Perfect Lemon Cake

By Shiran

This is a truly perfect lemon tea cake that’s exceptionally moist, tender, delicate, and bursting with lemon flavor.

Perfect Lemon Loaf Cake | prettysimplesweet.com

Tea cakes and loaves can sometimes be dry and flavorless. I’ve tried so many like that before, and it’s always a disappointment. I have found, though, that when using lemons, it’s much easier to make a flavorful cake with a perfectly moist and sticky texture. The delicate yet pronounced flavor of lemon, combined with a syrup that soaks into the cake after baking, is what takes this classic tea cake to a whole new level.

Perfect Lemon Loaf Cake | prettysimplesweet.com

When I first started working with this recipe, I had 2 options in mind. The first would be making a moist cake with a strong lemon flavor and topping it with the traditional white glaze. The second would be making a drier cake, then soaking it with a lemony syrup to moisten it and give it more flavor. Eventually, I decided to combine both choices (hey, I like things done perfectly). The syrup helps to add a true lemon flavor to the cake since, even if you add lots of lemon to the batter, the heat from the oven will mute it. The syrup also moistens the cake wonderfully and will help it to keep longer. Then there’s the lemon glaze that adds another sticky texture with a delicate lemon flavor.

So, there are 3 components to this cake:
1. Lemon cake batter. Simple.
2. Lemon syrup, made by heating together sugar, lemon juice, and water. Once the cake is out of the oven, poke holes in it and drizzle the syrup over. The cake soaks up the syrup, making it moist and adding a refreshing lemon flavor.
3. Lemon glaze. This will form a sticky, hard crust that I absolutely adore on classic lemon cakes. However, since the cake will already be flavorful and amazing without it, this step is OPTIONAL.

Perfect Lemon Loaf Cake | prettysimplesweet.com

For this cake, I use the creaming method. Simply mix together butter and sugar until creamy, then add eggs, dry ingredients, and liquids. Creaming the butter and sugar creates air pockets which are filled with steam during baking, creating more volume and a lighter, more delicate texture.

*TIP* Mixing sugar with lemon zest is my little trick for bringing out lemon flavor in baked goods. When grating the zest, make sure you grate only the yellow part, and not the bitter white pith beneath it. Then, toss with the sugar. While tossing, the lemon zest will release its natural oils, which will absorb quickly into the sugar. This way, the lemon flavor will evenly distribute throughout the batter.

Perfect Lemon Loaf Cake | prettysimplesweet.com

Liquids and substitutions:
I like using buttermilk for this cake since it makes it tender with a slight tang. When I don’t have buttermilk on hand, though, I use whole milk or even heavy cream for a richer flavor. If you make this substitution, omit the baking soda and increase the baking powder to 1 teaspoon instead of 1/2. Replacing the buttermilk with sour cream is another option (the baking soda and powder will remain the same as the original recipe).
You can also make a buttermilk substitution at home. Take a measuring cup and pour in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice. Add milk until it reaches one cup. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. It will look curdled and that’s fine.

4.5 from 2 reviews

Perfect Lemon Cake
Yields: 1 loaf cake
 

A truly perfect lemon tea cake that’s exceptionally moist, tender, delicate, and bursting with lemon flavor.
Ingredients
Cake:
  • 1½ cups (200 g/7 oz) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk (see above post for substitutions)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1½ tablespoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (175 g/6.2 oz) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick/113g) butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Syrup:
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
  • 2 teaspoons water
Glaze (optional*):
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Instructions
  1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350F/180C. Grease an 8½ x 4¼-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, mix together buttermilk and lemon juice. Set bowls aside.
  3. In another small bowl, toss together sugar and lemon zest until combined. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar mixture on medium speed for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Occasionally scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 2 additions, starting and ending with the flour. Do not over mix.
  4. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 40-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. If the top is browning too fast while baking, cover pan loosely with aluminum foil.
  5. For the syrup: While cake is in the oven, prepare the syrup. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, lemon juice, and water. Cook on medium-low heat until sugar dissolves and syrup forms. Set aside to cool.
  6. When the cake is done, allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and set on a wire rack. Place a tray or pan underneath the wire rack. Poke cake with a toothpick, then brush top and sides with syrup. Allow cake to cool to room temperature.
  7. For the glaze: In a small bowl, combine sugar, lemon juice, and milk, and whisk until smooth. Add more lemon juice or sugar as necessary until you get a thick yet pourable consistency. Pour over top of cake and let drizzle down the sides. Allow glaze to set, 15-30 minutes.
  8. Store cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3-4 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Cake can be frozen without the syrup or glaze for up to 2 months. Once thawed, heat the syrup and drizzle hot over the cake, then proceed with the rest of the recipe and make the glaze.

