Lemon appears in so many recipes during the spring, but I think that blip of brightness works especially well in the winter. It’s the only spot of sunshine in my kitchen today. A Bundt cake, like a pound cake, is such a friendly, homey thing.
This cake gets a double hit from lemon in the form of lemon zest and lemon juice in three layers: The cake, the simple glaze brushed on the cake, and the icing poured over the top. My lemon-loving grandma would have swooned over this recipe from King Arthur’s Lemon Bliss Bundt Cake. King Arthur?
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King Arthur Baking Company
My mom gifted me the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook years ago, very likely when my copy was published, in 2003. Do you see the common theme on these pages? So many of the best cookbooks come from my mom (thanks, mom!). Back in 2003, I was young and not doing much beyond very basic cooking and baking. I shocked the kids when I mentioned such a thing, “What did you EAT then, Mom?!?”
I remember being surprised at the heft of the cookbook as I shoved it in my car and drove the two hours back to my apartment in Indianapolis. Somehow, I hung onto the KAF cookbook from Indianapolis to Charleston, South Carolina to Seattle, Washington, to numerous locations in Indiana, and here in rural Pennsylvania.
King Arthur Baking Company, the artist formerly known as King Arthur Flour, began in Boston, Massachusetts in 1790, and moved to Norwich, Vermont in 1984. The name change occurred in July 2020 to reflect their diverse offerings. King Arthur Baking are more than flour. You see, this employee-owned business offers up all manner of baking supplies, chocolates, spice blends, and seasonings, classes, and then some. Did I know any of this when I flipped through this cookbook for the first time in 2003? Ha! Now, that’s just funny. Of course not. Now, it’s a valued member of my cookbook collection.
Yes, King Arthur Baking Company produces their own flour (and other goods), but you won’t find their cookbooks littered with mentions. If you, like me, kind of internally recoil when a cookbook mentions a brand name, King Arthur doesn’t do such things. You won’t see “3 cups of King Arthur Baking Company Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour” or anything like that junking up the ingredients portion of a recipe in their books. So, that’s good.
Bottled Lemon Juice and Zest
I no longer use bottled lemon juice. Not so long ago, I, too, reached for the bottle of lemon juice whenever I made anything. Yet, it always felt like my lemon cookies, muffins, quick breads, and cakes (I have yet to make a lemon cream pie even though it’s in my top favorite things) were a little…flat. I assumed it was the recipe, so I’d toy with adding in lemon extract or more lemon juice, anything to try to make lemony things taste more lemony.
Then one day, when I no longer had a toddler underfoot, freelance stuff to write, or a book deadline looming over me, I tried using actual lemon juice I squeezed from an actual lemon. You may have seen the sky clear, the heavens open, and heard the angels singing that day. It made such a difference. I can’t believe I kept thinking I just liked more lemon flavor and didn’t consider the original source of the lemon.
The same goes for lemon zest. I always used to buy the jars of bottled lemon zest. Not only was it expensive and something I couldn’t always find where we lived…but it too was lacking.
I can’t go back. We keep the bottled stuff on hand for my husband’s marinades when he grills (all year round, thank goodness!). But fresh lemon juice makes lemon things, like this lemon Bundt cake, better by 1000%. I don’t even have a handheld juicer. I squeeze ’em by hand. It doesn’t take long at all, but the difference between bottled and fresh makes a couple of minutes so worth it. Promise.
If you have to use bottled lemon juice, then at least make a habit of testing different brands. Processing styles and additives affect the flavor, resulting in something more bitter, and with far less citrusy brightness, than the real deal, some more than others. Otherwise, save the bottled stuff for your preserving projects. You won’t regret switching to fresh. The smell alone when working with the fresh lemon makes it totally worth it. Like, totally.
Using Fresh Lemon
Welcome to Team Fresh Lemon. As Mark Bittman said in How to Cook Everything (1998, Page 634, but the affiliate link will take you to the new, revised edition): Store in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before using. (The best way to do this is to buy six or ten lemons at once, and keep one or two on the counter.)” Before you get to zesting that lemon, give the whole lemon a quick scrub-a-dub-dub to remove remnants of the waxy protective top layer. It won’t hurt you, but get rid of it anyway. Who needs it?
You’re actually getting more than DOUBLE the amount of Vitamin C using the zest than you are in the juice. If you have more zest than you need, freeze it. Storing extra lemon zest in the freezer is the best way to keep it fresh longer and you’ll save a step in the future.
Zesting is simple. What you are doing is removing the topmost layer of the lemon, or flavedo—what we all call it lemon zest. You are NOT, however, removing any of the white part, the bitter, bitter pith. You’re looking for a light hand here with your microplane grater—and watch your fingers.
Until a few months ago, I didn’t even have a microplane grater, so don’t let the lack of one stop you. I used a potato peeler to thinly slice the peel, and then minced up the peel. I love the OXO vegetable peeler and have used it for decades. That’s not even an exaggeration.
Everyone agrees with the following math too: 1 regular lemon = 3 Tablespoons juice = 1 Tablespoons Zest
Lemon Bundt Cake Recipe
I do not have a fancy, new Bundt cake pan. Mine has seen better days. In fact, it looks downright sad. I figured I should snap a pic of it because baking websites often have a tendency to encourage ALL NEW, ALL THE TIME. Um, I love my Goodwill and thrift store foraging (I found my favorite saucepot at one). You don’t need a new Bundt pan to bake a great cake (as long as your interior is fine). You do, however, need to give it extra attention.
