This Lemon Bundt Cake by Claire Saffitz has a beautiful crumb and is packed with lemon flavor that will make you pucker up!
Being a Claire Saffitz fan is always a fun time
I don’t recall the exact moment I first became a Claire Saffitz fan, but I do know that it took only one of her old Bon Appetit videos to turn me into one. There’s something about her aura that drew me in initially, but that’s not the main thing that made me want to stay.
Simply put, Claire has this contagious passion about her that makes you want to geek out about baking with her. That’s why when Claire started her own channel and started working on her own cookbook, none of it surprised me even a tiny bit.
There are a lot of talented bakers out there for sure, but in many cases I find that I just enjoy watching them make things. Not all of them have this ability to seemingly “compel” me to want to physically get up and make their recipes “with them”. Now that I think about it, among all the celebrity bakers I have followed through the years, there seems to be only two who consistently nudge me towards the kitchen even during times I feel lazy or uninspired to bake: Dorie Greenspan and Claire Saffitz. Today, we’re focusing on Claire.
I love Claire’s approach when she talks about baking. It’s something I can only describe as “endearingly science-y”. I love how much information she can pack into a single video, but it’s never in a way that feels overwhelming. I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from a Claire Saffitz video without learning at least one new thing, no matter how small.
I don’t want to seem like I’m putting Claire on a pedestal here, but I can’t be the only person who appreciates getting to learn from someone as smart and as talented as Claire for free on her YouTube Channel right?
I love that Claire shares her cookbook recipes in her YouTube Channel. This fabulous Lemon Bundt Cake is actually from her newer cookbook, which I do not own. Thanks to Claire’s generous spirit I get to make this cake despite that. I own her first cookbook but I’ve only written about her Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe so far. I’ve been keen to write about more of her other recipes but this Lemon Bundt Cake jumped to the front of the queue.
A new favorite Lemon Bundt Cake
As a lover of lemon things, I got weak in the knees when I watched the video for this Lemon Bundt Cake and saw Claire brushing a butt-load of lemon glaze onto her cake. I knew right away this was going to be MY type of lemon cake— you know, the pucker up, super tart kind. I always get disappointed when I’m presented with a “lemon dessert” that has only a whiff of lemon in it. A lemon dessert with just the essence of lemon or just the lemon scent is just not that satisfying for me.
I concede there are times this understated lemon-ness is appropriate, but most of the time I just feel downright cheated. To me, a lemon dessert needs to have that punchy, lemony quality to it that makes you pucker up, even just a little! And this cake… Oh boy. It gave me that, and it gave me more.
Claire mentioned how this Lemon Bundt Cake gets better as it ages. I am so happy we go through cakes very slowly in our household because HOLY COW was this mind-blowingly good on the third day! I mean, it was pretty good from the get-go, but somehow the flavor and the texture of the cake went up to SUPERB by day three. And I was not the only who discovered this!
I literally had to resort to hiding slices of cake at the back of the fridge just to make sure I can enjoy the cake at its… peak, I suppose you could say. Once the last slice was gone, my brother and I were even taking turns scraping the container clean. It was hilarious! I don’t know if you need more proof of how great this Lemon Bundt Cake is than grown-up’s taking turns scraping lemon glaze-soaked crumbs from a Tupperware container.
In my case, since I am a HUGE fan of olive oil cakes to begin with, I already had a feeling this cake was going to be fantastic. More than the fact that it’s a Claire Saffitz recipe, I already have plenty of awesome experiences with olive oil cakes. I love how the crumb of the cake turns out using this magical ingredient, so I was pretty confident this cake was going to be great no matter what.
Previously, I made a different version of a lemon olive oil cake that became one of my all-time favorites, and now I get to add this Lemon Syrup-brushed Lemon Bundt Cake into the list because it is fantastic in its own right.
Claire actually calls this a Caramelized Lemon Bundt Cake and I totally get it! It’s a visually stunning bundt cake with a dark exterior, but brushing on that lemon glaze makes it shiny to the point that it gives off a caramelized illusion. Once you slice into the cake however, the inside is a lovely light yellow color. Such a nice contrast!
The lemon scent puffs out like a cloud of fragrance once you cut into the cake. It looks very simplistic, but make no mistake, this cake packs some serious lemon punch!
My notes on this recipe
- Make sure to properly prep your bundt pan. In the realm of baking, I find few things worse than successfully making a beautiful cake but having it stick to the pan when you try to get it out. That’s why you must make sure to grease every nook and cranny of your bundt pan, then dust with flour until every inch of the pan is coated in a single layer of white. Tap out the excess so you don’t get random thick patches of flour on your cake. If you do this step properly, your cake will pop right out of the pan without effort once you flip it onto your serving plate!
