Intensely lemony, moist and with a delicate crumb, this lemon drizzle cake has it all. It’s the perfect everyday dessert that’s easy to prepare, and a joy to eat. Although, with how absolutely delicious it is, it would be welcome at any and all occasions.
A grand statement indeed, to claim to have made the perfect lemon drizzle cake. With so many (delicious and wonderful) recipes out there, how can I possibly maintain that this recipe is the best possible?
Okay, let’s first consider what makes the perfect lemon drizzle cake:
- an intese lemon flavour,
- a moist sponge,
- a delicate crumb – neither too crumbly nor too dense or wet,
- a balance of sweetness and zesty freshness from the lemons,
- a delicious lemon icing that hardens on drying to give a delicious texture when you take a bite,
- a beautiful domed shape, with a crack down the middle (for that rustic appearance), and
- a vibrant golden yellow colour when you cut into it – ideally accompanied with just-so caramelised edges.
Of course, the perfect lemon drizzle cake should also be easy to make, regardless of your baking skill level – as well as looking like it’s come straight out of a glossy food magazine.
And… well, this is it. (Even if I do say so myself.)
It’s easy to love this lemon drizzle cake. In fact, if you put a brownie and a piece of this cake in front of me right now… I’ll chose the cake.
And if you know me even just a tiny little bit, you know that this is a shocking thing for me to say – and it should tell you everything you need to know about how AMAZING this lemon drizzle cake really is.
Now that you’re hopefully completely convinced that this is the lemon drizzle cake recipe to make: let’s get down to the nitty gritty of making it!
How do you make a lemon drizzle cake?
We start with the dry ingredients – as this is a gluten free lemon drizzle cake, we’ll use a gluten free flour blend (the one I use contains only rice, potato and maize flour), almond flour, a pinch of xanthan gum, baking powder, sugar and salt.
If you don’t need the cake to be gluten free, you can definitely use plain wheat flour. The addition of almond flour, however, is strongly recommended – it makes the lemon drizzle cake extra moist and delicate, without the almond flavour coming through too strongly.
Next up: softened butter – straight into the dry ingredients.
I know, I know. You’re probably used to creaming together butter and sugar, then adding eggs, and then mixing in the dry ingredients. That’s called a standard “creaming method”.
What we’re using instead is the so-called “reverse creaming method”, where you combine the butter with the dry ingredients until you get a mixture resembling breadcrumbs.
The “reverse creaming method” gives a much finer cake crumb and a velvety texture that works wonderfully with the zesty lemon flavour.
Next up: A LOT of lemon zest. Specifically, the zest of 3 lemons. We’re not playing around here – this lemon drizzle cake has big bold flavours, and adding a small mountain of lemon zest into the cake batter plays a huge role in this.
Then, we’ll mix together the wet ingredients: room temperature eggs, room temperature (or warm) milk, a splash of vanilla and lemon juice.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix mix mix.
Now, room temperature ingredients are really important here – if the eggs or milk (or both) are too cold, the softened butter you’ve incorporated into the dry ingredients will firm up, resulting in pockets of butter that will melt on baking. And, as I’m sure you can guess, this can lead to an unpleasant cake texture. So – room temperature it is.
When you make cakes, you usually expect the cake batter to be smooth and velvety at the end – this is not the case here. Here’s why:
Firstly, the almond flour has a coarser texture than either wheat or gluten free flour, which will show in the texture of the batter. (But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that the baked cake will taste “coarse” or grainy – the opposite, in fact! It will be soft and delicious.)
Secondly, the acidic lemon juice will start reacting with the basic elements in the baking powder, making the batter appear lumpy and bubbly. That’s why we’ve added slightly more baking powder than you would in, for instance, a vanilla pound cake – we’re essentially compensating for the part of the baking powder that reacts before the cake goes into the oven.
And now… we bake.
How long do you have to bake a lemon drizzle cake?
