Triple Lemon Cake

published Feb 27, 2023
Triple Lemon Cake Recipe

Inspired by Malinda Russell's cream cake, this triple lemon cake has a delicate crumb and is bursting with flavor.

Serves12 to 14

Makes 1 bundt cake

Prep40 minutes to 50 minutes

Cook1 hour 25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Triple lemon cake on cake stand
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Stylist: Micah Morton

In 2021 I released my first cookbook, Life Is What You Bake It, so when I was invited to recreate a recipe from Malinda Russell’s cookbook, A Domestic Cookbook: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen, in celebration of Black baking, it felt like an incredibly full-circle moment. Almost 170 years ago, Russell made history as the first African American to publish a cookbook, and today more and more Black women in the food landscape are accomplishing that same feat. Undoubtedly, we have the likes of Malinda Russell to thank in many ways. 

When I was growing up, I loved baking with my mom. We usually baked recipes passed down from my grandmother, and so looking through A Domestic Cookbook was like uncovering more recipes passed down from generations. There’s a legacy of baking amongst Black women, and Russell, who owned a pastry shop herself, is a testament to that.  

In the spirit of celebrating Black baking, I thought it would be fun to combine Russell’s cream cake recipe with the pound cake recipe from my cookbook for this triple lemon cake. That meant injecting lots of bright, tart lemon-y flavor into Russell’s classic cream cake. 

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Stylist: Micah Morton

When I first tried Russell’s cream cake recipe, I was delighted by the texture. It was lighter than a pound cake, with a lovely crumb. In her recipe, Russell uses lots of sour cream, which in combination with the baking soda is really what gives her recipe its signature texture. That being said, it was a no-brainer for me to keep those elements of the cake the same in this recipe. 

Along with bringing in the lemon flavor from the pound cake in my book, I used butter as the base for this cake, whereas Russell’s cream cake recipe doesn’t call for the use of a fat like butter or oil — just the sour cream. The glaze is also inspired by the pound cake in Life is What You Bake It; it’s creamy with melted butter and heavy cream, and, of course, a little bit of lemon flavor to really make it pop. 

This triple lemon cake is perfect for a dinner party, but it also tastes wonderful for breakfast the next day. It’s light and airy, with a lip-puckering deliciousness from the infusion of all that lemon-y goodness. 

Triple Lemon Cake Recipe

Inspired by Malinda Russell's cream cake, this triple lemon cake has a delicate crumb and is bursting with flavor.

Prep time 40 minutes to 50 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 25 minutes

Makes 1 bundt cake

Serves 12 to 14

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 3 sticks

    (12 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided

  • 6

    large eggs

  • 1 cup

    sour cream

  • 3 cups

    plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 2

    medium lemons

  • 3 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

For the lemon soak and icing:

  • 4 to 5

    medium lemons

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 2 cups

    powdered sugar, plus more as needed

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons

    heavy cream, divided

Instructions

Make the cake:

  1. Place 3 sticks of the unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Place 6 large eggs and 1 cup sour cream on the counter. Let everything sit at room temperature until the butter is softened.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325ºF. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in the microwave or on the stovetop. Brush the butter onto the sides and tube of a 12-cup bundt pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the all-purpose flour and tap and tilt the pan until evenly coated with flour; shake out any excess flour.

  3. Place the remaining 3 cups all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon baking soda in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Finely grate the zest of 2 medium lemons (about 2 tablespoons); juice the lemons until you have 1/4 cup.

  4. Add 3 cups granulated sugar to the bowl of butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until whipped and the butter is pale yellow, 4 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beater with a flexible spatula.

  5. Beat in the eggs two at a time on medium-low speed until completely incorporated. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat on medium-low speed until just combined; the batter will look curdled.

  6. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the sour cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and beat on low speed until combined. Scrape down the bowl and paddle again. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until a smooth and thick cake batter forms.

  7. Transfer into the bundt pan and smooth the top. Lightly tap the pan a couple of times on the counter to release any air bubbles.

  8. Bake until the cake is golden brown, starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the lemon soak.

Make the lemon soak:

  1. Juice 4 to 5 medium lemons until you have 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons. Place 1/2 cup of the juice in a small saucepan and reserve the remaining for the icing.

  2. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar to the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer until thickened slightly and reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

  3. Invert the wire rack over the cake. Grasping both the bundt pan and the wire rack in both hands (the pan will still be hot, use oven mitts or a towel to protect your hands as needed), flip both in one motion. Remove the pan to unmold the cake. Place the rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

  4. Poke holes all over the cake with a chopstick or skewer, spacing the pokes about 1/2-inch apart and not poking all the way to the bottom. Working in a few rounds and letting it soak in between each round, pour the warm lemon soak evenly over the top. Transfer the cake to a platter or cake stand and let cool completely, about 1 1/4 hours.

Make the lemon icing:

  1. Cut 4 tablespoons unsalted butter into 4 pieces and place in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until melted, about 45 seconds. (Alternatively, melt the butter on the stovetop and transfer to a medium bowl.)

  2. Add 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons of the heavy cream, and reserved lemon juice, and whisk until smooth. The consistency of the icing should be just thick enough to pour easily. If the icing is too thin, whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon heavy cream; if the icing is too thick, whisk in more powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

  3. Pour the icing all over the cake and let it drip down the sides. Let sit until the icing is set, 15 to 20 minutes, before slicing and serving.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover cake can be stored in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 4 days.