If you, like me, have an older Bundt cake pan model, you need to extra ensure you’re greasing your pan enough. I never put it in the dishwasher and I use Baker’s Joy with Flour or Pam for Baking in it. Years ago, I would have used regular Pam, and that’s why my pan is a mess. That residue! Pam for Baking and Baker’s Joy don’t do such things (thank goodness). Anyway. Long story short (too late): Grease your Bundt pan well, spraying all the nooks and crannies. The End.
Lemon Bundt Cake
- 1 10- to 12- Cup Capacity Bundt Cake Pan
- 1 Cup Butter Softened
- 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 4 Large Eggs Room Temperature
- 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
- 3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 Cup Milk Whole is Best
- 2 Medium Lemons Finely Grated OR 3/4 teaspoon Lemon Oil Or, use the two lemons AND add 1/2 teaspoon Lemon Oil for extra zing (says KAFB).
- 1/3 Cup Lemon Juice (Will take not quite 2 good lemons)
- 3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
Icing (Optional, But HIGHLY Recommended)
- 1 1/2 Cups Confectioner's Sugar
- Pinch Salt (Salt brings out the sweetness)
- 2 to 3 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice (Bottled swapped Tablespoon for Tablespoon)
- 350* oven.
- Grease the 10- to 12- cup capacity Bundt pan and set to the side.
- Cream together the Butter, Sugar, and Salt, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- Add in the Eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after both are added, and remixing just until combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine Flour and Baking Baking Powder.
- Measure Milk and ALTERNATE the addition of Flour Mixture and the Milk in THREE additions, beginning and ending with the Flour Mixture.
- The batter will have lumps and bumps, so don't worry. DO NOT try to mix out the lumps or you will OVERMIX the batter and mess up your cake.
- Mix in the Lemon Zest and/or the Lemon Oil. Stir ONLY until combined.
- Pour into your prepared pan. Smoosh around the batter so it's mostly even on the top.
- Bake 350* for 45-60 minutes, TESTING after 40 minutes in case your oven is a hottie or you use a dark pan. Stick a toothpick in the center. No crumbs = done.
- Meanwhile, as the cake bakes, combine the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepot, and briefly, BRIEFLY heat, for ONE MINUTE, while STIRRING to dissolve the sugar. The whole point of heating the juice and sugar briefly! is to dissolve the sugar so you don't have chunks of sugar spread all over your cake.
Remove Cake from Pan
- Now, when you take the cake out of the oven, run a knife along the edge of the pan and the cake. Then, set the pan upside down on the cooling rack. I would pop the cooling rack on the top of the cake then turn it upside down that way, just in case your cake wants to jump out. IF your cake doesn't drop, let it rest for 5 minutes, then take the pan off the cake. If it STILL sticks, wait until 5 minutes, and then CAREFULLY wiggle the pan to loosen it off the cake. IF your cake has a sticking point, make a note. If it does that often, it's time for a new pan. Otherwise, you know you missed a spot greasing. Bummer. But, don't worry. The icing will hide it!
Glaze the Cake
- While the cake is STILL HOT, brush on the juice and sugar mixture. Use it ALL. Keep brushing and working your way around the cake, repeating as necessary.
- COOL THE CAKE.
- Is the cake cool for sure? If "yes," move ahead. If not, refer to the step above, and hold your horses. If you pour icing over a hot cake, the icing will melt and look terrible. Give it an hour and see how it feels.
- Combine the Powdered Sugar, Salt, and 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice.
- Is the icing BARELY pourable? You want a nice, thick icing here, not a wimpy, thin icing. It should be very white and dense. If it is TOO dense, add in more juice a SMIDGEN at a time. I wouldn't do more than a teaspoon at a time, just to be on the safe side.
- Pour icing over the cake. You can get all fancy, following the outline of your pan lines, or you can dump the icing all over the top, like I did, and still have the family freak out over wanting a slice RIGHT NOW.
- Store, covered, on your counter so 1. no one forgets it and 2. because it's so pretty. Instant sunshine in your kitchen.
It’s about the only way to bring a bit of sunshine inside here in Pennsylvania. Bake up this beauty and share, share, share. If you need more Pound Cake or Bundt Cake Cookbooks, you can find those here too.
Everyone loves pound cake and Bundt cakes. For real. Our 12-year-old didn’t remember when I last made it (three years ago! Jeez!), but I made him try a bite…and he was hooked. He’d come home from school and settle in with a slice of this Lemon Bundt Cake and a Clive book (he’s a big Clive Cussler fan). Funny guy.
King Arthur Baking Company Cookbooks
Several of the KAB cookbooks have had multiple printings. The changes typically include a different type of cover (hardback to paperback to flexibound) and the occasional revision. Do note that King Arthur Baking Company cookbooks are not big on images.
You may find some helpful illustrations, and there is usually a multi-page spread of images, but it’s not even close to representing all the recipes. Instructions, however, are detailed. These are gift-worthy cookbooks for serious bakers (otherwise known as folks who don’t have to have an image with every recipe).