Calling all lemon lovers. This sweet, moist, and very lemony pound cake has sour cream for a perfect dense crumb, lemon zest and juice for that bright lemon flavor we all love, and a wonderful golden brown top. Easy to make, it is versatile (variations included in the post) and fantastic with a simple glaze!
A simple title for a wonderful old-fashioned lemon pound cake you'll want to make often.
Considering the years I've been baking and the number of lemon cakes I've baked, this remarkable recipe holds the number one spot.
Pound cakes are vintage and wonderful and keep well (always well wrapped in plastic wrap or under a cake dome, of course), and the ingredients are everyday staples.
This recipe is the best of both worlds in every bite.
Our fav homemade lemon pound cake recipe so far if you like a dense crumb. Different from, say, this fluffier and more traditional lemon cream cake.
- Sour cream: the regular type, full-fat sour cream cheese is used for richness and creaminess.
- Lemon: fresh lemon juice and zest are used for extra lemon flavor.
- Vanilla: I use pure vanilla extract or pure vanilla paste when available, but a good vanilla essence (artificially flavored) also works and is infinitely cheaper.
- White, granulated sugar.
- Unsalted butter.
- Eggs: fresh, large.
- Flour: I use cake flour for this recipe because the texture is softer, but all-purpose flour can be used, and the result will be excellent.
- Baking soda: is used as leavener to help the cake rise, so make sure it isn't expired.
- Salt: I like to use kosher salt when baking. But regular table salt works just fine.
- Powdered sugar: also called icing or confectioners' sugar, you can easily buy it online. Domino powdered sugar is a very popular one.
See the recipe card towards the end of this post for quantities.
As the title highlights, it is the star ingredient, making this recipe a fantastic one.
It's a dairy product that results from mixing regular cream with types of bacteria that ferment and thicken it, giving it a tangy and slightly sour flavor.
Why use it in a cake?
Sour cream substitutes some of the butter and/or milk, adding moisture to the cake and making for a tight but soft and tender crumb.
The slight tanginess offsets the sugar and other rich ingredients, like butter.
I personally think sour cream in a cake is one of the best things ever discovered!
How to make a lemon pound cake
Baking is all in the details, like having room temperature ingredients when specified in the recipe.
- Mixing the batter: I use a large bowl and an electric mixer, and you can use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Make sure you don't overbeat it after the flour mixture is added.
- Loaf pan: prepare it beforehand as specified in the recipe card below.
- Preheated oven: it's crucial if you want the cake to bake and rise as it should.
Vintage Kitchen tip: after incorporating flour in a cake batter, we don't want to develop gluten, as it will toughen the cake. So mix *just* until it's all well incorporated but don't overbeat. I like to end mixing with a silicon or rubber spatula to ensure the ingredients are fully integrated.
Watch our step-by-step videos
Delicious lemon glaze
The most common and best way to glaze loaf cakes is with a powdered sugar glaze.
It’s versatile, easy, and a crowd-pleaser!
The powdered sugar (also called confectioners' or icing sugar) is mixed with a liquid, lemon juice in this recipe, because, well, it's a lemon loaf cake.
- Cold cake: make sure it's completely cooled down. Otherwise, the glaze will melt when you drizzle it and hardly cover the cake.
- Thicker glaze: use less liquid if you want it to be thick but not drip much down the sides (like this zucchini bundt cake).
- Organization: read the recipe first and ensure you have ingredients at the correct temperature, equipment, and enough workspace. 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 is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer(like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Sour cream: full fat is what I always use because it makes for a richer cake, but low fat can be used with good results.
- Flour: if you have cake flour, I like to use it for pound cakes. It lightens up the crumb, while still keeping the traditional dense quality. But keep in mind that all-purpose will work just fine also.
- Creaming: thoroughly cream the 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 and dry too much on the outside before being fully baked on the inside.
- Storing it: well wrapped, it keeps for three 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 and toast them whenever I get a craving.
- Bundt cake: you can easily double this recipe and bake it in a bundt pan or tube pan. I do it all the time.
- Lemon syrup: this is a pound cake, so it's dense by definition. And for us lemon lovers who want an extra moist lemon cake, you can add some lemon syrup before the glaze, while the cake is still hot. You mustn't let the cake cool down. Similar to what we do to the Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.
