Buttermilk Lemon Cake

Iced buttermilk lemon cake

This is not really cake. It’s not really even a muffin by today’s standards. It’s a bit dense. Not crumbly. Not exactly “moist” per se. Maybe this sounds like I’m un-selling this buttermilk lemon cake. Maybe you’re already turned off and looking away. I hold no grudges against springy, sticky-sweat, so moist it’s almost liquid cake. Deep chocolate, rich and gooey. It sounds amazing. And in February when it’s cold and cuddly, the romantics work out. I have no such romanticism for that kind of thing in the humid heat of a Minnesota summer. Salt and limes are what I want, something that’s refreshing.

And that’s what this cake is. It’s light enough that it’s cake, not bread. It is sweat. But the combination of buttermilk and lemon make it tender and almost as tangy and lemonade. After it’s cool you can safely wrap it and pack it away in a basket. Bring the icing with and top it at your destination. And if you’re very brave and a little bit silly, sprinkle on some flakey sea salt. Because a little citrus and a little salt never hurt anyone.

buttermilk and lemon quick bread cake topped with lemon icing, lemon slices, and sugared slivered almonds

Buttermilk Lemon Cake (Quick Bread Method)

Makes 1 9″ by 5″ cake

Skill: beginner

Flavor profile:  sweet, tangy, lemonade

Make with: Sparkling Arnold Palmer Mocktail 


For the cake
  • 340 g all-purpose flour (2 1/4 cups)
  • 10 g double-acting baking soda (1 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 5 g salt (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 300 g sugar (1 1/2 cups)
  • 170 g Butter, cold, diced small (3/4 cup)
  • 115 g buttermilk (1/2 cup)
  • 40 g lemon juice + zest from 1 medium lemon (about 1/4 cup lemon juice)
  • 3 large eggs
For the icing
  • 125 g powdered sugar
  • 20 g lemon juice (1/8 cup or 1/2 juicy medium lemon)
  • 35 g heavy cream (very scant 1/4 cup)
  • Lemon slices, lemon zest, sugared almond slices, flakey sea salt (optional for decoration)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 f.
  2. Butter or grease a 9″ by 5″ loaf pan and line it with parchment paper.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar to a large bowl and mix well.
  4. Using a pastry blender or your hands, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  5. Add the buttermilk, lemon juice, and eggs into a small bowl and blend with a fork.
  6. Add the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and stir until it’s just blended together. Do not over-mix.
  7. Spoon your mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hour until the top is fully set.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely.
  9. Remove the cake from the pan and spoon icing over the top. Add slices of lemon, lemon zest, and sugar almond slices for decoration.
To make icing
  1. Mix powdered sugar, lemon juice, and heavy cream in a small bowl until smooth and thick.

NOTE: If you have used measurements by volume you may need to adjust the amount of powdered sugar to get the right icing consistency. If your icing is runny add 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar at a time and mix thoroughly until you have an icing that is thick and almost gloppy. It may look too thick. Like it won’t spread over the cake well. But you’ll know you have a good consistency when you scoop out some icing and let it fall off the spoon back into the bowl it falls in heavy ribbons that slowly sink back into the rest of the icing.

A quick note on grams

Maybe you’ve noticed I’ve switched to grams instead of ounces. There has been some confusion over whether the recipes here mean ounces by weight or liquid ounces by volume in the previous recipes. I mistakenly assumed that everyone would weigh the liquids along with the dry ingredients but have since learned that’s not the case. I’ve switched to grams because most scales do have grams as a unit of measurement and this will hopefully cut down on any confusion. I will continue to add the measurements by volume in parenthesis at the end of any ingredient for those who don’t have a scale, but I highly recommend using one for the best possible and consistent baking outcome. Want more information? Here’s a great article on weight vs. volume.


1 Comment

  1. Bekah
    April 18, 2021 / 8:00 pm

    This looks so refreshing! I really appreciate you explaining how to get great results by weighing the ingredients. And why it is important.

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