Lemon Buttermilk Sheet Cake

You know how there are those recipes that you make once and you think, “This is good, but I’ll probably never make it again…”? For whatever reason–it was too much work, it was good but not that good, it was a layer cake and your name is Kate and almost every time you make a layer cake, it looks ugly…you know…all those reasons.

And then there are other things that you make and you just know it will become a go-to recipe in your house.

This cake is one of those go-to recipes for me. It was easy. It was so unbelievably delicious. It was not a layer cake and therefore pretty close to fail-proof when it comes to me and baking cakes.

I recently picked up America’s Test Kitchen’s Best Summer Desserts at Sam’s Club and I seriously sat around one morning ogling every recipe, totally beside myself about what I should make because everything looked amazing. And I’ll be honest and say that really hardly ever happens to me–I’ll get a food magazine and mark 2 or 3 recipes in the whole thing that I might get around to making someday and ultimately forget about them. But not this time. I was fantasizing about icebox cheesecakes and ice cream freezer-less ice creams and Snickers Icebox Pie. Try getting THAT out of your head.

Ultimately  I decided on the Lemon Buttermilk Sheet Cake because I had leftover buttermilk. I also had about 3 bags of lemons because I would need them for a recipe, think I had them, wouldn’t be able to find them, would buy another bag, find the first bag, yada yada yada. Not the most romantic tale of how I chose which recipe to make, but definitely the most practical one.

You’ll need cake flour (no, there are no substitutions. Not in this cake. I haven’t tried it with another flour, but I know in my soul that things would go wrong if you didn’t use cake flour and then you’d leave a mean comment or email me mean things and I would say, “I informed you thusly.”), baking powder, baking soda, table salt, buttermilk, lemons and lemon zest, white sugar, butter, and 3 eggs plus an egg yolk.

Make sure the oven rack is in the middle position (unless you’ve found that another position works better in your oven for baking) and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13″ baking dish and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a measuring cup, combine buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the white sugar and lemon zest

on medium speed until moist and fragrant (about 1 minute). Remove 1/4 cup of the sugar mixture and place it in a small bowl. Cover and set aside.

Add the softened butter to the remaining sugar mixture and beat until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the eggs and yolk, one at a time, until incorporated. Reduce speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 2 additions. Mix until smooth (about 30 seconds)

Scrape the batter into the reserved baking pan and smooth out the top.

Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (about 25-35 minutes). Be careful not to over bake. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, combine the glaze ingredients in a small mixing bowl

and whisk until smooth.


Gently spread the glaze over the cake and sprinkle evenly with the reserved sugar mixture.

Allow to cool completely, at least 2 hours. Serve. Cover any leftover with foil and eat within 2-3 days.




  1. Looks delicious! Just wondering, is it fine to use a regular ol’ hand mixer instead of the mixer with paddle attachment? I can’t wait until the day I own a real, fancy mixer, but I’m just not there yet.

      1. I got so excited when I read “I informed you thusly”! My husband and I just watched that episode the other day and it made me LOL!

  2. oooh. Yum. Try the lemon icebox cheesecake if it’s in there. It’s amazing! (It might be from Cook’s Country magazine)

    1. I’m pretty sure it’s in that magazine because I thought long and hard about making that one, too. Seriously, there were only a handful of recipes I DIDN’T think would be right up my alley. 🙂

  3. I agree with you that you can’t go wrong with America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve been paging through some of their cookbooks this summer. I’d love to work there– bake, test, eat, and repeat! Your cake looks wonderful and I am sure it tastes even better!

  4. Thanks for another good looking recipe! I’m wondering if I can double the recipe and make an 11×17 sheet cake? Hmmmmmm…will have to post and let you know how it goes.

    1. I think you could probably make it in the bigger pan without doubling the recipe. My mom makes a chocolate sheet cake and the recipe says to bake it in a 9X13″ pan. The cake is thick and yummy, but I prefer to make it in the bigger pan so it’s more like a big, well, sheet cake. I don’t have to double it to use the bigger pan and still get a nice cake. I just made this lemon one and it is divine (and I used all purpose flour). It is thick and yummy too so I think next time I’ll try it in the bigger jelly roll pan.

  5. I made this very cake for the 4th of July (I added some blueberries to the batter, though) and it was AMAZING! So heavenly.

  6. This looks brilliant and I’m definitely going to make it. I heart lemon! Maybe it’s just too early for me to be reading recipes, though, but I can’t figure out what to do with the reserved 1/4 cup sugar/lemon zest mixture. Help!

    1. I’ll help Kate out (you know, new baby and all). You sprinkle the reserved sugar/lemon misture over the cake at the end on top of the glaze 🙂 Sounds awesome. I bet that little crunch from the sugar sends it over the top.

  7. I love love love lemon and want to make this as soooooon as i get home!! Thanks for all the yummy recipes!! I love your blog!

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