This Lemon Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze is my favorite cake for spring (or maybe any time of year). The lemon in the cake is bright and not too overpowering, while the glaze adds just the right zing from fresh lemon juice. You are going to want to make this one on repeat!
Growing up, cake was not my favorite. In fact, for my birthday every year I requested pie instead. I still love pie but I came to truly love cake when my kiddos were young. Cake baking and decorated drew me in as a way to be creative and I soon became obsessed with baking cakes from scratch, learning the science behind the interaction of ingredients, and coming up with recipes on my own with all of my newfound cake geekery.
Cake really is magic! A handful of unimpressive ingredients, mixed together a certain way, and – poof! – a soft, delicious, and flavorful creation.
A Tiny Bit of Cake Science
Okay, indulge this cake geek just a little. This recipe probably looks a bit different than what you are used to. You might be looking at it and asking yourself if we simply forgot to cream the butter and sugar together. Nope. This is a different mixing method and happens to be my favorite: the reverse creaming method.
I learned this method from Rose Levy Beranbaum, the queen of baking science. (Read all about this method and so much more in her book, The Cake Bible.) You whisk together the dry ingredients first, then add the fat, and incorporate the eggs at the end. This method gives cakes a small crumb and a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture. The fat coats the flour first and acts as a barrier to gluten formation when you add the liquid, so it’s harder to overmix your cake.
Weighing Your Ingredients is Key
Weighing your ingredients will hands-down, no question, 100%, absolutely give you the very best result. Every. Single. Time. Plus, you can measure right into your mixing bowl and avoid washing all those pesky measuring cups! I call that a win-win.
If you use cup measurements, the recipe will work and your cake will be delicious, but it might not be the same as mine. With cup measurements, you will pull out more or less flour depending on how the cup is filled. You could get a slightly different amount each time. This is because flour settles and can get packed down by either gravity, the spoon, your hands, or even just shaking the cup slightly. The weight of your flour could end up being off by as much as a couple of ounces, which makes a significant difference when it comes to baked goods. If you weigh your ingredients, you will be sure to get the exact same amount every single time you make a recipe, leading to a consistent final bake each and every time.
Much more consistent = much better results. We all want that, right?
There are so many good, inexpensive kitchen scales. This one is my favorite because it toggles between grams and ounces easily, and the display pulls out so you can still see it when you are measuring ingredients into a large bowl. You can get really nice ones with a higher capacity, but 5 pounds is probably more than most people will need for home baking purposes. If you want to double or triple recipes, or make a lot of bread dough and need a scale that can handle all of that, this stainless steel version of my favorite can handle up to 11 pounds!
Let’s Make A Lemon Bundt Cake!
First up, prepare your pan. For the longest time, Bundt cakes were my nemesis. I could bake and decorate multi-tiered, intricate beauties, but could not for the life of me get a cake to fully release from a Bundt pan. So frustrating!
Then I stumbled onto this pan prep method. I don’t remember where it came from, but it works for me every time.
Start by working melted, but not too runny, butter into every crevice of the Bundt pan with a pastry brush. The butter should immediately solidify onto the cold pan, but if it runs down to the bottom, allow the butter to cool a little more before brushing it onto the pan. You want that butter to stay in place!
Next, sprinkle flour everywhere then tip the pan over into your sink and shake out any excess. You want a very light dusting of flour, not clumps. If you see a spot with no flour, dab on a little butter, sprinkle in a little more flour and shake it out again until every little spot is coated.
Here’s what mine looked like fully prepared. And if you like my pan, you can find it at Williams-Sonoma. It’s my favorite because it bakes really well and has a large capacity. It’s simple and pretty without too many tiny crevices that make it harder to prepare and clean.
Now you can turn your attention to the cake batter.
Mix It Up
Start with Your Dry Ingredients
Weigh all of your dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk briefly, then mix on low speed with the paddle attachment for about thirty seconds, or until you have the butter ready. Cut the butter into pieces and add all at once to the flour. Throw in the lemon zest, too. Continue mixing on low until the butter is broken up into pea-sized pieces.
Adding the lemon zest in with the butter takes advantage of fat’s ability to carry flavor. The zest will mix with the butter and the dry ingredients, enhancing the lemon flavor so that it shines in the final cake. It’s that zest, along with the extract added a bit later, that makes this the most wonderful Lemon Bundt Cake!
