We had some friends over for dinner at the end of February and decided to try to will spring into existence by making turkey club sandwiches and this lemon bundt cake. We’re just now getting to the point where we have the occasional 40 degree day, so the whole “willing spring” thing didn’t work. But the cake was excellent.
Looking for a lemon bundt cake recipe turned out to be a little bit of an ordeal. I came across a lot of recipes that either called for weird ingredients like lemon jello mix or were basically a doctored lemon cake mix. Everyone has their own baking perogatives, and using lemon jello in a cake batter just isn’t one of mine. I also found a lot of recipes that rely on lemon extract for an infusion of lemon flavor, which is better than the above options, but still not great. I’ve made cakes with lemon extract before and haven’t been completely happy with the result.
This recipe originally comes from Cooks Illustrated, which you know means that it has some kind of trick up it’s sleeve to get good lemon flavor from, you know, actual lemons. The recipe has you mince your lemon zest to release a little extra flavor and then soak the zest in fresh lemon juice to amp the flavor up even more. It’s kind of brilliant. With this lemon zest/juice mixture added in, you end up with a cake with a definite lemon taste that’s light and fresh. Then when the cake comes out of the oven, you load it up with a double coat of glaze to give the cake some real tang. I would recommend making this a day in advance if you have the time/the willpower to resist. The flavor and texture of the cake both improve with time.
I didn’t have buttermilk on hand, so I soured some whole milk with (obviously) some lemon juice. The cake turned out well, but the glaze tasted a bit flat so once the glaze was at the right consistency, I whisked in 2 tbsp of melted butter. The butter isn’t necessary, but I thought it improved the flavor of the glaze. I don’t know if it would be necessary if you were using buttermilk—I look forward to trying this recipe again with buttermilk to find out.
Also: I ate this cake every morning for breakfast until it was gone. I regret nothing.
Note: You’ll need 5-6 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice for this recipe. You should be able to get all the juice you need from the 3 lemons you will zest for the cake, but it wouldn’t hurt to buy a 4th lemon just to be safe.
For the cake:
- Zest of 3 lemons
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 c all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3/4 c buttermilk
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 18 tbsp (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 c sugar
For the glaze:
- 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp buttermilk
- 2 c powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp melted butter (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a bundt pan.
- Mince the lemon zest until it resembles a fine paste. Combine the zest with the lemon juice in a small bowl and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, combine the lemon juice mixture, the vanilla, and the buttermilk. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk.
- Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low and add 1/3 of the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Add in half of the buttermilk mixture and beat to combine. Repeat, alternating the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture until all the ingredients have been combined. Be careful not to over-mix—use a rubber spatula to incorporate any lingering flour.
- Scrape the batter evenly into the prepared bundt pan. Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 45-50.
- While the cake is baking, whisk together the ingredients for the glaze, starting with 2 tbsp of lemon juice and adding more gradually until the glaze is thick but pourable.
- When the cake is done baking, allow it to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then, invert the cake directly onto the wire rack. Place a plate or pan beneath the rack and drizzle half of the glaze over the cake. Allow the cake to cool on the rack for an hour. Drizzle the remaining glaze over the top of the cake and continue to cool until the cake is room temperature.