Classic Lemon Pound Cake

Welcome to the first of the Twelve Days of Pound Cake 2023! This year’s event features my current faves, some classics, and some out-of-the-box thinking. Today, we are starting the festivities with a classic; it’s by far the most requested pound cake that I’ve ever had. I’m pleased to say, that after 2.5 years of blogging, I am finally presenting my Classic Lemon Pound Cake. 🍋 ❤️

This is an overhead photo of a lemon pound cake.

This one is personal for me, as some of you might have heard. It was the first pound cake recipe I ever developed (indeed it was the first cake recipe I ever developed, period), and I’ve guarded this recipe like a lioness. This recipe is pound cake for so many. And, for so many people, lemon pound cake is a favorite.

So, in addition to loving this recipe, there was the additional pressure to make sure I got it right.

And you wonder why it took two and a half years to release it. 😂

About this Lemon Pound Cake

This Lemon Pound Cake is specifically for those who love love love lemon. It is not for the faint of lemon heart. If you’re sometime-y with lemon, then I assure you that this cake is not for you.

But those who love lemon? Who crave lemon? Whose one true pound cake love is lemon pound cake? I’ve got you. This cake has lemon at every level. In the cake. In the simple syrup. And in the glaze. And it’s not half-hearted lemon either. You will use every part of the lemon, from the zest to the juice (and the pulp if you’re really feeling frisky). You will achieve peak lemon-sugar-vanilla balance without opening your lemon extract.

This cake is that girl. When you open that cake box at your Christmas gathering this year, be prepared for a waft of lemon scent that arrests the entire room.

Lemon Pound Cake Ingredients

Lemon Juice: The cake calls for 63 grams (1/4 c) of freshly squeezed lemon juice. The simple syrup calls for 2 tbsp. The glaze? Another 2 tbsp. The lemon juice and lemon zest combo means that you will never need to use lemon extract in this cake. Please don’t use the lemon juice in a bottle. Call those kids into the kitchen. They love using a juicer and their little arms don’t get tired. 😂

Lemon Zest: You’ll use the lemon zest to make lemon sugar for your cake. The technique of rubbing the lemon zest into the sugar releases the oils from the zest even better, which gives a big boost of lemon flavor. You’ll also use the zest in the lemon glaze atop your cake.

Granulated Sugar: It goes without saying that the tartness of that lemon needs something sweet to create the perfect lemony balance. However, did you know that granulated sugar is also responsible for caramelization? That beautiful crust on the outside of your pound cake? It is largely because of the sugar in your recipe!

All-Purpose Flour: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love the pleasantly plump texture of a good pound cake, and the lemon pound cake is the reason for that. In my experience (and with my cakes), that beautiful texture comes from all-purpose flour. That particular flour is absolutely perfect for this cake.

Baking Soda: Lemons are an extremely acidic ingredient. Because of that, baking soda was the proper leavening for this pound cake.

Kosher Salt: Salt is very important in any dessert; it balances the sugar and keeps the dessert from becoming cloyingly sweet. If using table salt for this recipe, cut the amount in half. In this dessert, the sugar/lemon/salt balance teeters on a sword’s edge, but it works!

This is a picture of lemon pound cake, surrounded by lemons.

Unsalted Butter: This particular cake has an amazing balance of sweet and tart, and it really needs salt to balance the whole thing. That being said, it’s important to really control the amount of salt in this recipe, so I’m recommending unsalted butter for this recipe. Also, butter helps this cake become lighter! Specifically, the process of creaming butter and sugar creates air pockets that assist with cake rise.

Cream Cheese: There’s a very luxurious quality to this cake that makes it different from typical lemon pound cake. It’s because of the cream cheese! That additional fat element helps give your taste that melt-in-your-mouth quality without sacrificing wonderful flavor.

Eggs: The protein in the eggs adds structure to the cake, while the fatty yolk adds delicious flavor. This recipe calls for six eggs, which might seem like a lot. Trust me, it’s perfection.

Vanilla Bean or Vanilla Extract: You can use either; this is a matter of personal preference. If you want to “tame” the lemon flavor a bit more and give a touch more complexity to your cake, feel free to use 1/2 of a vanilla bean. If you’d prefer to have the lemon flavor come through more boldly, use the vanilla extract.

Whole Milk: Yes, whole milk. NOT buttermilk. You’ll add the lemon juice to the milk, which will cause it to curdle and give it a great buttermilk tang.

Beginners Start Here

If you’re new to baking, or if you want to learn how to do some of the more tricky baking techniques, here are a couple of super helpful articles from the BwB site that will help you get set up for success with this Classic Lemon Pound Cake.

These resources are super helpful to help you build consistency and confidence on your baking journey. Happy Reading!

Important Tools Used in this Classic Lemon Pound Cake

So happy to announce that Begin with Butter has its own Amazon Storefront, where you can find all of the amazing equipment that I used in this special cake! Want even more specific links? Check out the links, below.

I do get paid a commission when you purchase, but these are the tools that I use all the time in my own kitchen.

If you have these tools already, great! Think of this as a checklist to help you build the confidence that you’ll need to execute this recipe!

Friends, this 2023 event is so special. And I CANNOT WAIT for you all to see what’s in store! Welcome to the Twelve Days of Pound Cake!

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon

Classic Lemon Pound Cake

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 7 reviews

This classic lemon pound cake is that girl.  It’s the one that brings it all together: the perfect balance of bright lemon flavor, incredible pound cake texture, and blissful nostalgia!

