and dry. All-in-all, a fun recipe to make - I'll do it again.
Saskia A. April 30, 2023
great idea to candy the peel strips!