Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake is an absolute baking classic! If you've ever dipped your toe into the world of baking, you've probably made one. My version is light, fluffy and super moist. Oh, and packed with plenty of zingy lemon flavour! This is such a simple one bowl cake to make, with only five ingredients. I've drenched it with a zingy yet sweet drizzle, then added some lemon icing and zest to decorate. You may also know a loaf cake as a pound cake, either way, if you bake this cake you will be transported to lemon heaven!
Welcome to my Baking Basics series!
In this series I will be sharing recipes for basic baked goods, think a classic Victoria sponge cake, a brilliant white bread loaf, and ultimate gooey chocolate brownies! So basic in name, but definitely not basic in taste and enjoyment. This series is mainly for beginner bakers who want to learn the secrets behind baking, because getting the basics right is the best place to start. More experienced bakers will really enjoy it too, as there are so many delicious recipes to try out! This time it is the turn of Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake.
For the full recipe with measurements, head to the recipe card at the end of this post. This post is full of helpful tips and commonly asked questions when making lemon drizzle loaf cake, so I do recommend reading through it all first.
What is Lemon Drizzle Cake and where does it come from?
It's a traditional English cake that has been a popular feature of afternoon tea for many years. It's most commonly made in a loaf cake shape, however it can also be made as a round cake or cupcakes too. The first recorded published recipe was shared by Evelyn Rose in the Jewish Chronicle back in the 1960s. However, it's very likely that lemon drizzle cake or similar lemon cakes have been made in England for hundreds of years!
What equipment do you need to make a Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake?
You only need a few basic pieces of equipment to make this cake: a 2lb loaf tin, mixing bowl, citrus zester and juicer, and a whisk (either manual or electric). You can absolutely make this cake by hand with a manual whisk, but I do recommend using an electric whisk or a stand mixer if you can for the best results. A pastry brush (I prefer the silicone ones) is also handy for brushing the drizzle on top of the cake, but you can do this with a spoon too. And a piping bag is useful for adding the icing, but again a spoon can be used instead.
What size tin do you need for this recipe?
You will need a 2lb loaf tin for this recipe (you can test the size of your loaf tin by seeing how much water the tin can hold, 2lb will hold about 2 litres of water). If you have a 1lb loaf tin, simply halve the ingredient amounts. I have a few different 2lb loaf tins, that all have slightly different measurements. The one I used for this recipe has internal measurements of 22cm x 11cm x 6cm. If your 2lb loaf tin is slightly narrower, your cake may need slightly longer to bake.
What is the best way to line a loaf tin?
For easy and quick lining of the tin, use a loaf cake tin liner*, however if you don't have any of these you can use baking paper instead. Cut two pieces of baking paper, one wider piece and one longer and thinner piece. The wider piece will cover the two longer sides of the tin and the base, then place the longer thinner piece over the top of the first piece and cover the base again, and the smaller sides. Making a cross shape with the baking paper. I always grease the tin lightly before adding the liner or baking paper, as this helps to keep the paper in place and stop it from moving around when you add the batter.
Recommended equipment & ingredients*
- Loaf cake tin
- Mixing bowls
- Cooling rack
- Kitchen scales
- Electric hand mixer
- Loaf cake tin liners
- Loaf cake storage box
- Citrus juicer
- Silicone Brush
- Piping bags
- Measuring spoons
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- Butter or baking spread - I prefer to use a baking spread, but butter works well too. Either way, they must be softened and unsalted
- Caster sugar - also known as superfine sugar, you can also use granulated sugar if you don't have caster sugar. Or for an extra golden cake, you can swap the caster sugar for golden caster sugar
- Eggs - I use large eggs for this recipe, make sure they are room temperature before you start baking with them
- Self raising flour - self raising flour already contains a raising agent and a little salt too. If you want to make the cake with plain or all purpose flour you will need to add baking powder. The general advice is to add 2 teaspoons baking powder (a measuring teaspoons, not the kind you stir coffee with) per every 200g plain or all purpose flour
- Lemons - I used two standard UK sized lemons for this recipe. I advise using unwaxed lemons for this recipe as you will be eating the lemon zest. If you can only get hold of waxed lemons, put them in a colander and pour boiling water over them. Wearing rubber gloves, brush the wax off the lemon gently with a clean scrubbing brush. Rinse the lemons before use
Can you make this loaf cake with plain/all purpose flour?
Self raising flour, which is very commonly used in the UK where I am based, already contains a raising agent and a little salt too. Therefore if you want to swap it for plain or all purpose flour, you will need to add some baking powder and also a little salt if you like. Some people like to add salt to cake recipes and some don't, so I'll leave that up to you as it won't affect the bake. The general advice is to add 2 teaspoons baking powder (a measuring teaspoon, not the kind you stir your coffee with) per every 200g plain or all purpose flour. So for this recipe you'd need to add 2 teaspoons baking powder. Please note, I have not tested this recipe using plain or all purpose flour.
