Lemon Tea Cake

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This Lemon Tea Cake is a drool-worthy recipe that has a triple hit of lemon flavor. Lemon zest and juice, lemon sugar syrup, tart lemon glaze…must I go on!?

I am in love with citrus desserts. My obsession usually takes the form of chocolate-orange concoctions, but I have been known to binge on lemon treats now and again. So when I saw this drool-worthy recipe for Lemon Tea Cake on Sugarchef’s blog, it immediately moved to the top of my Must-Bake List.

This bread has a triple hit of lemon flavor. There’s a lot of lemon zest and juice in the loaf itself, and then after baking the warm loaves are soaked with a lemon sugar syrup, and the whole thing is finished with a tart lemon glaze. People, this is lemon heaven.

When freshly baked, these cakes have a very soft crumb, a vibrant lemon flavor, and a cakey texture. I froze several loaves (they freeze beautifully) and upon defrosting, the texture was a bit more like a pound cake or quick bread. They’re absolutely delicious as an indulgent breakfast, or with ice cream for dessert.

This recipe makes two large loaves, but I opted to make one large loaf and three small ones. The minis are a perfect size for snacking, and they’d make an adorable hostess or holiday gift.

I actually defrosted a loaf this week for a quickie dessert. I was making pizzas on the grill (fabulous, by the way, it’s one of my favorite summer rituals) and I threw some fresh nectarines on the grill along with the pizzas. I served the warm nectarines with a slice of lemon cake and a generous helping of leftover chocolate sauce from August’s eclairs experiment. It sounds busy, but it was really phenomenal: the rich chocolate, the fragrant, tart cake, the juicy nectarines–three complex elements merged into one simple dessert. Perfection.

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Lemon Tea Cake

5 from 2 votes
This Lemon Tea Cake is a drool-worthy recipe that has a triple hit of lemon flavor. Lemon zest and juice, lemon sugar syrup, tart lemon glaze…must I go on!?
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Yield 16
Calories 393 kcal


For the Cake

  • 8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon zest, use a microplane for fine zest
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed and strained
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Syrup

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed and strained

For the Frosting

  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed and strained


  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line with parchment paper two 8 1/2″ X 4 1/2″ loaf pans. [I used one 9×5 pan and three mini loaf pans.]
  • Put the 2 cups sugar and the lemon zest in a bowl and rub it between your fingers to release all the lemon oil into the sugar.
  • Cream the butter and the 2 cups lemon-sugar in the bowl of a 5 quart stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, scraping a couple of times. Add the eggs one at a time and beat to incorporate.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter between the pans. There was about 1 pound 9 ounces batter per pan.
  • Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when checking. Do not overbake.
  • While the tea cake is baking combine the 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until the syrup thickens slightly. Set aside to cool.
  • When the tea cakes are done remove them from the oven and let them cool for about 15 minutes before inverting them. Poke holes in the bottom of the tea cakes with a thin skewer, then ladle the syrup over the holes to soak in a little. Turn the tea cakes over and ladle the remaining syrup over the tops of the tea cakes. Let cool completely before frosting them.
  • While the tea cakes are cooling make the frosting. Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice to make a smooth but slightly loose frosting. Pour over the cooled cakes and let sit at room temperature for the frosting to crust over. Cakes can be frozen or refrigerated, simply wrap them tightly in several layers of cling wrap.


Our recipes are developed using weight measurements, and we highly recommend using a kitchen scale for baking whenever possible. However, if you prefer to use cups, volume measurements are provided as well. PLEASE NOTE: the adage “8 oz = 1 cup” is NOT true when speaking about weight, so don’t be concerned if the measurements don’t fit this formula.

Click here to learn more about baking measurements and conversion.


Calories: 393 kcal | Carbohydrates: 66 g | Protein: 4 g | Fat: 13 g | Saturated Fat: 7 g | Cholesterol: 72 mg | Sodium: 210 mg | Potassium: 89 mg | Fiber: 0 g | Sugar: 46 g | Vitamin A: 430 IU | Vitamin C: 8.1 mg | Calcium: 34 mg | Iron: 1.3 mg
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Editor's Note

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