Tender and moist, this lemon pound cake has sour cream for a perfect dense crumb and lemon zest and juice for that fresh flavor we all love. Easy to make, it is incredibly versatile (more ideas at the end of the post) yet fantastic with a simple glaze!
Originally published in April 2015, this post has been updated for text and images to serve you better.
As deceptively simple as the title is, considering the years I've been baking and the fact that plain cakes are probably my favorite thing to bake, this is a remarkable recipe which now holds the number one spot for pound cake, citrus or otherwise.
But lemon is a crowd-pleaser, we all know that, right?
And pound cakes are old-fashioned and wonderful and they keep well and the ingredients are everyday staples. So both combined make for a fabulously simple recipe.
Origin of pound cake
Pound cake originated in France and was made with only four ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, and eggs. A pound of each! Can you imagine that? Heavy would be a big understatement I imagine. This was before ingredients like baking powder were discovered.
It is the famous French cake quatre quarts (which means four quarts) due to the number of ingredients and the fact that it was a quarter (or pound) of each.
They are simple ones, but all play a necessary role in this recipe.
- Sour cream: use a regular, full-fat one for best and richer results.
- Flour: I love cake flour for this recipe because the texture is softer, but all-purpose flour can be used and the result will be excellent.
- Lemon: both the zest and the juice are used for extra lemon flavor.
- Vanilla: I like pure extract or paste. It mellows out the lemon flavor while letting it keep it's punch.
- Sugar: just your usual regular, granulated sugar.
- Butter: unsalted is recommended.
- Baking soda: it's used as a leavener that helps the cake to rise.
- Salt: it makes the flavors shine. I like sea salt but regular can be used too.
Sour cream - this is the star ingredient as the title of this post highlights and it makes this recipe a fantastic one.
Why use it in a cake?
Sour cream substitutes some of the butter and/or milk, it adds incredible moisture to the cake and makes for a tight crumb. So the cake is dense (in a good way) and moist. And may have a slight tanginess to offset the amount of sugar or other sweet ingredients. That depends a lot of the recipe.
I personally think sour cream in a cake is one of the best things ever discovered!
Making a lemon loaf is simple but baking is all in the details.
I put together a step-by-step video to guide you 👇🏻
The most common and best way to glaze loaf cakes is with a powdered sugar glaze. It’s super versatile, easy and fast.
It is a must in my opinion, with that extra sweet sensation that makes you want to eat the crunchy glazed top and leave the rest of the cake behind. Maybe not so extremist, since this is an awesome recipe. But you get my point.
I use lemon juice (image below) because well, it's a lemon loaf cake!
But when I say you can use any liquid I mean it! Milk, cream, citrus juice, dark coffee (my personal favorite), liquors, warm water, fresh raspberries, even olive oil, they all work. So take your pick.
- 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!
- Sour cream: full fat is what I always use because it makes for a richer cake, but low fat can be used to with good results.
- Flour: if you have cake flour I like to use it for pound cakes. It lightens up the crumb a little, while still being dense. But keep in mind that all-purpose will work just fine also.
- Creaming: take your time to cream butter, sour cream, and sugar. It makes the cake rise better and makes for a wonderful crumb.
- Baking: pan sizes are important (see variations below) because dense cakes such as this lemon pound cake take a while to bake. So it the pan is too small it will color too much on the outside before being fully baked on the inside.
- Storing it: well wrapped it keeps for 3 days at room t°, a week in the fridge and a month or more in the freezer. I love to freeze leftover pound cake in slices so I can toast them whenever I get a craving.
Oh boy, there are so many ways you can vary this fantastic recipe! Take the lemon zest and juice out, add more vanilla and you have a base recipe for pound cake.
- Chocolate glaze: make a vanilla pound cake and use one of the amazing chocolate glazes in this blog.
