If you're a lemon lover, this is the perfect, simple cake, bursting with lemony flavor, thanks to the lemon zest and a sweet citrus glaze. It's easy to make, keeps well and has a wonderful, melt-in-your-mouth crumb, similar to a moist pound cake.
In this little blog we love both bundt cakes and lemon flavored everything. So you can well imagine that this recipe was a no-brainer. It was about time I posted what I consider to be the best lemon bundt cake recipe I ever made.
This recipe came to be almost by accident. At some point during my recipe testing, I forgot to add the last part of the flour, almost a third of the amount. The cake was already in the oven, so what's a girl to do but hope it was not a complete flop, right?
Well, it was an absolute win! Way better that I expected and just the right amount of dry ingredients to ensure a soft crumb without putting the whole structure of the cake at risk.
About this recipe
- Zesty lemon flavor: it uses lemon zest and fresh lemon juice, plus the lemon glaze. So all you lemon lovers can swoon with every bite you take.
- Great crumb: it has a melt in your mouth quality, courtesy of the lesser amount of flour I accidentally added during one of my testings. It turned out to be a moist lemon bundt cake with a more tender crumb that I expected.
- Make ahead: it keeps well for a few days and freezes wonderfully for a month or more.
- Lemon desserts: it acts as a lemon pound cake so it's a great base for a trifle or to serve with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh berries or to make as a sheet cake, add a layer of lemon frosting and serve at a gathering.
- Lemon: both lemon juice and lemon zest are used, so use fresh ones (when is season so much better, because the flavor is mellower but still sharp).
- Unsalted butter
- Sour cream: this adds moisture and helps with the melty texture of the crumb.
- Sugar: white, granulated sugar is used for this recipe.
- Flour: use all purpose flour or cake flour. Both work.
- Salt: I like to use kosher salt.
- Baking powder: it's the leavening agent so make sure it's fresh and active. When baking powder is too old it looses strength.
- Vanilla: whenever possible use pure vanilla extract or paste.
- Eggs: fresh, grade A
- Milk: whole milk makes for a richer cake, but you can use 2%.
How to make it
This is, in essence, a butter cake.
- Creaming: this is a technique where the soft butter is beaten with the sugar until light colored and fluffy, and the the eggs are added one at a time. You can use a large bowl and a hand-held electric mixer (like the images below), or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. If using the latter, make sure you use it on low speed when you start incorporating the flour. Beating it too much makes for a tougher cake.
- Scraping the sides: this is important to do throughout the beating and mixing process to ensure that the whole amount of batter is equally mixed.
- Alternating wet ingredients and flour mixture: it's important to have ingredients at the temperatures specified in the recipe and to add them in parts, starting and ending with dry ingredients (also called flour mixture, and made up of flour, salt and baking powder). This will ensure that they all incorporate correctly and bake to a wonderful fluffy, well risen cake.
- Last mix: I highly recommend you give the batter a few mixed with a spatula before pouring it into the prepared cake pan. Make sure you scrape the bottom to make sure there are no forgotten flour spots.
- Bund cake pan: it's important to butter and flour it well, or to use a spray that has flour incorporated in it, usually called baking spray (here's a link for instructions on how to prepare a bundt cake pan which are also added to the recipe card at the end of this post). This will ensure that you remove it as easily as possible, which we all know, might be the nightmare of us bundt cake bakers, turning the pan upside down and having half of the cake still stuck to the pan.
- How long should you bake it? The amount of baking time is in the recipe card's instructions, of course. But always keep in mind that ovens and pan don't work exactly the same. So always start checking when you're about ¾ of the time specified to see how your own oven behaves. Cakes can take a few minutes more or less. The top will usually crack, and that's fine. As soon as a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, take it out and place it on a wire rack.
We us a simple powdered sugar glaze (image below), which we believe is the easiest and the one that complements this easy cake the most.
- How much liquid should we use?
- This is the million dollar question and the answer is it depends on how thick or thin you want the glaze to be. Start with half of what any recipe says, mix well and add more if necessary, a teaspoon at a time.
- Add more liquid per cup of sugar and you have a thinner icing like in this Apple Walnut Loaf Cake. Add less liquid and you have a thicker icing that will not drip down much like we use for the Old fashioned Zucchini Cake. The choice is completely up to you.
- Light cream cheese glaze: similar to the one in the Banana Bundt Cake recipoe, you can use it as an alternative to the powdered sugar one. But add some lemon zest for an extra punch of lemon. Otherwise, the cream cheese frosting will be too sweet.
- Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes are as accurate as I they can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Removing it from the pan: this is a tricky answer as all pans are different. I leave it to cool down on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes and then shake the pan lightly to see if the cake loosens up on its own. If it doesn't I insert a smooth bladed knife down the sides to see if there's something stuck there. And then shake if gently again. I then let it cool some more, maybe 15 minutes, and remove carefully, putting the wire rack over the pan and inverting it. It depends a lot on the type of batter.
- Lemon flavor: you can add more or less of the lemon zest quantity specified in the recipe to adjust it to your own palate. The mix of juice and zest is a lemon flavor powerhouse, and this recipe will give you an intense experience. If you like a more mellower flavor, add more vanilla extract, up to a teaspoon, and lower the zest to half a tablespoon.
- Serving it: this delicious cake is best eaten at room temperature in my experience. And if you don't want to use a simple glaze as we did here, a dusting of powdered sugar on top of the cake works just fine. Or use nothing at all really, this is a fantastic plain cake that can be used to make a quick dessert by serving a slice with a dollop of whipped cream and some berries or lemon curd on the side.
Frequently asked questions
Use a good recipe, such as this one, don't over bake it, and keep it covered with plastic wrap or in an airtight container for two days at room temperature after it's baked. Bundt cakes have a lot of batter coming in contact with the cake pan (due to its shape) so it's essential that you take it out as soon as the tester inserted comes out clean. For lemon cakes, an extra step that add more moisture is to brush a lemon syrup when you take it out of the oven, similar to what we do to the lemon poppy seed muffins.
Besides adding a lot of lemon flavor, it helps in making the crumb tender and neutralizing the metallic taste that can come from using baking soda in a recipe. If the recipe uses milk it will act as a buttermilk, which is great for flavor in my opinion. But the amount of lemon juice that you add is a factor when it comes to elevating the rest of the flavors (if adding a little bit, like a tablespoon) or simply making the lemon flavor stronger like in this recipe where we add ¼ cup of it.
Yes you can. In theory, it's a cake. But beware of the intricate patterns that bundt cake pans have. Choose one that is more simple when making cakes that are too dense or have add-ins, such as the ones we use in the banana bundt cake or the white chocolate raspberry bundt cake.
Yes, the difference is the pan they're baked in but not necessarily the type of batter. Though some batters, simple or plain ones, adapt better to a bundt cake pan than others, like an upside down cake recipe.
Related recipes you might like:
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For the cake:
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose or cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream, at room temperature
- ¼ cup milk or buttermilk, at room temperature
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the glaze:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Extra lemon zest for decorating
For the cake
- Preheat oven to 350ºF /180ºC.
- Butter or use spray (using baking spray with flour in it) a 10-cup bundt cake pan (or tube pan). If buttering it, dust the whole pan with flour, shaking off excess. Refrigerate while you prepare the batter. See Notes, below.
- Beat butter in a large bowl at medium or high speed, while adding sugar gradually until the mixture is creamy, about 3 minutes. You can use a hand-held electric mixer or a stand mixer.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well each time to combine.
- Add vanilla and lemon zest and mix.
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt (I have them measured and sift them directly into the batter) and add it in 3 parts to the egg mixture, alternating with the sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla in 2 parts. So you add: ⅓ of the dry ingredients, then the sour cream and half the milk and mix, then ⅓ more of the flour, the rest of the milk and lemon juice, and the final ⅓ of the dry ingredients. Mix lightly at low speed every time you add a dry or wet part, but there's no need to beat thoroughly after each addition, except the last one.
- Mix well but don’t over beat. I highly recommend you run a rubber spatula and make sure there are no dry spots before pouring the batter into the pan.
- Pour mixture into the prepared bundt pan (that you have in the refrigerator), and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. This time is estimated according to my oven and pan, but it can take a little less or more for you. So start checking towards the 35-40 minute mark.
- Cover loosely with a piece of aluminum foil if the top of the cake browns too quickly and continue baking until completely done.
- Let cool 20 minutes on a wire rack and carefully shake the pan to see if the cake loosens by itself. You can use a smooth-bladed knife and insert it between the cake and the edges of the pan and gently loosen the parts that might've stuck during baking. Again shake the pan carefully. You should feel that the edges and the bottom of the cake is loose.
- Remove the cake by putting the wire rack or a plate on top of it and flipping it with both hands with a kitchen towel that allows you to grasp both the wire rack (or plate) and the edges of the cake pan at the same time. Remove the bundt pan and flip the cake again with the wire rack so it's on top of it again but without the pan.
- Let the cake cool completely on the wire rack before glazing it.
For the glaze:
- Mix both ingredients in a small bowl until it's smooth and shiny.
- Start with the 2 tablespoons of juice and add more by teaspoon if necessary. It should be like honey for a light glaze. If you want a thicker glaze, add less juice until you have a mixture like very thick honey.
- Drizzle on top of the cooled cake and let drip down the sides.
- Sprinkle with lemon zest if you want to. Let dry.
- Eat at room temperature.
- Wrap leftovers and keep at room temperature for a day or two or refrigerated for 4-5 days.
always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes are as accurate as I they can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
Preparing the bundt pan:
Butter and flour: I use soft butter (NOT melted) to patiently cover the whole pan, every nook and cranny, every sharp angle, every single bit of space available. I use a brush or my fingers. I then flour the pan and REFRIGERATE IT while putting together the batter. I take it out at the last moment when I need to fill it (image above) and it goes like that into the oven. It will remove like a dream!
Baking spray: I use a spray that is labeled as having flour in it, or being specifically made for baking. It has to have flour in it, otherwise, you have high chances of the cake sticking when removing it. That is my experience at least.
Lemon flavor: you can add more or less of the lemon zest quantity specified in the recipe to adjust it to your own palate. The mix of juice and zest is a lemon flavor powerhouse, and this recipe will give you an intense experience. If you like a more mellower flavor, add more vanilla extract, up to a teaspoon, and lower the zest to half a tablespoon.
Serving it: this delicious cake is best eaten at room temperature in my experience. And if you don't want to use a simple glaze as we did here, a dusting of powdered sugar on top of the cake works just fine. Or use nothing at all really, this is a fantastic plain cake that can be used to make a quick dessert by serving a slice with a dollop of whipped cream and some berries or lemon curd on the side.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cooling time: 60 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Cakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: lemon bundt cake