This delicious Lemon Bundt cake is both moist and tangy. The addition of buttermilk creates a texture similar to that of homemade pound cake. While the lemon zest gives a beautiful background note, the prize is in the sweet and tart glaze added to the top and sides while warm. The glaze soaks slightly into the cake trapping the flavors.
The history of the lemon cake is a winding one that seems to change with each teller. It is speculated that the earliest version was created in the 1700s and based on traditional pound cake.
The first icing was a boiled combination of sugar, eggs, and flavoring (citrus) when available. This was poured over the finished cake, which was then returned to the oven. When completed and cooled the cake would have a hard glaze or crackle type finish.
Similarly, we find a cake named after Robert E. Lee in the late 1800s. This was a citrus layered cake. Lemons and oranges were combined with sugar and cooked to create a type of jelly which was then applied between layers of cake, stacked, then the balance of the jelly icing spread on all sides. The recipe for this specific cake varies greatly but the basic idea of delicious soaked cake remains.
On to WW1 in the USA. Food rationing was a reality in the USA during WWl. While many food items were difficult to find, and some were a treat at best. One of the principal items was wheat. Wheat was needed to supply the troops and allies with bread and the like so they could continue their fight.
There was a time American’s were called upon to reserve wheat. The US government issued recipes utilizing rice flour. A rice flour sponge cake with a lemon glaze brought a bit of happiness to an otherwise uncertain time.
Bundt pans were introduced in the 1950s by Nordic Ware. They offered an option similar to the classic german pan. however, being made of aluminum they were lighter and less likely to break like their glass counterparts. The center cone ensures that dense batters can cook thoroughly and remain moist.
Throughout history, the Lemon Cake has grown to become a sweet part of our tapestry which can be found popular in most cultures. A sought-after treat for centuries. Definitely memorable.
This cake is beautiful some fresh berries, perhaps some raspberries, or blueberries. Heavy whipped cream, clotted cream, or even ice cream is a nice touch.
Seize the moment and create one up for a special occasion. Lemoncello or candied lemons are nice touches to this classic delight.
For more information on the history of cakes check out The Food Timeline.
Find this and other recipes in our book Beyond the Bread.
Lemon Bundt Cake
- 1 cup butter at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 Jumbo eggs at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 cup buttermilk
- finely grated rind of 2 lemons
- 1/2 Tsp vanilla
- The juice of about 2 juicy lemons
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar sifted
- pinch of salt
- 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Beat together the butter, sugar, and salt, until combined, then until fluffy and light in color.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once all the eggs have been added, and beat briefly.
- Whisk the baking powder into the flour. Add the flour mixture to the batter in three parts alternately with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour. The batter will smooth out as you add the flour. Mix until everything is well combined; the batter will look a bit rough, but shouldn't have any large lumps. Stir in the grated lemon rind and vanilla.
- Thoroughly grease and flour a 10 to 12 cup Bundt pan. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, leveling it and smoothing the top with a spatula.
- Bake the cake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. A pan with a dark interior will bake cake more quickly; start checking at 40 minutes.
- While the cake is baking, make the glaze by stirring together the lemon juice and sugar. Heat over a burner briefly, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Set the glaze aside.
- Remove the cake from the oven, and carefully run a knife between cake and pan all around the edge. Place the pan upside down on a cooling rack. If the cake drops out of the pan onto the rack, remove the pan. If the cake doesn’t drop onto the rack, let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then carefully lift the pan off the cake.
- Brush the glaze all over the hot cake, both top and sides. Let it sink in, then brush on more glaze, continuing until all the glaze is used up.
- Allow the cake to cool completely before icing.
- To ice the cake: Mix the sugar and salt, then mix in 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, adding just enough additional juice to create a thick glaze, one that's just barely pourable. Drizzle it over the completely cool cake.