  • Total Time: 5-7 hours
  • Yield: 18 servings 1x

Ingredients

Scale

For the Cake:

384 g (3 c) all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp kosher salt

173 g (.75 c) unsalted butter, room temp

58 g (.25 c) cream cheese, room temp

500 g (2.5 c) granulated sugar

1.5 tbsp lemon zest

6 eggs

1/2 vanilla bean (or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract)

250 g  (1 c) whole milk

63 g (.25 c) freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the Lemon Simple Syrup:

67 g (1/3 c) granulated sugar

84 g (1/3 c) water

1/8 tsp fine sea salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract 

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice 

For the Lemon Glaze:

360 g (3 c) confectioner’s sugar

34 tbsp lemon juice

1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 tbsp lemon zest (optional)

Instructions

To Make the Batter:

  1. Set your oven to a true 325°F.  An oven thermometer is extremely useful here, since most ovens will not reach 325°F when set to 325°F.  
  2. Zest and juice three medium lemons (or four small lemons).  Separate the zest from the juice in two small bowls.
  3. Combine 250 grams (1 c) of whole milk and 63 g (1/4 c) of lemon juice in a medium bowl.  Stir to combine.  Set aside and allow this mixture to “sour” for 5-10 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the granulated sugar, 1.5 tbsp of the lemon zest, and vanilla beans (if using). Scrunch the lemon zest into the granulated sugar to release the citrus oils and combine the vanilla beans. This process takes about 3-5 minutes, so don’t rush it!  Once done, set aside. 
  5. Sift together the all-purpose flour, kosher salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  6. Add the room-temperature butter and cream cheese to the bowl of your stand mixer or a large mixing bowl.  Mix with your hand or stand mixer until the fats are completely smooth and combined. Add the infused granulated sugar and cream until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing each egg until completely incorporated into the mixture.  Scrape the sides and bowl as needed to ensure even mixing.
  8. If using vanilla extract, add the vanilla and mix thoroughly. (If using vanilla bean, you can skip this step.)
  9. Add half of the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
  10. Add all of the milk mixture and mix until just combined.
  11. Add the second half of the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Using a rubber spatula, give the sides and bottom of the bowl a final scrape, and then fold the batter several times to ensure that the batter is evenly mixed.
  12. Prep a 10- or 12-cup bundt pan as you normally would (I use butter and flour to prep pans for this cake)
  13. Bake for 60-70 minutes in a true 325°F oven, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 212°F-215°F.  

To Make the Lemon Simple Syrup:

  1. Add sugar, salt, and water to a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Remove from the heat as soon as the sugar is completely dissolved.  The simple syrup should have a watery consistency.
  2. Add pure vanilla extract and lemon juice and stir to combine.
  3. Allow the cake to cool in its pan for ten minutes, then invert and place on top of a cooling rack.  Brush simple syrup on the cake and allow to cool completely.  If you are using a bundt pan that has very intricate detail, it’s best to allow both the simple syrup and cake to cool completely before brushing the simple syrup.

To Make the Lemon Glaze:

  1. Slow and steady wins the race with glaze!
  2. Add the confectioner’s sugar, fine sea salt, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 tbsp of lemon zest (if using), and vanilla extract to the bowl.  Mix with a small whisk until the confectioner’s sugar is moistened.  The mixture will not be glaze at this point.
  3. After the confectioner’s sugar is moistened, add lemon juice, 1/2 tsp at a time, mixing thoroughly (but gently!) before adding another 1/2 tsp, until the glaze is smooth. The final glaze should have the consistency of thick honey. 
  4. Use a spouted measuring cup, spoon, or squeeze bottle to add the glaze to the completely cooled cake.
  5. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Save yourself the headache and zest and juice your lemons before you do anything else.  😊 
  • To store, you can keep on the countertop for up to five days.
  • Author: Shani
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60-70 minutes
  • Category: Dessert

20 COMMENTS

  1. I have a toddler who LOVES pound cake. He loves how soft the cake is and I’m a lover of lemon flavored anything so I knew this was a recipe I had to make for my family! An easy to follow recipe with such amazing flavor! I will definitely be making this again soon.






    • One thing about toddlers…they will let you know when food passes or fails the vibe check! I’m so glad that this one satisfied his lil’ taste buds!

  2. The lemon flavor was PERFECT! And I used all your tips so the texture was just right—like my grandma used to make. Thank you so much!






  3. I made this today and I’m in love! Seriously the best lemon pound cake I’ve made or eaten for that matter. Lovely lemon flavor. The only thing I did different was using 1/2 cup less milk and replacing that with 1/2 cup heavy cream. Only because I had mistakenly purchased 2% milk. I have not made the glaze yet, I’m not sure I will as the cake is amazing without it. But that’s just my preference.

    Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe!






    • Hi there! You could do that, but you’ll end up with a layer cake that has the texture of pound cake. If that’s your desired result, then great! I would recommend 8″ cake pans if you decided to do this. Happy baking!

  4. I’m going to take my 1st Crack at this recipe this evening. Do you have any advice on using vanilla paste as that’s currently what I have on hand?

    • Hi Mekiah! Thank you for your kind review! I’ve fixed the recipe to add the fine sea salt with the confectioner’s sugar in the glaze recipe!

LEAVE A REPLY

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star
Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Recipes

More Stories Like This