Crazy-moist, melt-in-your-mouth, lemon-kissed, super-tender cake magic is what we have today! This old fashioned Buttermilk Cake is a take-anywhere, goes-with-anything dessert that fits in with all of your best plans.
Somewhere between a buttermilk pound cake recipe, a tender sponge cake, and a bright lemony brunch cake, this easy vanilla buttermilk cake is a chameleon.
You can serve it for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or sneak a slice for breakfast.
This bundt cake is a dream to slice and transport, so you can easily share (that is, if you want to).
This buttermilk cake isn’t overly sweet, and its texture is something special.
When the cake first emerges from the bundt pan, it’s reminiscent of a pound cake. The crumb is sturdy. It’s light in color inside and bronzed outside.
We could stop there and have a lovely basic buttermilk cake.
Buuuuut, if you’ve tried my Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake, you know that if there’s a simple step that will take a cake from splendid to SUBLIME, we will do it.
AND we will reward ourselves with a second slice for our dedication to cake perfection.
To elevate the cake’s texture and give it a more vibrant flavor, I borrowed a trick from my Grandma Dorothy’s Lemon Poke Cake.
While the buttermilk cake is still warm, poke holes all over it, then drench it in a sweet lemon glaze.
Bright citrus flavor runs merrily through every cake crevice, infusing our (now lemon buttermilk cake) with a joyful flavor and moistening the crumb so that it melts in your mouth.
Buttermilk in Cake Recipes
Baking cake with buttermilk has several purposes.
- Buttermilk is a tenderizer. It makes baked goods moist right from the start.
- Buttermilk is tangy. While many times you might not notice its flavor, in this vanilla buttermilk cake, it keeps the cake from being too sweet and gives it a rich, buttery taste.
- Buttermilk helps cakes rise. The acid in buttermilk reacts with the leavening agents to give the cake lift.
5 Star Review
“Served this at a party last night and it is GONE! It was so delicious and so easy to make!”— Cary —
How to Make Buttermilk Cake
In addition to the buttermilk, this cake uses Greek yogurt.
Another tangy ingredient, the two work in harmony with the lemon glaze to make this cake just the right amount of sweet.
- All-Purpose Flour. For a light, fluffy, and spectacular buttermilk cake, I used all-purpose flour.
- Sugar. Sugar gives the cake the sweetness it needs, adds moisture, and helps create the perfect texture.
- Lemon Zest. Bright, citrusy pops of lemon make this cake stand out from the crowd.
- Butter. Butter gives the cake flavor and plays an important role in its texture.
- Greek Yogurt. To balance the sweet ingredients, Greek yogurt brings a touch of tanginess and creaminess.
- Vanilla. Vanilla pairs beautifully with the lemon and helps the flavors of this cake shine.
- Buttermilk. In addition to being tangy, rich, and delicious, buttermilk also contributes to the cake’s tender texture and helps it rise.
- Glaze. Lemon juice and sugar create a fabulously bright and sweet glaze that seeps into every inch of this cake and helps keep it moist.
- Butter and flour the inside of a bundt pan. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
- Add the sugar and lemon zest to the bowl of a stand mixer. Rub the two ingredients together. Beat in the butter.
- Beat in the rest of the wet ingredients, except for the buttermilk.
- Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately to the wet ingredients. This gives you the best texture of cake!
- Transfer the batter to the bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 to 50 minutes.
- Make the glaze. Poke deep holes into the cake, then pour and brush on the lemon glaze while the cake is still warm.
- Let the cake sit for 20 minutes, then add the remaining glaze. Finish with a dusting of powdered sugar, and DIG IN!
- Cream Cheese Buttermilk Cake. Instead of the lemon soak, frost the cake with the lemon cream cheese frosting from my classic Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting.
- Chocolate Buttermilk Cake. Use orange zest instead of lemon zest (or omit the zest). Omit the lemon glaze. Frost the cake with a chocolate glaze like the one from these Salted Chocolate Olive Oil Cupcakes.
- Berry Buttermilk Cake. Just before transferring the batter to the pan, gently fold in 2 cups of blueberries or blackberries.
- To Store. Store cake in an airtight storage container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- To Freeze. Freeze cake in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Bundt Pan. This one is beautiful!
- Stand Mixer. Perfect for mixing the ingredients for this cake.
- Mixing Bowls. This set is dishwasher-safe and microwave-safe.
The finishing detail of this lemon buttermilk cake is a light shower of powdered sugar. It’s just the fairy dust this fantasy cake deserves!
FOR THE BUTTERMILK CAKE:
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon or orange about 1 teaspoon
- ½ cup unsalted butter 1 stick softened to room temperature
- ½ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup buttermilk*
- Powdered sugar for serving
FOR THE GLAZE:
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice or orange juice
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour the inside of an 8 or 10-cup bundt pan.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large mixing bowl), place the sugar. Zest the lemon right into the bowl over the sugar (save the fruit for the glaze). With your fingers, rub to combine. The sugar should become lightly moist and fragrant.
- Add the butter. Beat on medium-high speed, until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Scrape down the bowl. On medium speed, beat in the Greek yogurt. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating after each until fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla extract.
- Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low. Slowly add half of the flour mixture. Once the flour mixture disappears, mix in all of the buttermilk. Mix in the remaining flour mixture, stopping as soon as it disappears.
- Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife along the outside and center edges of the cake to loosen it, then invert the cake onto a serving plate or cake stand.
- While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze: In a liquid measuring cup with a spout, stir together the sugar and lemon juice. Let stand, stirring periodically.
- Once the cake has been inverted on the plate but while it is still warm, use a skewer (a toothpick is too short), to poke lots of deep holes all over the exterior of the cake (really go for it!). Pour half of the glaze very slowly over the cake, letting it seep into all the holes. With a pastry brush, brush the glaze that drips down onto the plate all over the cake's sides and top.
- Let the cake cool (and the glaze absorb) for 20 minutes. Pour remaining glaze over the cake and let sit at least 10 more minutes, brushing it once more. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!
- *Ingredient Note: If you do not have buttermilk, mix 1 ½ teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice with ½ cup regular milk (use whole milk for the best results, or 2%). Let sit 5 minutes, then use in the recipe as directed.
- **Serving-Size Note: For a smaller yield, the recipe can be halved and baked in a 6-cup bundt pan for 30-35 minutes. (I have tried this, and the cake turned out beautifully.)
- TO STORE: Store cake in an airtight storage container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze cake in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
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