Add the Liquid and Eggs in Stages
Next, you add a bit of liquid so the batter begins to come together. Here, it’s the milk and lemon juice. The whole milk adds moisture and a little bit more fat, while the lemon juice adds liquid, some acidity, and a little more lemon flavor. Mix on low, then turn to medium for 1-1/2 minutes, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula a couple of times to make sure there aren’t any lumps of flour hanging out at the edges or in the bottom of the bowl. The mixture should look light and creamy.
Whisk together the extracts and eggs, then add to the cake batter in two batches. Scrape the bowl again and pour evenly into your prepared Bundt pan.
Bake and Cool
When the cake is done, it will be golden brown at the edges and the highest part of the cake (halfway between the center and outer edges) will spring back when you touch it. Cool completely inside the pan on a wire rack. This will help the cake to release from the pan more easily. Once the cake is completely cool, flip it over and hopefully you will hear a satisfying little plop as the cake falls perfectly out of the pan.
If that doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world! Turn it back over and very gently pull the edges of the cake away from the pan at the top. Then try again. Give it a tap on the bottom for some helpful encouragement.
If the worst happens and the cake sticks terribly, put the pieces in a trifle bowl with fresh berries and a drizzle of the lemon glaze. Pretend that’s what you intended all along!
Glaze and Enjoy!
When the cake is completely cool, whisk up your glaze ingredients and add more confectioner’s sugar or lemon juice as needed to arrive at your favorite consistency. I like a medium consistency — thick enough that it doesn’t soak into the cake and disappear but thin enough that it runs down the sides of the cake smoothly. I like that tart pop of glaze in every bite!
Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze all over the top of the cake, allowing it to run down the sides. Or simply pour along the top straight from your mixing bowl.
Admire and enjoy your creation!
Lemon Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze
For the Cake:
- 1 tablespoon melted and cooled butter
- 10-1/2 ounces (2-1/2 cups) cake flour plus 2 tablespoons for preparing the pan
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 10-1/2 ounces (1-1/2 cups) granulated sugar
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons finely-grated lemon zest from 2 lemons
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup) whole milk
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons pure lemon extract
For the Glaze:
- 6 ounces (1-1/2 cup) confectioner’s sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 lemon
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your bundt pan by spreading the melted butter all over the interior with a pastry brush. Be sure to coat all of the crevices. If the butter runs quickly down the sides, allow the butter to cool a bit more before spreading it into the pan. You don’t want melted butter pooled at the bottom! Once your bundt pan is completely coated with butter, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the flour so that it covers the entire interior of the pan, adding more as necessary. Turn over and shake out any excess flour, then check for spots that are still bare. Cover any such spots with butter and a sprinkle of flour.
- Set your prepared pan aside and combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low for 30 seconds. Add the butter and lemon zest, then mix on low for 2-3 minutes or until the butter is broken up into pea-sized pieces. Meanwhile, whisk the milk and lemon juice together, then pour it slowly into the side of the mixer bowl while it runs on low speed. Continue to mix until the dry ingredients are almost fully incorporated. At this point, turn the mixer to medium-high speed and mix for 1-1/2 minutes, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary (at least once during this time).
- While the mixer runs, whisk together the eggs and extracts in a separate medium bowl. At the end of the 1-1/2 minutes, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl again and turn the mixer to low speed. Add the egg mixture in two batches, slowly pouring down the side of the mixing bowl then turning the mixer to medium for 20 seconds after each addition.
- Scrape down the sides of your mixer bowl again to make sure everything is fully combined, then evenly pour the batter into your prepared bundt pan. Tap the pan firmly (but not too hard) on the counter to release any large air bubbles and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched with a finger and a toothpick inserted in the center comes back with moist crumbs clinging to it.
- Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. When the pan is cool, carefully invert the cake onto the wire rack. Tap the bottom to release if necessary.
- After the cake is removed from the pan, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice to form your glaze. It should look and feel a bit like wet glue. If yours seems thin, simply add more confectioner’s sugar. If it doesn’t run easily off of a spoon, add a bit more lemon juice. Thicken or thin the icing in this manner until it is the consistency you prefer, then drizzle all over the top and down the sides of the cake. Allow to set for 10-15 minutes before moving to a serving plate. (You can also add the icing after the cake is on the serving plate. The icing will pool a bit in the center and on the sides – scoop it up to eat with individual slices!)