Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Buttermilk is a beautiful baking ingredient. Not a lot of people use buttermilk in baking in the UK, we tend to base our cakes more on the classic Victoria Sponge, but once you use buttermilk, you will love what it does to the texture of a simple sponge cake and rave about the slight, ever so slight, tang it gives to a cake. This is a very simple lemon cake recipe, satisfying and moreish. I combine it with Swiss Meringue buttercream, to make the cake worthy of a small special occasion. Not a big special occasion, we reserve Devils Food Chocolate Cake for that!


  • 250 gms softened unsalted butter
  • 400 gms caster sugar
  • 5 medium eggs
  • Zest of 5-6 lemons
  • 350 gms plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 1 tsp good vanilla extract
  • 100 ml lemon juice
  • 150 ml buttermilk


Preheat oven to 175C. For fan ovens, please check your manufacturer’s guidelines, all ovens are different. Grease and flour two 8″ cake tins. Line the bottom of the tin with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and caster sugar in a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, until pale and fluffy. Or use a handheld mixer. This step should take around 3-5 minutes. Add lemon zest and inhale the instant aroma. Add one egg at a time and beat before adding the next egg.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix buttermilk, lemon juice and vanilla extract.

On low speed, add roughly a third of the dry flour mixture to the butter and sugar, mix, then add around half the buttermilk mixture. Mix well. Add another third of the flour and keep alternating until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Divide batter between the two prepared tins, smooth tops and bake for 45mins in a preheated oven. Check with a cake tester (or tooth pick, knitting needle, small knife). The tester should come out with a few moist crumbs attached.

Optional Extra

To make an intensely lemony cake –

  • 100 ml lemon juice
  • 75 gms caster sugar

Heat lemon juice gently in a saucepan, just enough to dissolve all the sugar. Remove from heat and pour over the hot cake from the oven. It helps to have poked some holes in the cake with a knitting needle before pouring the syrup over. At this stage, you can also sneak in a (tiny) splash of limoncello. Win win!

I paired this cake with delicate Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I also added a hint of lemon extract to the buttercream, a simple nod to lemonyness.

This cake is perfect with a nice cup of tea. The light buttercream goes beautifully with this light textured cake. For the naughty and slightly lazy among us, it is perfectly alright to skip making the buttercream and simply slather the cake with whipped cream. It goes just as well.



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