Simply mix ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice with 2-3 tablespoons of sugar and brush over the cake just as it comes out of the oven.
You can also poke it with a brochette stick or something similar so the syrup seeps into the cake faster.
- Serving it: if you want a lemon dessert, serve a thick slice topped with sweetened whipped cream and raspberries, strawberries, or a mix of berries, or lemon curd. Or make a trifle using the same ingredients and layering them in individual glasses (like the Creamy Peach Trifle recipe) or a large glass trifle bowl.
The first time I took this lemon sour cream cake 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 pound cakes in my 30+ years of baking. Being surprised by a sour cream pound cake recipe was not what I was expecting.
So go ahead and keep this recipe close. It's worth it.
Why is my pound cake heavy?
Overmixing or overbeating can lead to a heavy, stiff pound cake, especially after adding the flour. Make sure you beat at a low speed after you add the dry ingredients, or do it by hand with a whisk or silicon spatula. Also, some recipes have a lighter crumb than others while maintaining a pound cake's characteristic dense structure, so try different ones and find your favorite.
How do you keep a pound cake moist?
Don't overbake it, and keep it well covered in plastic wrap or an airtight container. If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge or freezer after three days at room temperature.
Do you add baking powder or baking soda to a pound cake?
I like baking powder to help the cake rise and get the characteristic crack on top. Baking soda can also be used, but it needs an acidic ingredient to work properly, and some recipes might not include it. You can also use both.
Originally, a pound cake relied on beating to incorporate air and help it rise in the oven. Nowadays, recipes are adapted to a more hectic life and the need for easier baking, so most use some form of chemical leavener (baking powder, baking soda, or a mix of both).
How long do you leave pound cake in the pan before removing it?
I recommend cooling it for 15 minutes on a wire rack in the pan before removing the cake. Otherwise, it'll be too tender, and you might risk tearing it. Run a smooth-bladed knife around the edges before removing it to ensure it doesn't stick to the sides.
What is the difference between a butter cake and a pound cake?
The first one has more butter than eggs, while the second 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).
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. The famous French cake quatre quarts (which means four quarts).
This was before ingredients like baking powder were discovered, which, in my opinion, turned an already delicious recipe into something even better because it made it lighter but dense, with a moist crumb.
There are so many ways you can vary this fantastic recipe!
- Pans sizes: double the recipe and bake it in a 10 or 12-cup bundt or tube cake pan like the lemon bundt cake, or a sheet cake like the chocolate chip pound cake. Bake mini bundt cakes like blood orange cakes or chocolate Kahlua cakes.
- Flavorings: add other citruses (I sometimes make this a lemon-lime loaf), add a tablespoon of liquor (replacing some of the lemon juice), use ground spices (cardamom, cinnamon), and add ½ cup of chopped nuts or chocolate chips.
- Chocolate glaze: the combination of lemon and chocolate is highly overrated. Cover this lemon loaf with chocolate ganache and taste for yourself.
- Vanilla pound cake: if you omit the lemon in this recipe and use more vanilla extract, you have a fantastic plain pound cake recipe.
Related recipes you might like:
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For the cake:
- 1 ⅔ cups all-purpose or cake flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 9 tablespoons (130g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Zest from 1 lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
For the glaze:
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the cake:
- Preheat oven 325ºF/170°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 batter into the pan and smooth the top.
- Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. It might take longer depending on your oven and the type of pan you use. If the top is browning too quickly, tent with a piece of aluminum foil for the last part of the baking.
- Cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack, run a smooth-bladed knife around the edges to loosen and remove from the pan carefully.
- Let cool completely before glazing.
For the glaze:
- Mix the powdered sugar and juice until smooth.
- Put the cake on a wire rack and a piece of parchment paper below to catch the drippings.
- Slowly drizzle the glaze along the center of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.
- You can scoop the glaze that drips onto the paper and pour it over again. Do so quickly before the glaze sets.
- 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 is as accurate as it 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 at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- 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.
- Bundt cake: you can easily double this recipe and bake it in a bundt pan or tube pan. I do it all the time.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cooling time: 60 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Category: Cakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/10
- Calories: 347
- Sugar: 37.7 g
- Sodium: 120.9 mg
- Fat: 13.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 53.4 g
- Fiber: 0.6 g
- Protein: 4.7 g
- Cholesterol: 86.5 mg
Keywords: lemon pound cake