Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Sometimes, you just need cake.

A fluffy, sweet treat with just enough frosting that tastes and feels special, even if it’s a weeknight. Even if you don’t have a mixer.

When a box mix cake is out of the question, turn to your cupboards. A moderately stocked pantry will yield the ingredients to make this deliciously fresh-tasting, frosted lemon cake, which the possible exception of buttermilk, but you can make a quick substitute for it if needed. I included directions for that below.

By all means use fresh cultured buttermilk if you’ve got it! Buttermilk is very versatile in the kitchen, an unseen gracious hand that contributes to creamy salad dressings and dips, quick breads like pancakes, waffles, and biscuits, yeast breads, and is a superb meat tenderizer for grass fed roasts.

While not exactly a whole foods recipe, this lovely little cake is made of simple ingredients, no preservatives or artificial anything. So enjoy a piece. Or two. And share with those you love. Its sweet-tart taste is perfect for tea time or an indulgent snack.

The recipe calls for lemon zest, which can be peeled in a thin layer from the fruit with a paring knife, and then finely chopped with a chef’s knife. Find my favorite microplane zester here, also useful for grating other types of citrus fruit along with fresh ginger, turmeric, Parmesan cheese, chocolate, and whole nutmeg. It works like a charm and quickly rinses clean, two attributes you are sure to appreciate.

If you are making the cake by hand, a whisk and wooden spoon will do the job quite well; if you have a Danish dough whisk, so much the better!

During berry season, feel free to add 1/2 cup of berries of your choice; whole if they’re small, like blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, or chopped if they’re larger like strawberries.

Quick Buttermilk Substitute for This Recipe:

Stir together in a small bowl 1/2 cup milk + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar with a fork. Let rest 3 minutes before using.


Lemon Buttermilk Cake

This is not exactly a whole foods recipe, but it makes great use of lemons, Meyer lemons, if you can get them! Otherwise, a regular lemon will certainly do. And don’t worry if you don’t have cultured buttermilk on hand. You can easily make a workable substitute for it, noted at the bottom.

  • Author: Michele Pryse, FNTP
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 9 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: oven
  • Cuisine: American



1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

5 Tbs soft butter

10 Tbs sugar

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 large egg to butter mixture

1/2 cup buttermilk

Soft Lemon Frosting:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 Tbs soft butter

2 Tbs fresh lemon juice


1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Grease an 8x8x2-inch (20x20x5 cm) square pan. Or double the recipe and bake in a 13×9-inch (33×3.5 cm) pan.

2. Sift or whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and soda together and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat soft butter, sugar, and lemon zest together until smooth and creamy. Add the egg to the mixture and beat until light and fluffy.

4. Add reserved dry ingredients and buttermilk and mix well. Spoon and scrape the batter into prepared pan. Spread evenly with a spatula moistened with water to prevent sticking.

5. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center. Cool in the pan on an elevated wire rack. Frost the slightly warm cake with Soft Lemon Frosting. (See below.)

6. Make the frosting. In a medium-size bowl, beat powdered sugar, soft butter, and lemon juice together until creamy. Spread over the entire surface of the still-warm (not hot) cake. Mmmm…


If you don’t have buttermilk, simply combine 1/2 cup milk + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar in a small bowl with a fork and let rest 3 minutes before using.

Enjoy cake slightly warm or cooled. Cake keeps well a day or two, covered, at room temperature.

Keywords: lemon, buttermilk, cake, frosting, pantry

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag me — I can’t wait to see what you’ve made!

A Meyer lemon, fresh from the tree for cake!🍋 🍰

One remarkable aspect of lemon trees is that they can bear flowers along with unripe and ripe fruit, all at the same time. The potted small plants are Meyer lemon seedling trees, planted from seeds saved from ripe lemons. The cycle continues.

Read about Lemon Buttermilk Cake in this recent Cottage Diary entry.

Peruse Chocolate Box Cottage’s 14 Favorite Gifts for the Gardener here.



  • I made this today wth Meyer lemons. It was perfect, moist with just the right sweetness. Rated five stars by me and, better yet, 95-year old Papa Jack.

  • Yep, this was amazing – loved by the young and old in our house! Wouldn’t change a thing❤️❤️❤️.

  • Hello Michele, thanks for this awesome lemon cake recipe!! I made it & we ate it all but never took a picture 😪 sorry. It was delicious!! Next time I make I will snap a photo-promise.

    • Just saw your second comment and you’ve made it twice – wonderful! I put my email in the other reply so you can send me a picture if it’s not too much trouble. Thank you!

  • Hi Michele, I made the cake again-but I don’t know how to get the picture into this comment area. Donna


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