Is the creaming method or the all in one method best?
If you're not familiar with these terms, the creaming method refers to adding ingredients one at a time and mixing between additions. For example, making a cake by first mixing the butter and sugar together, then adding eggs and mixing them in, then adding flour and mixing that in. The all in one method is adding all of the ingredients in the bowl together and mixing them together all at once. I personally recommend the creaming method as it gives you a chance at each stage to ensure everything is well mixed together, which in turn adds air and lightness to the batter. You can also be more vigorous with your mixing when adding the eggs to ensure they are well incorporated, but then more gentle when adding the flour so as not to knock any air out of the batter. This results in a beautifully light and well risen sponge.
Can you use lemon extract instead of lemon zest and juice?
While I would recommend using fresh lemons in this recipe for the best flavour, you can use lemon extract if it's all you have and you're craving lemon cake! A good quality lemon extract can create wonderful lemon flavour in bakes. You won't be able to make the lemon drizzle part of this recipe, but you still make the cake and the lemon icing. Mix 4 tsp lemon extract into the cake, and 1 tsp lemon extract into the icing (you will also need a little water too for the right consistency of icing).
How to make Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake
Start by mixing the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Then mix in the eggs until well incorporated. This is best done with an electric mixer, or in a stand mixer, but you can do it by hand with a whisk or spoon too.
Next add the self raising flour and gently whisk it in. Then gently fold in the lemon zest. Pour all of the batter into the lined tin.
While the cake is baking, mix the lemon juice and granulated sugar together and set aside. Bake the cake for 1 hour, until golden, risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. When it comes out of the oven, poke it all over with a thin skewer. Brush the lemon juice and sugar mixture all over it and leave it to cool fully in the tin.
How do you know when the loaf cake is cooked?
The cake takes 1 hour to bake in my oven. When it is done it will be risen and golden all across the top. If you insert a thin skewer or cocktail stick into the centre, it will come out clean with no wet cake batter on it. If it is still wet after the baking time is up, give it another 10 minutes and check again. Or if it looks done 10 minutes before the baking time is up, check it using the skewer method. All ovens are different and even modern ovens can be a slightly difference temperature inside to what the dial says. An oven thermometer is cheap to purchase and will tell you exactly what temperature your oven is inside. If the cake is getting too dark on top, you can turn the temperature of the oven down slightly, or cover the top with foil to prevent it from burning. This cake need a low and slow bake to make sure it cooks all the way through, so don't be tempted to turn up the oven to try and rush it as this will most like lead to a burnt cake on the outside and raw cake batter inside.
Should a loaf cake have a crack on top?
Yes! A slight crack down the middle of a loaf cake is totally normal, and I think it gives the cake character and a rustic homemade feel too. Some people even encourage a crack to happen by adding a line of melted butter or oil down the centre of the batter! If your loaf cake has a very large crack, it could be that it was baked on too high a temperature (or that your oven runs hotter inside than the dial says).
How long does this cake last and can it be frozen?
This cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days. It can also be frozen. Wrap it well in cling film, or place it in an airtight container, and freeze it for up to 3 months. You can also slice the cake and freeze slices, either wrap them separately, or place a small square of baking paper between each slice and stack them in a freezer bag or tupperware container.
What are the cup measurements for this recipe?
Head to the recipe card at the bottom of the page and click "US Customary" underneath the ingredient list. This will automatically convert the ingredient amounts from grams to cups. Although I provide cup measurements, I highly recommend weighing your ingredients out using digital kitchen scales*. It is the most accurate way to measure ingredients and will ensure the best results. Digital scales are very low cost and can be purchased for around £12 ($16.50).
Can this cake be made into an orange or lime drizzle cake?
Yes! For an orange drizzle cake, use the zest and juice of one large orange. For a lime drizzle cake, use the zest and juice of three limes. You could also mix and match - add one lemon and one orange, or one lemon and two limes for example.
Can this recipe be made into cupcakes or a larger cake?
Can this recipe be made in a round tin or a traybake tin?
Yes, this recipe will work well in a 12" x 9" traybake tin, the baking time will be around 25 minutes. If you want to make it in a round tin, I would recommend using a 9" tin. The baking time will be around 30 minutes.
Can you make this cake without an electric mixer?
Yes, you can make this cake by hand with a manual whisk or wooden/silicone spoon. However, you may find that the cake doesn't rise as well. This is because electric beaters mix a lot of air into the cake batter, which helps it to rise and makes it extra fluffy and light.
How else can you decorate this cake?
I chose a simple lemon icing and some lemon zest, but there are a few other ways you could decorate this cake:
- Top with candied lemon peel or slices
- Top with jelly lemon sweets
- Pile some fresh fruit and berries on top
- Decorate with melted white chocoate
- Pipe or spread on some lemon buttercream
- Pipe or spread on cream cheese frosting
- Add an italian meringue and use a kitchen blow torch to brown it
Who is this loaf cake suitable for?