- Take time to really rub the lemon zest into your sugar. Do this before you juice your lemons so the lemon sugar has time to sit before it gets used in the batter. (I’ve even encountered recipes where the sugar is left to sit overnight to make sure it absorbs all the lemon essence!) This step will ensure that the essence of lemon will permeate every crumb of your cake.
- Claire says to use more lemon juice if using Meyer lemons. The original recipe is for making Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake, however this fruit is alien to me lol. We only have regular lemons here and Claire does provide some measurement alternatives for regular lemons, so I decided to adapt that instead. If using Meyer lemons, you’ll need a total of 3/4 cup juice. Refer to the recipe box below for the instructions.
- I recommend using EVOO with a more neutral flavor profile. I’m not sponsored by this brand but I am a HUGE fan of Cobram Estate‘s Classic Flavour Extra Virgin Olive Oil for baking. It doesn’t have a strong smell or taste, which makes it perfect for desserts. I use it for all the dessert recipes with significant amounts of olive oil that I try. If you already have an EVOO brand you like, pick the variant that is more neutral. (Unless you want the olive oil to be dominant in the cake, that is.)
- Do not overwork the batter. Over-mixing the batter once the flour is added in will encourage extra gluten formation. Gluten is great in yeast breads but not so much in cakes as this will only make your cake tough. The best practice is to stop mixing the batter once the last streak of flour disappears. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with your spatula as you go to ensure nothing is unmixed at the bottom.
- Glaze the cake while it’s still hot. If you try to brush the syrup on a cooled cake, it will not absorb as well.
- I paraphrased Claire’s recipe in the recipe box below. I got the original Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake recipe via this blog, so I am going to assume this is how Claire originally wrote the recipe in her cookbook. I suggest you check that recipe as well.
Caramelized Lemon Bundt Cake
For the cake:
- Softened butter or shortening and flour, for the bundt pan
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 Tablespoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest (from about 2 lemons), or more as desired
- 1¾ cup sugar
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice , (use ¼ cup if using Meyer lemons)
- 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 large large eggs, at room temperature
- 1⅓ cups extra-virgin olive oil
For the Lemon Glaze:
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Lemon zest, (optional)
Make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease every nook and cranny of a 12-cup metal Bundt pan, including every part of the middle tube. Scoop in some flour then pat all around until the pan is evenly coated all over. Tap out the excess flour. This step is important! Make sure to properly coat your bundt pan with flour or else the cake WILL STICK to the pan.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, zest your lemons directly into the sugar (you can zest more than the recipe calls for if you like). Using fingers, pinch and scrub the zest into the sugar for a few minutes until it smells amazing. The sugar should also look evenly coated with the oils from the zest. Set aside for now.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
- In a measuring jug, mix together milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. The mixture will curdle and that’s normal. Set aside for a moment as well.
- To the bowl with the lemon sugar, add in the eggs. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer, and using the whisk attachment, beat mixture on medium speed until it looks thick, lighter in color, and mousse-y, about 3 minutes. Very gradually stream in the olive oil and beat until the mixture looks smooth, thick, and emulsified. (You can also use a hand mixer.)
- Using the stand mixer on the lowest speed, OR using a spatula and mixing by hand (which is what I prefer for this step), alternate adding in the flour mixture and the milk mixture. Start by mixing in 1/3 of the dry mixture until almost completely incorporated, then add in 1/2 of the milk mixture. Fold until almost fully combined, then add in the next 1/3 of the dry mixture. Once again, stir until it’s nearly combined then add in the last 1/2 of the milk mixture. If using a machine, switch to a spatula at this point. Add in the last portion of dry mixture and fold just until combined. Make sure to scrape the bottom and side of the bowl to get to any dry bits that might be stuck there, but avoid overworking the batter. (Stop mixing once you no longer see any flour pockets!)
- Scrape the batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the outside looks dark golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the glaze:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, and the olive oil. Add in the extra lemon zest if using. Whisk vigorously until the sugar mostly dissolves.
Glaze the cake:
- While the cake is still warm, use a toothpick to poke holes all over the surface and brush it with some of the glaze. Carefully run a paring knife or a small offset spatula around the cake and the center tube to make sure nothing is sticking to the sides of the pan. Place your serving platter (or a cookie sheet lined with parchment) on top, then carefully but quickly flip the pan over. If you properly prepped your bundt pan, the cake will slide right out.
- Remove the pan to reveal your beautiful lemon cake. Poke more holes on the cake with a toothpick and brush with the rest of the glaze; any glaze that drips on to the serving plate or cookie sheet can be brushed back on. Let the cake cool completely before serving.
- This cake is wonderful on the day it is made, but its flavor and texture will continue to improve as the days go by. Store cake in an airtight container at cool room temperature for about 2 days, but if it’s hot where you live just pop the cake into the fridge. This cake is pretty good cold or at room temperature, though it’ll be a bit more tender at room temp.
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