Notes
* Lemon cake is flavorful enough without the lemon glaze, which creates a traditional hard crust. Omit if you prefer.

 

16 Comments on Perfect Lemon Cake

  1. Elisa @ Insalata di Sillabe
    September 8, 2014 at 9:32 am (2 years ago)

    I simply go crazy for anything lemon-y and I have a true passion for tea cakes, so you can imagine how excited I am about this recipe! I love everything about it, especially that beautiful looking glaze. I’m sure it will add that extra something that will make this cake truly special!

    xo, Elisa

    Reply
    • Shiran
      September 8, 2014 at 10:13 am (2 years ago)

      I’m excited that you like it Elisa! Can’t wait for you to try it 🙂 I always like to make the glaze, it’s not just pretty but also tasty!

      Reply
  2. Jess @ whatjessicabakednext
    September 9, 2014 at 1:29 pm (2 years ago)

    This lemon really does look perfect! Love lemon cakes- my favourite, remind me of the summer! 😀

    Reply
  3. Tash
    September 10, 2014 at 3:01 am (2 years ago)

    That lemon drizzle… <3
    I am so with you on the buttermilk. It is truly the *secret* ingredient of a perfect cake!
    The photography is amazing as per usual! P.S. I am so loving the peach crumble right now as well! I wish I could set aside time in my life purely to make your recipes!!

    Reply
    • Shiran
      September 11, 2014 at 4:39 am (2 years ago)

      Thank you Tash! 🙂 That’s so sweet of you!

      Reply
  4. pallavi
    December 19, 2014 at 9:56 am (2 years ago)

    hi Shiran, fab recipe and the cake loos just like the starbucks one my hubby craves for.. can you please tell me what should the milk temp be if you are making instant buttermilk? can i use cold milk for this?

    Reply
    • Shiran
      December 19, 2014 at 4:38 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi! Usually for best results in baking, it’s best to use ingredients at room temperature, but, I’ve had good results with using cold milk/buttermilk, so if you don’t want to wait until it reaches room temperature, you can definitely use it cold. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  5. Parveen
    March 13, 2016 at 7:31 am (12 months ago)

    Tried this recipe for lemon tea cake and my family loved it! Thanks for sharing your recipe.

    Reply
    • Shiran
      March 13, 2016 at 9:49 am (12 months ago)

      I’m so glad to hear that, Parveen! Thank you so much for your comment!

      Reply
  6. Tanisha
    March 16, 2016 at 1:11 am (12 months ago)

    Hello! I am in love with your recipes and the pics are outstanding. Thanks a lot for all 🙂
    I have a query! Any idea about the weight of the loaf this recipe will yield? Also, the carrot cake loaf. Thanks a lot.

    Reply
    • Shiran
      March 18, 2016 at 5:05 pm (12 months ago)

      Hi Tanisha! Thank you so much for your sweet words 🙂 Unfortunately, I don’t know the weight of the cakes as I never weigh them. Sorry I couldn’t help!

      Reply
  7. Tanisha
    March 20, 2016 at 3:46 am (12 months ago)

    Hey! Thanks so much for you reply. No worries at all 🙂
    Another query…. Could we use oil in this cake like your carrot cake?? I tried both your lemon and carrot cake. Both outstanding taste wise but I Loved the super moist texture n crumb of carrot cake more.

    Reply
    • Shiran
      March 22, 2016 at 6:57 am (11 months ago)

      So glad to hear that! Thank you 🙂 I like the butter version because it’s more cake-y, but yes, you can definitely try that with oil. You won’t need the mixer for that. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt..) in one bowl and wet ingredients (eggs, oil, buttermilk, lemon juice..) in another bowl, and combine the two together by folding with a spatula. Use 1/2 cup oil instead of 1/2 cup butter.

      Reply
  8. Tanisha
    March 22, 2016 at 8:59 am (11 months ago)

    Thanks a ton for your prompt replies :))

    Reply
  9. Deborah
    April 4, 2016 at 8:51 am (11 months ago)

    I made this cake yesterday I was looking for a recipe that only required 2 eggs and was moist, simple and I went through several but your recipe caught my eyes and it delivered. I just had two small slice with my lady grey tea…. I am by no means a great baker but I am learning.ni tried to give 5 stars but it only let me leave four. The icing I just added lemon zest and vanilla bourbon extract..

    Reply
    • Shiran
      April 5, 2016 at 5:54 am (11 months ago)

      Thank you for your comment, Deborah! I’m glad you like it 🙂

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Rate this recipe: