Buttermilk Lemon Bread

A stack of glazed Buttermilk Lemon Bread slices

My Buttermilk Lemon Bread is a tangy lemon loaf that practically sings with fresh lemony flavor, and I’m spilling all the secrets to this perfect citrusy pound cake right here!

A stack of Buttermilk Lemon Bread slices

This lemon cake 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 cake 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.

A stack of glazed Buttermilk Lemon Bread slices

Secret # 2  I use cake flour

Cake flour is an easy switch that results in a more tender 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.

Buttermilk Lemon Bread, sliced

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.

Making lemon sugar in a food processor for Buttermilk Lemon Bread

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.

Glazing a Buttermilk Lemon Bread

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, which is made simply with powdered sugar and fresh Meyer lemon juice.

Meyer Lemons, sliced

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.

More Meyer lemon recipes to try ~

Reader Rave ~

“Wow this bread was moist, fragrant and delish! The buttermilk does wonders in breads, going to make sure I always use it in my breads. Thank you for the lemon sugar tip too.” ~ Yvonne

A stack of Buttermilk Lemon Bread slices
3.78 from 184 votes

Buttermilk Lemon Bread

My Buttermilk Lemon Bread is a tangy lemon loaf that practically sings with fresh lemony flavor, and I'm spilling all the secrets to this perfect citrusy pound cake right here!
Course Breakfast, quick bread
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Yield 12 servings
Calories 346.87kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour use all purpose flour if you like
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk


  • 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 9x5 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.

Cook's notes

The success of any cake or quick bread is in the details. Make sure your oven is accurate. Make sure you measure correctly. Use the fluff/scoop/level method for measuring flour: fluff up the flour first to loosen it, then scoop it with your cup measure, then lightly level if off with the flat side of a knife or your finger.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit


Calories: 346.87kcal
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    July 23, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    5 stars
    Fantastic recipe, well written directions, followed it to a tee. I only had a regular lemon as opposed to a Meyer lemon and it still came out perfect. The hardest part is waiting for the lemon bread to cool before adding the glaze. I’m also on board with your other reviewers regarding the lemon sugar. I love learning a new technique even though I consider myself a pretty good cook. 🙂 5 *****

    • Reply
      July 24, 2020 at 4:51 am

      Thanks so much, you made my day 🙂

  • Reply
    Angie Thomas
    July 21, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    5 stars
    I would give this 10 stars if I could! I’ve made this at least 6-8x during quarantine. My family loooooves it and I bake a lot.. so I would say our standards are pretty high. And usually, they only wanted chocolate until I tried this recipe on a whim to shake things up. We just served it for my teenage daughters birthday tonight at her request. Totally worth the effort! This is one I will treasure for sure! It’s not letting me rate it for some reason.

  • Reply
    May 2, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    Love all your recipes Sue. My question is the loaf cakes I make almost always come out a little undone in the center. Any ideas on how I can get my cakes to get completely done without over cooking them?

    • Reply
      May 2, 2020 at 6:20 pm

      Great question, I struggle with that sometimes, too. One thing is to try a few different loaf pans, and make sure yours is the correct size for the recipe. I find that loaf pans come in an annoyingly varied size range, while all seeming to be standard. A loaf pan that is wider rather than narrow and tall will bake more evenly. I also almost always loosely cover with foil toward the end to slow the browning, at least.

  • Reply
    Karen Hilliard
    February 26, 2020 at 10:06 am

    I’m definitely making this! I was looking for a lemon something, anything and you’ve thought of everything!

  • Reply
    February 7, 2020 at 10:02 am

    5 stars
    Made one today, think I will make another one tomorrow because my family loves it so much! More than half is gone already 😀

  • Reply
    June 11, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    5 stars
    I hate lemon bread but my friend wanted me to make it for her. I tried some and I absolutely loved it. I was amazed how good it was. The lemon wasn’t overpowering like some I’ve tried. Thank you for this recipe I now love lemon bread. 🙂

    • Reply
      June 12, 2019 at 2:41 pm

      I’m so happy I made a lemon bread convert 😉

  • Reply
    June 10, 2019 at 9:16 am

    5 stars
    Made this last night and it came out absolutely perfect! Followed everything exactly, even the cake flour, but I didn’t have a food processor so I zested 2 meyer lemons and mixed in thoroughly with the sugar. Baked the loaf for 50 mins exactly when the toothpick came out clean! Then I waited for it to cool before spreading the lemon glaze on top (I used about 2 tbsp of lemon juice to get the thick consistency). Was pleasantly surprised to see how well the glaze sets also, was able to cut into nice clean slices without the glaze getting messy in any way. Thank you Sue!!

    • Reply
      June 10, 2019 at 9:20 am

      Sounds like a perfect success, thanks Megan 🙂 The key with the glaze is to give it enough time to dry down before cutting. I’m often too impatient.

  • Reply
    May 7, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Can I add blueberries to this? It looks so yummy. We’re doing a Mother’s Day tea this Saturday. I’d love to make this.

    • Reply
      May 7, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      Oh gosh yes!

  • Reply
    Bernadette Gomms
    April 16, 2019 at 10:38 am

    This cake looks delicious – quick question can i bake in a small 6″ round pan instead of a loaf pan? or will I need to double the recipe for fit in a round pan?

    • Reply
      April 16, 2019 at 10:42 am

      I think it would fit in a round pan, but be aware that this has a denser pound cake/sweet bread texture, rather than a fluffy cake texture.

  • Reply
    February 24, 2019 at 11:31 am

    5 stars
    Our family absolutely loved this lemon bread!! I enjoyed learning a new technique (combining the lemon zest and sugar).

    • Reply
      February 24, 2019 at 11:36 am

      I’m so happy Sandy ~ I love that technique and I’ve used it in several other recipes. I’m working on an orange sugar shortbread this week 🙂

      • Reply
        February 24, 2019 at 11:39 am

        Hi Sue- can’t wait for the shortbread cookie recipe. Shortbread cookies are my husband’s favorite cookie.

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