lemon cake (or an excuse to make lemon simple syrup)
Updated: Aug 6
This cake was a hit during the q bake-alongs. It couldn't be easier to make and can be adapted to pretty much any cake/bundt/loaf pan. Recommended listening: my baking Spotify playlist.
For the cake:
- 3 cups all purpose flour + extra flour for the pan
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk (substitution: 1 cup whole milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Let sit for ~10 minutes)
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (packed)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice.
- Crisco or non-stick cooking spray
For the candied lemons & simple syrup:
- 2 lemons, sliced thin
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
For the lemon glaze:
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon packed lemon zest
Equipment: A loaf pan, bundt pan, tube pan, or 8” cake pan; an electric hand mixer or stand mixer; whisk
A few of my favorites from the bake alongs!
Preheat the oven to 325°F and set an oven rack in the middle position.
Spray/grease bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray or Crisco and dust with flour. If you’re using a cake or loaf pan, line with parchment paper. Note: If you're using a round cake pan, click here for the easiest way to cut parchment paper into a circle.
Pre-measure all ingredients.
Making the lemon cake
In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup buttermilk, 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (packed), and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Set aside. Note: when you're zesting lemons, use a gentle motion to only zest the yellow part of the lemon, not the white rind.
In a different medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups all purpose flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, or your electric mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter and 2 ¼ cup granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
With the mixer on low speed, beat in one-quarter of the flour mixture, then one-third of the buttermilk mixture. Beat in another quarter of the flour, then another third of the milk mixture. Repeat with another quarter of the flour and the remaining milk mixture. Finally, beat in the remaining flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and give a quick mix to make sure all of the ingredients are well incorporated.
Spoon the thick batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a rubber spatula. It should bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean. Note: do not fill your pan higher than ¾ of the height of your pan. Depending on the size of your pan, you might have enough extra batter to make a few cupcakes.
Once your cake tester comes out clean, remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes.
Making the candied lemons & simple syrup
Combine 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup water, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a medium or large saucepan. Heat while stirring on medium/low until the sugar dissolves.
Add sliced lemon to saucepan in a single layer. Turn occasionally, about 15 minutes or until slightly translucent and rinds are softened.
Remove lemon slices from syrup and place slices in single layers on wax paper or parchment paper with tongs. Set the saucepan aside. Do not discard the syrup in the saucepan.
Invert or lift the warm cake onto a rack. You can slip a large piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil under the rack to catch all the drips from the syrup and glaze.
Gradually brush the hot syrup over the cake, letting it soak in (a little syrup will drip off, but try not to rush so that most of it is absorbed). Allow the cake to cool completely.
Making the lemon glaze
Combine 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ½ teaspoon packed lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted, in a small/medium bowl.
Add more confectioners' sugar or lemon juice as necessary to make a thick but pourable glaze (it should be the consistency of thick honey).
Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.
Top cake with candied lemons. Slice & enjoy!
This cake freezes really well. After adding the simple syrup, wrap your cake in saran wrap & place in freezer bag. It will hold for up to 3 months.
Simple syrup (1:1 of sugar & water simmered until the sugar dissolves) not only keeps your cake moist, but also enhances the sweetness of the cake. I keep a plastic squeeze bottle of simple syrup in my fridge at all times.
There are so many uses for the leftover lemon simple syrup from this recipe including making lemon drop martinis & lemonade, adding it to your iced tea, or pouring it on pancakes topped with fresh fruit.
You can also make this citrus cleaner with any leftover lemon peels + white vinegar.
Please consider donating to Broad Street Ministry. Broad Street Ministry is an organization that helps Philadelphians living in deep poverty stabilize their lives through a unique offering of meals and social services that is welcoming to everyone. Learn more at broadstreetministry.org.
This recipe was adapted from Once Upon a Chef’s Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake recipe.