Lemon pound cake is the sweet, summer-y, citrus-infused sister to my classic pound cake. It’s moist and dense, yet incredibly tender and soft. Top it off with my sweet and simple lemon glaze! As always, my recipe includes a how-to video!
Lemon Pound Cake
Lots of requests have been coming in for a way to transform my classic pound cake to a bright and sunny lemon pound cake. While I’d hoped that the transformation would be as simple as a splash of lemon juice and a sprinkling of lemon zest, it turns out a few more alterations were needed.
Ultimately, I ended up doctoring my classic bundt cake recipe to create that citrus-infused beauty you see above. The “secret” ingredient (cream cheese!) already added a subtle, flavorful tang to the cake that not only made the crumb deliriously moist, tender, and flavorful, but it enhanced the lemon flavor and helped it to really shine.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
You’ll love that this cake is dense and heavy (as any pound cake ought to be) but is still soft and tender with a plush crumb that nearly melts in your mouth. It’s also un-fussy to make with basic pantry ingredients.
The glaze is another winning component, a rich citrus crown! A bit of melted butter in the mix (rather than just water and sugar) makes it perfectly rich and thick and rounds out the flavor nicely, while the lemon juice makes the citrus flavor truly pop!
Grab yourself a glass of lemonade (no such thing as too much lemon here) and let’s get started.
What You’ll Need
- Lemons. I use the zest for the primary lemon flavor of the cake, then the juice is used to make a sweet but tart lemon glaze.
- Flour. I recommend and use all-purpose, but you can substitute cake flour instead for a finer, softer crumb. If measuring with cups, use this substitution guide, and if measuring by weight you would use the same amount listed.
- Cream Cheese. This is my secret weapon for the softest, most flavorful and tender lemon pound cake of your life (hint: I also use this ingredient in my petit fours and coffee cake for the same reason!). I have only tested this recipe with full-fat brick-style cream cheese and don’t recommend making it with low-fat or spreadable.
- Sugar. Granulated sugar only (for the cake), as I found brown sugar bullied the lemon flavor that we want to let shine. For the icing/glaze you’ll use powdered or confectioner’s sugar.
- Butter. For the cake, you’ll want to make sure you are using unsalted butter, but either unsalted or salted will work for the glaze since we’re using such a small amount.
- Buttermilk. Adding buttermilk to this cake adds a flavor and moisture and yields a more tender cake. If you don’t have buttermilk in your fridge, you can always try my buttermilk substitute.
- Vanilla & Lemon Extract. While the primary flavor is lemon, I still recommend using vanilla extract. It adds depth to the flavor and the cake is better with it. I typically do not use lemon extract at all and prefer to just use the lemon zest listed, but for a brighter, more intensely lemon flavored cake you should consider adding the extract.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Lemon Pound Cake
- Beat butter, cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest until smooth, creamy, and lightened in color. Always pause to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl so ingredients are completely combined.
- Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking, soda, and salt) in a separate bowl. Alternate adding the dry mixture and buttermilk to the creamed mixture, and mix at low speed until combined.
- Pour batter into a thoroughly greased prepared bundt pan and bake.
- Check the doneness of the cake by inserting a wooden skewer into the thickest part of the cake. It should come out clean or (preferably) with some moist crumbs.
SAM’S TIP: A clean wooden skewer indicates that your lemon pound cake is baked completely, but it could also mean that the cake is over-baked. It will continue to bake a bit more as it cools in the bundt pan, and by the time you invert it it could be over-done, dry, and crumbly. To ensure a soft, tender cake, try to catch it a bit earlier. Look for the skewer to come out with a few moist crumbs (but not wet batter) and then immediately remove from the oven.
Making a Lemon Glaze
- Whisk together powdered sugar, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Add the lemon juice a tablespoon at a time until the glaze falls off your whisk in ribbons, but still holds its shape for a moment before dissolving into the bowl.
- Drizzle over cooled lemon pound cake and allow to set for 30-60 minutes (or just dig right in, a little sticky glaze never hurt anyone!).
Frequently Asked Questions
The outside of the pound cake will bake faster than the rest of the cake, making it brown and tougher than the interior. This is typical with pound cakes and not a sign that anything was done wrong.
While this recipe has been meticulously designed and tested to be moist, all of that careful calibration can go right out the window if it is accidentally over-baked! I recommend always testing your cake slightly early (and look for moist crumbs on your skewer, as I mentioned in my tip above) and keeping an oven thermometer in your oven to make sure it’s not running hot, as many ovens unfortunately do not run true to temperature.
Always bake in the center rack, and remove the cake from the pan after 15-25 minutes of cooling (careful, the pan will still be very warm!).
Also, make sure you are not accidentally over-measuring your flour!
Very little, and feel free to call this either a lemon bundt cake or pound cake. A bundt cake is essentially any cake that is baked in a bundt pan. A pound cake can really be baked in any pan you’d like, but the texture is very dense, the crumb very tight, the cake very heavy, and the results are buttery and melt-in-your-mouth.
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Let’s bake together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
Lemon Pound Cake
For Lemon Pound Cake
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened (226g)
- 8 oz cream cheese softened (use full-fat cream cheese that is sold in bricks, not the spreadable kind sold in tubs) (226g)
- 2 ½ cups granulated sugar (500g)
- 2.5 Tablespoons lemon zest (this is usually 2-3 lemons for me. Be sure not to zest much into the papery white layer or “pith” of the lemon or the flavor may be bitter)
- 5 large eggs room temperature preferred
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract optional, see note
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (375g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup buttermilk (78ml)
- 2 cups powdered sugar (250g)
- 2 Tablespoons butter, melted salted or unsalted will work
- 1-3 Tablespoons lemon juice plus additional as needed
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Arrange oven rack to center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Thoroughly grease (I use vegetable shortening) and flour a 12-cup bundt pan or 10" tube pan (see notes to bake in loaf pans). Be sure to tap/shake out excess flour or, rather than greasing/flouring you may spray with baking spray.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using an electric mixer), beat together butter, cream cheese, sugar and lemon zest on medium-speed until creamy, well-combined and batter is lightened in color.
- Add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and stir in vanilla extract and lemon extract (if using). The mixture should be very smooth, light, and creamy when finished.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- With mixer on low-speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter batter, starting and ending with the flour mixture (I add the flour in 3 parts and the buttermilk in 2).
- Pour lemon pound cake batter into your prepared bundt pan and bake on 350F (175C) for 50-60 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean or (preferably) with a few moist crumbs. If you have a lighter-colored bundt pan, it may take longer in the oven.
- Allow to cool for 15-25 minutes and then carefully (it will still be hot! invert onto cooling rack to cool completely before decorating with glaze.
- Prepare glaze by whisking together powdered sugar, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Mixture will be very thick until you add the lemon juice.
- Add lemon juice, one tablespoon at a time, until the consistency is thin enough that it falls in ribbons off of your whisk, but thick enough that it holds its shape for several seconds before dissolving back into the bowl.
- Drizzle lemon glaze over cooled pound cake. Allow glaze to set for 30-60 minutes (this may be faster or longer, depending on the precise thickness of your glaze) and then dig in!
Lemon ExtractThis is optional and I do not use it, but it will give your pound cake a more intense lemon flavor.
Loaf PanThis recipe may be baked in two loaf pans instead. Divide the batter evenly into two pans that have been thoroughly greased and floured (or sprayed with baking spray) and bake in the center rack for approximately 50 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
StoringStore at room temperature in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap or foil for up to five days. While I don’t recommend refrigerating this cake (the fridge will dry it out), it may be wrapped tightly and frozen for several months.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.