This lemon drizzle cake bakes to perfection at 355 ºF (180 ºC) in exactly one hour. But because all ovens are slightly different (and frequently incorrectly calibrated), I recommend doing a “toothpick test”.
Use a toothpick of a skewer and insert it into the middle part of the cake. If, after about 2 seconds, it comes out clean (maybe with a stray crumb attached), the lemon drizzle cake is baked. If, however, wet batter or many wet crumbs are attached, bake it for a further 4 – 5 minutes and then check again.
The cake tends to start browning fairly quickly – once it gets to a dark golden brown on top, cover it with aluminium foil and continue baking. This will minimise any further browning and the cake will come out with a perfect caramelised top and sides.
How do you make the drizzle for lemon drizzle cake?
The lemon drizzle (or lemon icing) is simple: just powdered sugar and lemon juice, mixed together until smooth and delicious. The tartness of the lemon juice tempers the sweetness of the sugar, resulting in a drizzle that’s deliciously refreshing without being too acidic.
Once the top is completely frosted, allow the icing to dry out – it will give it a delicious texture that makes eating this lemon drizzle cake an even greater joy.
How long will a lemon drizzle cake last?
The lemon drizzle cake lasts about 3 – 4 days in a closed container in a cool dry place. And even if you make it gluten free (as I did), it lasts just as long as a cake made from regular flour – purely due to the addition of almond flour, which keeps the cake moist and wonderful.
Should you store lemon drizzle cake in the fridge?
You don’t need to store the cake in the fridge – room temperature or a cool pantry during hot summer months works perfectly.
And… there you go, friends! A simple lemon drizzle cake that’s chock-full of delicious lemony flavour, as well as moist, beautiful and… yes, absolutely perfect.
The Perfect Lemon Drizzle Cake (Gluten Free)
For lemon loaf cake:
- 1 2/3 cups (200 g) plain gluten free flour blend (I've used a simple shop-bought blend containing only rice, potato and maize fours with no added xanthan gum)
- 3/4 cup (65 g) almond flour
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 sticks (226 g) unsalted butter, softened
- zest of 3 lemons
- 4 medium eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) milk, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla paste (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
- 6 tbsp lmon juice (freshly squeezed)
For lemon drizzle:
- 1 cup (120 g) powdered/icing sugar, sifted
- 7 - 8 tsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
For lemon loaf cake:
Pre-heat the oven to 355 ºF (180 ºC) and line a 2lb loaf baking tin with greaseproof/baking paper. (Dimensions of 2lb loaf tin: 8 inch/21cm long, 4inch/11cm wide and 3inch/7cm high.)
In a large bowl, sift together the gluten free flour blend, almond flour, xanthan gum and baking powder. Add the sugar and salt, and mix until combined.
Add the softened butter and, using either a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer with the double beater attachments, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you get a texture resembling coarse breadcrumbs in size.
Add the lemon zest. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, vanilla and lemon juice. Add the wet ingredients to the dry+butter mixture, and whisk/mix well until no flour clumps remain and everything is evenly distributed.
Transfer the cake batter into the prepared loaf tin, smooth out the top, and bake in the pre-heated oven at 355 ºF (180 ºC) for about 1 hour or until risen, golden brown on top and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
If the cake starts browning too quickly or too much, cover it with aluminium foil and continue baking until done.
Allow to cool in the loaf tin for about 10 minutes, then remove from the tin, and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
For lemon drizzle:
Stir the powdered sugar and 6 tsp of lemon juice together until you get a thick even mixture. Add 1 - 2 tsp of lemon juice, mixing well, until you get the correct icing consistency (see text for photos).
You can add more lemon juice to make it runnier, or more powdered sugar to make it thicker, as required.
Drizzle the lemon icing over the cooled cake, spreading it evenly across the top with the back of a spoon, and letting it drip down the sides.
The lemon drizzle cake keeps well in a closed container in a cool dry place for 3 - 4 days.