“This. is. FANTASTIC. I have been on a decades long hunt for the perfect lemon cake of my dreams. Just perfect. Thank you SO much.” ~ Nada
This buttermilk lemon bread has a lovely classic soft texture (just look at that crumb!) and a tangy flavor (can you say buttermilk and fresh lemon?) I crave lemon from time to time, and a great lemon loaf can’t be beat. Baking up this easy bread at home means you get a true, natural lemon flavor that you just won’t get from commercial products, and if you’re lemon-obsessed like I am, a classic lemon loaf like this is the holy grail of lemon recipes.
Secret #1 Buttermilk makes this lemon bread impossibly tender
You can always count on me to make little improvements to any recipe, and this one is no exception. I swapped out regular milk for thick tangy buttermilk, the cultured kind you can find in your regular supermarket. It’s been fermented, like yogurt, and is low fat and super healthy. I love the stuff, it makes such a difference in so many recipes. Buttermilk is acidic, and actually tenderizes cakes, but also adds lots of flavor.
Fresh out? Here’s how to make your own buttermilk
- Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to a cup of whole milk. Let sit for 15 minutes before using. While this doesn’t result in the thick cultured style buttermilk you find at the supermarket, it works in a pinch.
Secret # 2 I use cake flour
Cake flour is an easy switch that results in a more tender lemon bread. Cake flour is a lower protein flour, which means it forms less gluten than regular flour in baked recipes. When I have it in the pantry I tend to use it a lot, because I prefer a delicate tender crumb in my baked goods.
Fresh out? Here’s how to make your own cake flour
- To make a cup of cake flour, measure out a cup of all purpose flour, then remove 2 tablespoons. Add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and sift to combine. Now you can use it just like you would use regular flour. If you’d like to make it in bulk, remove and replace 1/2 cup flour with cornstarch for every 4 cups of flour.
Secret # 3 I make my easy lemon sugar to amp up the lemon factor
This is a secret I just love, I’ve used it in my Scottish Lemon Sugar Shortbread and my Lemon Sugar Crumb Cake. Instead of grating lemon zest to add to the batter, I process the lemon peels with granulated sugar in my food processor. The result is a moist, fragrant, and insanely lemony sugar with the essence of fresh citrus infused into every crystal.
Here’s how to make lemon sugar
- I remove the zest of a lemon with a vegetable peeler. I love my serrated peeler, it allows me to easily peel off just the yellow, but none of the bitter white, zest. Add that to the cup of sugar listed in the recipe, and give it a good whiz! The result is a pale yellow, insanely fragrant lemon sugar ready to use.
Secret #4 I use Meyer Lemons
Since Meyer lemons are in season I used them, and their delicate flavor makes this cake super special. You can especially tell the difference in the glaze for this buttermilk lemon bread, which is made simply with powdered sugar and fresh Meyer lemon juice.
What’s the difference between Meyer lemons and regular lemons?
I’m so glad you asked! I love lemons and I love talking about them almost as much as I love cooking with them.
- Meyer lemons are a very old natural hybrid citrus, so old and mysterious that no one really knows for sure how they came about, but it’s thought that they resulted from a cross between 2 of the original citrus fruits (a citron and a mandarin/pomelo hybrid) in China.
- Meyers are plump, thinner skinned, and more of a warm orange=y yellow than regular lemons.
- Their flavor is much sweeter, less acidic, with a definite hint of orange, and a little bit floral.
- While regular lemons are always in the supermarket, you’re more likely to find Meyer lemons from December up until spring.
- Use Meyer lemons exactly the same way you use regular lemons.
Buttermilk Lemon Bread
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- lemon juice to thin, start with 1 tablespoon and add more as necessary
- Preheat oven to 350F Lightly butter a 9×5 loaf pan and line it with parchment paper with long ends so you can lift the bread out later for glazing and slicing.
- Remove the peel from the lemon with a vegetable peeler. A serrated peeler works best for this. You want to remove just the yellow part of the peel, with little of the bitter white part.
- Put the sugar and lemon peelings in a food processor and process until the peels are completely incorporated into the sugar.
- Put the lemon sugar and butter into a stand mixer and cream until light and fluffy ~ a full 5 minutes.
- Beat in each of the eggs, one by one, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Continue beating for another 2-3 minutes.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and add to the mixer, alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Finish mixing by hand, to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed, but don’t over beat.
- Turn the batter into the prepared pan, spread out evenly, and bake on the center rack for 50-55 minutes, or until fully risen and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it (moist crumbs are fine.)
- Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove, using the parchment paper handles, and let fully cool on a rack.
- Meanwhile whisk together the sugar with enough lemon juice to make a thick glaze. Spread the glaze over the cooled bread.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit