Mamma Agata’s Lemon Cake

I was recently sent Mamma Agata’s cookbook to review and was given permission by Mamma’s daughter Chiara Lima, the author of this wonderful cookbook, to share this amazing lemon cake with you. If you’ve never heard of Mamma Agata, she lives in Ravello along the Amalfi coast and has cooked for such celebrities as Humphry Bogart, Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Woody Harrelson, and Pierce Brosnan.

Mamma has run a cooking school in Ravello for many years and her daughter Chiara has spent the past four years collecting some of Mamma’s best recipes to share in this cookbook including this lemon cake which I’m told was a particular favorite of Humphry Bogart.

I will be reviewing this wonderful cookbook which has obviously been a labor of love for Chiara and her husband Gennaro, but I am extremely happy to first share with you this wonderful lemon cake recipe which for me is so typical of both the Amalfi coast and Mamma’s cooking, which Chiara describes as “Elegant simplicity at its finest!”. Thank you Chiara!

I would never share a recipe on my blog that I hadn’t made and approved of first, so I baked this delicious lemony cake this past weekend as we were expecting guests. I followed the recipe exactly as written and the cake turned out wonderfully and had rave reviews from everyone.

The only difference I noticed from my cake and the cake Mamma shows in her book was that although my cake rose well in the oven, after I began to add the lemon syrup it seemed to settle just a bit. It still was extremely moist and delicious but just not quite as high as Mama’s version. I may not have let my cake cool enough before I added my syrup as I was a little rushed before my guests arrived, or it might simply have been the fact that I used a different pan than the one shown in the photos.

I also eliminated the hazelnuts as I wasn’t sure if any of our guests had nut allergies but the cake was so tasty it really didn’t need them. Also, my Bundt pan had a rounded top and the hazelnuts probably would not have stayed in place even if I had included them.

The recipe gives very detailed steps to help you release the cake from the pan, but my Bundt pan was a non-stick type and I had absolutely no problem with sticking. As well, although Chiara states you can add extra lemon syrup if the cake seems dry, I even had a little leftover, and my cake was very moist.

Mamma Agata’s Secrets – Use an electric mixer with a rotating bowl for best results. Mamam uses very fine flour (tipo “00” in Italy) for all her recipes. If you are not able to find tipo “00” use white pastry flour. You also do not need to sift tipo “00” flour. Mamma also uses a fluted Bundt pan for her Lemon Cake and cautions not to open the oven while the cake is baking or it will not rise properly

Note: If the cake does seem to want to stick to the pan, you will need to place the cake back in the oven for a few minutes to warm the butter and release the cake from the pan.

 My version of  Mamma’s Lemon Cake

Learn more about Mamma Agata’s cookbook which has already won in the category of BEST EASY RECIPE BOOK at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2010 and is now one of four cookbooks up for Cookbook of the World! Click Here For Mamma Agata’s Cookboook

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 

Mamma Agata's Lemon Cake

Mamma Agata's Lemon Cake

Yield: Serves 10 - 12
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Mamma's famous lemon cake from her cooking school in Revello.


  • 300 gr or 1 1/3 Cups Sugar
  • 250 gr or 2 Sticks Butter (1/2 Pound) Plus An Additional 1.5 Tablespoon To Grease The Pan
  • 4 Eggs (I Used Large)
  • Grated Zest of 2 Large Lemons, or 4 If Small
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 300 gr or 1 1/3 Cups Flour (Use Either Tipo "00" or Cake Flour)
  • 20 gr or 4.25 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 125 ml or 1/2 Cup Whole Milk
  • 50 gr or 1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Hazelnuts

Lemonade Mixture For Top:

  • 300 gr or 1 1/3 Cups Water
  • Juice of 3 Lemons
  • 8 Tablespoons Sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius or 320 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Whip the butter in a mixing bowl on high speed for at least two minutes.
  3. Add the sugar and continue to whip until a soft cream forms.
  4. Add the following to the mixing bowl, one at a time, and blend after each; eggs (one at a time), salt, grated lemon zest.
  5. Alternate adding and blending the flour, baking powder, hazelnuts and milk into the mixing bowl.
  6. Continue to mix the ingredients on medium speed until the texture of the batter has a light and airy consistency (similar to mousse).
  7. (Note: Do not beat the batter for too long after adding the baking powder.)
  8. Coat the surface of the fluted pan with butter before dusting it with flour, then shake off any excess flour before adding the cake batter to the pan.
  9. Pour the batter into your greased and floured pan.
  10. Bake the cake in the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes. While the cake is baking prepare your lemonade mixture by first squeezing the lemons into a pitcher or other container from which you can easily pour the mixture later.
  11. Add the sugar to the lemon juice, and mix until the sugar is fully dissolved in the lemon juice.
  12. Add the water and mix well.
  13. Once the cake has finished baking, let it sit for two hours outside the oven to bring it to room temperature.
  14. Slowly pour a little bit of the lemonade mixture all over the cake in the pan every 10 minutes (three times total) for 39 minutes to allow the cake to absorb the lemonade mixture very slowly.
  15. After the first 30 minutes, tip the cake onto a serving platter and add the remaining lemonade to the top of the cake, distributing it evenly all over the cake.

Did you make this recipe?

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  1. Dear Deborah,
    My favorite kind of cake is lemon Cake, and I decided early on that this weekend’s project will be making this wonderful cake, which I have actually had before- However, my luck just hasn’t held for me in following this recipe. The first time I made this cake it fell, badly. I decided, upon some cheacking of my measurements that I did everything right, except I used cups to measure the flour and sugar, instead of grams. When i checked the amount of flour I added to the cake on a scale i found it FAR short from the 300g called for. Thinking this would solve it I remade the cake, weighing all ingredients. I did this, and it fell, AGAIN!!! I did everything correctly, and triple checked my measurements. I think that I need less baking powder, but I wanted to ask for some advice from you before I attempt this again. Any ideas???
    P.S. this is the guide I’m going to use to estimate the amount of soda next time, this cross referenced with two other recipes of comparability. Am thinking about 1.5- 2 tsp. this next time.
    Thanks, Tyler

    1. Tyler,

      This is Mamma Agata’s recipe and not my own, but I followed it exactly as it was written and you can see by my photos it worked out fine for me. It is a lot of baking powder, but that is what her cake called for. You also must use tipo “oo” flour or pastry/cake flour. When I have a choice, I always weigh raher than measure my ingredients as it is much more accurate. Sorry you are having trouble with the recipe.

  2. Hi – my cake stuck to the pan. Are you supposed to take it out before pouring the lemon syrup? Any tips. Thanks 

  3. After MUCH research I found that the amount of cake/pastry flour is supposed to be 2 1/3 cups and the baking temperature 320° F.
    HUGE difference. Slower rise and proper amount of flour produces an amazing cake.
    Great texture and flavor.

  4. Hi
    I use 00 farina four in pasta recipes and was interested to try baking an Italian cake with it.  The recipe caught my eye as in a previous trip to Italy and the Amalfi coast we visited Ravello and had a wonderful day. And of course the lemons are a lovely reminder as well of this gorgeous area in Italy

    So….I followed the recipe  exactly and weighed all the ingredients. I brought the eggs, milk and butter to room temperature before i started and had all ingredients ready in advance. Next time i might toast the hazelnuts before chopping and adding. 

    The Bundt pan i chose is one that has taller side and is not so wide, so the cake rose to a lovely height. I have poured the lemonade syrup on and am waiting now for the final addition and will cut and try it. The uncooked batter tasted amazing so am sure the cake will be too.

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