Lemon Cake Recipe

The old adage, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" comes up time and time again. And while we can definitely get on board with a nice, refreshing glass of cold lemonade on a hot summer's day, we'd much rather put our lemons toward making a delicious cake.

There's something so magical about a lemon cake. It's packed full of incredible flavor. Yet, at the same time, it's wildly refreshing and delightfully light.

Lemon-flavored cakes can sometimes get a bad rap, but we're here to convince you otherwise with this recipe. This lemon cake is a true classic, perfect for a birthday or anniversary or simply paired with afternoon tea. It's full of flavor, wonderfully moist, and balanced with a delicate crumb. Whether you're making it for a celebration, breakfast, or an afternoon snack, this lemon cake recipe is sure to become your new go-to to add a bit of sunshine to your day.

Gather the ingredients for this lemon cake recipe

To get started on this delicious lemon cake recipe, first double-check to be sure you have all of the ingredients needed on hand.

For this lemon cake recipe, you'll need, white sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt for the dry ingredient mixture. For the wet ingredients, you'll need eggs, milk, oil, and sour cream. For the lovely, tart lemon flavor for this cake, you'll also need four lemons. The zest of three lemons will be necessary to flavor the cake, and you'll also use the juice and zest of the lemons, paired with powdered sugar, for the glaze on top.

This recipe doesn't utilize pure lemon extract. Instead, we decided to let the lemon zest and lemon juice do the talking. However, it certainly could be incorporated if you're hoping to dish up an incredibly powerful lemon flavored cake.

Mix the dry ingredients for this lemon cake recipe

This lemon cake comes together fairly quickly in just a few simple steps. First, start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. That way, you can be sure the oven will be warmed up to the proper temperature once your batter is prepped and ready.

To prep the batter for your lemon cake, start by pouring the white sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl. You can use a hand mixer to make this cake, or you can opt for a wooden spoon or spatula. If you'd prefer to use a stand mixer, that will work just as well.

Once your dry ingredients are added to the bowl, mix them together on medium speed. Be sure all of the dry ingredients are fully incorporated and free of any large clumps before moving onto the next step.

Add the wet ingredients for this lemon cake recipe

Once the dry ingredients are fully blended together, it's time to add the wet ingredients for your lemon cake batter.

First, start by mixing in the eggs. Add the eggs into the mixing bowl one at a time and begin mixing. Pour in the milk, and then add in the oil. Continue mixing to allow each of the wet ingredients to be fully incorporated.

Lastly, add in the sour cream and mix with the hand mixer until fully incorporated. Adding in the sour cream will add incredible moisture to the cake, providing a beautiful crumb texture. Be sure all of the ingredients in the batter are well incorporated before moving onto the next step, but be careful not to overmix. Mixing until the ingredients are just combined will produce the ideal texture for this lemon cake. Overmixing can cause the gluten in the mixture to overdevelop, leaving you with a cake that's a bit more dense than desired. 

Add the lemon zest for this lemon cake recipe

Once the batter is prepared, it's ready for a punch of lemon flavor. The key to making this flavorful lemon cake is lemon zest, and it's best to add fresh lemon zest with this step. 

Lemon zest is the yellow, outer layer of a lemon. It's jam-packed with flavor from the oil within the lemon. Harnessing the flavor from that lemon zest is crucial to a delicious, flavorful cake, but don't let it intimidate you. Zesting a lemon is as simple as can be.

Use a zester to zest three lemons. If you don't have a zester or a microplane tool, use a cheese grater. You can also peel the lemon and then chop it up into tiny pieces. Essentially, you're just trying to get the exterior of the lemon in any method you can, keeping it light and thin so you don't add chunks to your cake. Once you have the zest from three lemons, stir it into the prepared batter.

Scoop the batter and bake this lemon cake

Once your batter is ready, it's time to prepare your cake pan for baking. We opted to make a bundt cake with this lemon cake recipe, but you could certainly choose to use another shape. Using a nine-inch square pan or two eight-inch round pans will definitely work. You could even turn this recipe into cupcakes by dividing the batter into a prepared tin. Just be sure to adjust your cooking time and keep an eye on your cake if you change your pan. 

For the bundt cake pan, be sure it's very well-greased so your cake won't stick. The last thing you want is to go to all of the effort of making this cake, only to be scraping it out of the pan. Generously spray cooking spray on the inside of the bundt cake pan, including the middle horn. Then, pour the batter in evenly. Sprinkle additional lemon zest on top, if desired. 

Put your cake in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is set and lightly golden brown. Once baked, remove the lemon cake from the oven and allow it to completely cool in the pan.

Make the lemon glaze and drizzle the lemon cake

This lemon cake is absolutely delicious on its own. With such a nice, light lemon flavor and beautiful texture, it doesn't need any topping. However, to pack even more of a lemon punch, topping it with a lemon glaze makes for a great addition.

Make the glaze for this lemon cake by combining two cups powdered sugar, the juice of half of a lemon, and the zest of half of a lemon. Add the powdered sugar to a bowl and whisk it well to get rid of any clumps. Then, whisk in the lemon juice and lemon zest until a smooth, thick glaze forms. Adjust the consistency as needed by adding more powdered sugar or lemon juice. It should be smooth and creamy but thick enough to hold when drizzling on top of the cake. 

Once your cake is fully cooled, drizzle the lemon glaze over top of the cake, and then sprinkle it with additional lemon zest. Dust the cake with powdered sugar for an optional garnish to finish the look.

Lemon Cake Recipe
5 from 44 ratings
While we love a nice, refreshing glass of cold lemonade on a hot summer's day, we'd much rather put our lemons toward making a delicious cake.
Prep Time
Cook Time
 lemon cake
Total time: 50 minutes
  • 1-½ cups white sugar
  • 1-½ cups flour
  • 1-½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup oil
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 4 lemons
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the white sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well incorporated.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix.
  4. Mix in the milk, oil, and sour cream. Stir in the zest of three lemons.
  5. Prepare a bundt cake pan by generously coating it with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is set and the color is a nice light golden brown.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to fully cool in the pan.
  7. For the glaze, combine 2 cups powdered sugar and the juice and zest of ½ of a lemon. Whisk until well combined and a smooth glaze forms.
  8. Drizzle the cake with the lemon glaze once fully cooled. Sprinkle with additional lemon zest, and dust with powdered sugar if desired.
Calories per Serving 431
Total Fat 15.0 g
Saturated Fat 2.9 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 40.4 mg
Total Carbohydrates 72.1 g
Dietary Fiber 1.2 g
Total Sugars 55.6 g
Sodium 355.2 mg
Protein 4.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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