- Pans: you can double the recipe and bake it in a 10-cup bundt or tube cake like the Maple Walnut Cake or a sheet cake like the Chocolate Chip Pound Cake. Also, mini bundt cakes similar to the Blood Orange Cakes can be made.
- Flavorings: add other citruses (I usually make this a lemon-lime loaf) add a tablespoon liquor (replacing some of the lemon juice), use ground spices (cardamom, cinnamon), add ½ cup of chopped nuts or chocolate chips.
The first time I took it to the office it not only disappeared in a nanosecond, but even I was impressed by the texture. And I've baked my share of lemon pound cakes.
I mean, after 30+ years of baking, 300+ cookbooks (and a few other numbers I should be slightly embarrassed to share) I was surprised to find such a fantastic variation of a sour cream pound cake recipe. So go ahead and keep it close. It's worth it.
Frequently asked questions
It probably wasn't beaten well (too little or too much) so not enough air was incorporated and/or the ingredients weren't properly mixed. Also, some recipes are lighter than others while still maintaining the pound cake dense structure, so you might want to try different ones and see which is your favorite.
The first one has more butter than eggs, while the second one should have equal amounts (in weight). Nowadays, pound cakes have gotten lighter and easier to make, and most don't maintain the exact proportions as the very old ones which were a pound of each ingredient (flour, butter, sugar, and eggs).
Yes and no. Originally, this cake relied on beating to incorporate air and rise while baking. Nowadays, recipes try to adapt to a more hectic life and the need for easier baking, so many of them have a little help in the form of chemical leaveners (baking powder, baking soda or a mix of both).
Other recipes you might like:
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe! I’d love to hear what you think about it. Thank you for being here, I appreciate it! Let’s connect via Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
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Tender and moist, this Lemon Pound Cake has sour cream for a perfect dense crumb and lemon zest and juice for that fresh flavor we all love. Easy to make, it is incredibly versatile!
For the cake:
- 1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons (240g) all-purpose or cake flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon (125g) unsalted butter, at room tº
- ½ cup (110g) sour cream, at room tº
- 1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
- 3 eggs, at room t°
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Zest from 1 lemon
For the glaze:
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the cake:
- Preheat oven 350ºF/180°C.
- Butter or spray one 9x4 loaf pan.
- Spray or butter the pan and line the bottom with parchment if you want. It makes it easier to remove it later.
- In a large bowl beat butter and sour cream until smooth, about 1 minute.
- Add lemon zest and mix.
- Add sugar gradually and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more.
- Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating each one before adding the next.
- Add vanilla and juice.
- Sift flour with baking soda and salt and add it to the butter mixture at low speed, in 2 additions, beating only until well mixed. Don't overbeat.
- Pour into the pan, smooth top, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden and cracked on top and a tester comes out clean. It might take longer depending on your oven and the type of pan you use. If the top is coloring too fast, cover it lightly with a piece of aluminum foil for the last part of the baking.
- Let cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack, and then unmold.
- Let cool completely before glazing.
For the glaze:
- Mix powdered sugar and juice until smooth.
- Put the cake on a wire rack and a piece of parchment or aluminum below, and pour slowly along the center of the cake letting it slide to the sides.
- You can rescoop the glaze that drips to the paper and pour it over again.
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!
Sour cream: full fat is what I always use because it makes for a richer cake, but low fat can be used to with good results.
Flour: if you have cake flour I like to use it for pound cakes. It lightens up the crumb a little, while still being dense. But keep in mind that all-purpose will work just fine also.
Creaming: take your time to cream butter, sour cream, and sugar. It makes the cake rise better and makes for a wonderful crumb.
Baking: pan sizes are important (see variations below) because dense cakes such as this lemon pound cake take a while to bake. So if the pan is too small it will color too much on the outside before being fully baked on the inside.
Storing it: well wrapped it keeps for 3 days at room temperature, a week in the fridge and a month or more in the freezer. I love to freeze leftover pound cake in slices so I can toast them whenever I get a craving.
Keywords: lemon pound cake