Lemon Buttermilk Loaf Cake: A lemon loaf cake with perfectly balanced tart, tang, and sweet flavors with a soft and tender crumb and a sweet lemon glaze.

FINALLY!! I’ve had this lemon loaf cake recipe bookmarked in my recipe binder since I printed it out almost two years ago and I finally made it.

Why did I wait so long?! Probably because Kyle isn’t a lemon fan (jerk. lol).

Probably because there was always another recipe that made it to the top of the list when I needed something like this. Like this chocolate chip sour cream cake. And this blueberry crumb cake.

And this New York crumb cake. Gah!! Give me alllll the crumb cakes!!

Nonetheless, when I was creating my menu for the brunch we hosted for our friends this past weekend, I firmly decided to use this recipe come hell or high water.

Holy crap. I’m SO mad at myself for waiting so long to make this cake! 

It was waaaaay better than any lemon loaf cake I’ve ever had, including the lemon loaf from Starbucks. It’s light, yet dense and just lemony enough to satisfy both the lemon lover and the almost-converted lemon lover in the house. 

And unlike so many of the lemon loaf cakes you find at coffee shops and bakeries, this one isn’t too sweet. The tart, sweet, and tangy flavors are just so well-balanced!

I even caught Kyle eating the loaf – not a slice of the loaf but the actually loaf – with a fork earlier in the week! If this cake can convert the self-proclaimed lemon hater into someone who would belly up to this lemon loaf with a fork, I daresay it’s a delicious cake.

How to Make Lemon Buttermilk Loaf Cake

The most time consuming part about the whole recipe is zesting the lemons (a sturdy, reliable zester will help with this) but seriously, when you get TWO 8-inch loaves from this one recipe (I froze the 2nd loaf), I can hardly complain about zesting a few lemons.

To make this lemon loaf cake recipe, you’ll:

  1. Zest the heck out of 6 large lemons and then squeeze ¾ cup of lemon juice out of what remains of the zested lemons.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and lemon zest.
  3. Mix buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla together.
  4. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.
  5. Alternate mixing in the dry ingredients with the buttermilk mixture into the cake batter.
  6. Bake at 350° F for about 1 hour in 2 8-inch loaf pans.
  7. Heat the remaining sugar and lemon juice together and then brush the mixture over the warm cakes.
  8. Make the glaze with confectioners’ sugar and more lemon juice and then pour the glaze over the cooled cakes.

Eight simple steps to making this lemon loaf recipe, right?!

And as much as I love the little bit of tang the buttermilk gives to this cake, I love even more that it’s another way to use leftover buttermilk. Don’t you always have a little buttermilk left in the container after you’ve made pancakes or waffles?

Anyway! Go make this lemon buttermilk loaf cake. You’ll be kicking yourself just like I did for waiting so long!


Tired of the brunch posts yet? 🙂 Here’s what else we served!


Lemon Buttermilk Loaf Cake

Lemon Buttermilk Loaf Cake

Yield: 2 8-inch loaves
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Cooling Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes

Lemon buttermilk loaf cake is the perfect cake to grace your brunch table, the church bake sale, the neighborhood potluck BBQ, or as a book club dessert. Or basically, any time in between! This cake is soft, tender, and tangy with a well-balanced lemon flavor. The recipe yields 2 large loaves and the cake freezes really well.


For the cake:

  • ½ lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup grated lemon zest (6 large or 8 small lemons)
  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • ¾ cup buttermilk (not powdered or dried), at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice


  1. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 (8 ½×4 ½×3-inch) loaf pans. You can also line the bottom with parchment paper, if you wish.
  2. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then the lemon zest.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, mix ¼ cup of the lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla together. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, and smooth out the tops.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.
  5. Combine ½ cup granulated sugar with ½ cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan then spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely before glazing.
  6. To make the glaze: When the cakes are almost completely cool, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a medium bowl and mix with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour the glaze over the tops of the cooled cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

Storage: The cakes will keep at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. To freeze, wrap an unglazed cake tightly in plastic wrap and then in a piece of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months.


adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten

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Leave a Comment

  • February 26, 2009 at 4:02 PM

    I wish I had some lemons & I’d make this RIGHT NOW!!!

  • February 26, 2009 at 6:58 PM

    I love lemon, I am going to have to try this cake!

  • February 26, 2009 at 7:56 PM

    Pretty much YUM sums it up!!!

  • Annie
    February 27, 2009 at 7:12 AM

    Looks and sounds great! I have a version of this recipe bookmarked where someone used orange instead of lemon and I’m hoping to try that soon. Yum!

  • insanelygoodfood
    February 27, 2009 at 1:26 PM

    Ooh! I’ve made this one! Yes I agree it is holy crap good! AND it makes the house smell lemony fresh! :o)

  • Melissa
    February 28, 2009 at 12:43 PM

    Looks delicious! I have been looking for a lemon cake and didn’t even think to check my cookbooks! This one sounds amazing!

  • March 1, 2009 at 11:28 AM

    […] Lemon Cake […]

  • March 24, 2009 at 11:19 PM

    I absolutely can’t wait to make this! I have two events this weekend that I need something just like this for, so I love that the recipe makes 2 loaves…thanks for posting!

  • April 28, 2009 at 12:00 PM

    […] Source: Barefoot Contessa Parties, as seen on Smells Like Home. […]

  • elda bielanski
    November 4, 2009 at 7:50 PM

    Has anyone tried this cake in a regular cake pan for a more formal cake ? Because it sounds more lemony than most, I would like to use it but as a 12 x 12 cake for my grandson’s christening. I was thinking of making this two times in a 12 inch square pan and slicing each layer horizontally with the glaze in-between and covered with fondant. Any thoughts or ideas?

    • smellslikehome
      November 4, 2009 at 9:39 PM

      Hi Elda, Yes, I definitely think you could make it as a 12×12 cake but I’m not entirely sure how it would work as a layer cake. I’d suggest giving it a test run!!

  • Kathy Cannon
    October 3, 2013 at 9:18 PM

    This looks like the perfect dessert to take to a meeting next week. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! I might try to make the NY Coffeecake too.

  • Glen Kazmierski
    March 30, 2014 at 6:54 PM

    it’s a keeper. can’t really decide if it’s a cake or bread…..but it is delicious! Shared with some neighbors and got a thumbs up from everybody.

  • Kim Kowalski
    October 4, 2021 at 6:35 PM

    I was just watching the great British bake off, and started craving a lemon drizzle style cake made with buttermilk! Most of the everyday cakes in England just use butter, eggs, sugar and flour, so this was a great find! I happen to have a LOT of lemon and lime zest from a different project, so I’m going lemon-lime. Should be amazing. Nice to see you have a combo of baking powder and soda in this to take advantage of all that acid!

    One way I save loaf cake slices is to freeze individual pieces on parchment and then put them in an airtight container with parchment in between the slices. That way you can take out one at a time. This is the way I package single-serve things from fresh berries to pizza to cupcakes 🙂

    • Tara
      October 20, 2021 at 2:29 PM

      Great freezing tips, Kim!