This cake is suitable for vegetarians, it is also nut free. Although please do check the labels of everything you use in case of cross contamination.
Can this recipe be made gluten free?
Yes! To make this cake gluten free, swap the self raising flour for a gluten free self raising flour blend. If you only have a gluten free plain flour blend, you will need to add additional baking powder. The general advice is to add 2 teaspoons baking powder (a measuring teaspoon, not the kind you stir your coffee with) per every 200g plain or all purpose flour. So for this recipe you'd need to add 2 teaspoons baking powder. Please note, I have not tested this recipe using plain or all purpose flour. I would also advise adding ½ tsp Xanthan Gum for better texture.
Can this recipe be made dairy free?
Yes! To make a dairy free version of this cake, use a dairy free baking spread instead of butter.
How many people does this loaf cake serve?
Depending on how thick you cut the slices, this cake should serve 10-12 people.
What can you serve with this cake?
This cake is great on it's own with a cup of tea, but if you want to make it extra special you could serve it with a dollop of whipped cream, creme fraiche or ice cream. An extra sprinkle of lemon zest over you chosen dollop will look really pretty and professional too!
If you have any questions about this recipe, or if something went wrong and you need help, have a read of the common issues below, or if you have a different problem please use the comment form below and I will get back to you. You can also get in touch with me on my Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. I'd love to hear from you!
The cake batter has split or curdled
This can happen when cold ingredients are mixed into room temperature or warm ingredients. All the ingredients for this recipe should be room temperature before you start baking. To bring the batter back, add in some of the flour (1-2 tbsp taken from the 200g required) and it should fix the problem. Then add the rest of flour as normal. A split batter does not mean a ruined cake, so don't give up! Even if it still looks split, bake it anyway. It may not rise as well, but it will still be delicious!
The cake sank or did not rise
There are a few reasons this can happen so I'll list them:
- Your self raising flour (or baking powder if you used plain flour) is old and has lost it's power.
- The self raising flour was swapped for plain flour, but baking powder was not used.
- Using too much flour or too much baking powder.
- The oven door was opened during baking, even opening it a crack can cause the oven to loose heat.
- The temperature of the oven was too high.
- The batter was over mixed.
- The batter was left on the kitchen counter for too long before baking the cake. As soon as the batter is ready and in the tin, it should be placed into a pre-heated oven straight away.
The cake cracked on top
Don't worry, loaf cakes are supposed to have a slight crack on top, it's totally normal! If the crack is really big then you may have cooked the cake at too high a temperature. Even modern ovens can run at a slightly different temperature inside than the dial says. Get yourself an oven thermometer to check it.
The cake is dry and has a hard crust
If the cake is like this, but is fully baked inside, then it is mostly likely over baked. As soon as a thin skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean, the cake is done and should be taken out of the oven. You can check the cake 10 minutes before the baking time is up if your oven often bakes things quickly.
More baking basics recipes...
Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake
For the cake
- 200 g Butter or baking spread softened, unsalted
- 200 g Caster sugar also known as superfine sugar
- 4 Eggs large
- 200 g Self raising flour
- 2 Lemons zest only
For the drizzle
- 75 g Granulated sugar
- 2 Lemons juice only, roughly 90-95ml
For the icing & decoration
- 45 g Icing sugar
- ½ - 1 tbsp Lemon juice depending on the desired consistency of icing
- Lemon zest optional
- Pre-heat the oven to 150C Fan/325F/Gas Mark 3 and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin
- Mix together the butter or baking spread and caster sugar until light and fluffy, ideally using an electric mixer
- Add the eggs and whisk in until smooth
- Mix in the flour gently until fully combined, then mix in the lemon zest
- Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for an hour, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean
- While the cake is baking, juice the lemons that you zested for the cake. Mix the juice with the granulated sugar and set aside.
- When the cake is done, but still warm, poke it all over with a thin skewer or cocktail stick. Brush or spoon the lemon and sugar mixture over it. Then leave the cake to cool fully in the tin
- To make the icing, mix the lemon juice and icing sugar together and drizzle or pipe it over the cake. Then add the lemon zest on top if you like
- Store in an airtight container in a cool place and eat within 3 days. Or you can freeze it for up to 3 months
- Make sure all your ingredients (particularly the butter and eggs) are at room temperature before you start baking.
- If you want to make the cake with plain or all purpose flour you will need to add baking powder. The general advice is to add 2 teaspoons baking powder (a measuring teaspoons, not the kind you stir coffee with) per every 200g plain or all purpose flour.
- For easy and quick lining of the tin, use a loaf cake tin liner*
- Although I provide cup measurements, I highly recommend weighing your ingredients out using digital kitchen scales*. It is the most accurate way to measure ingredients and will ensure the best results. Digital scales are very low cost and can be purchased for around £12 ($16.50) .
- For teaspoon (tsp) and tablespoon (tbsp) measurements, please use measuring spoons* and not the type of spoons you eat with. Again this will ensure accuracy and provide the best results.