Recipe: Spring Citrus Loaf Cake

I think what we all need right now is a big slice of cake. I baked this beautiful zingy, fresh, and super moist Spring Citrus Loaf cake just before I left London for the countryside. It was a planned trip home for my birthday on Saturday, but I can’t help but be relieved to both be with my family, in a house almost in the middle of nowhere with well stocked cupboards and freezers (okay, so we’ve stopped laughing at my Dad for his then silly Brexit stockpiles) and where my parents had already been to buy all the ingredients I needed to make my most recent set of deadlines, and even if the decision is made to lock down the country it won’t be before midnight tonight so I’ll still get the chance later to support one of my favourite local small businesses for dinner.

I’ll admit it. Yesterday I started to feel it. I’m in the very lucky position where my immediate family should all pull through this, and I can’t imagine what it is like for those of you with vulnerable friends and loved ones. I’m also frightened for my business and my income. This thing is supposed to drag on, and I’ve got a book coming out in June. Then there is all of the restaurants and small businesses I love and have watched grow; if they have to shut down for an indeterminate period of time but still have bills to pay, many of them may not survive. No one really knows what is going to happen, so I’ve done the only things I know how to do. I’ve baked us a cake.

Spring Citrus Loaf Cake
How To Make A Spring Citrus Loaf Cake

This is only a slight twist on a lemon buttermilk loaf my Mum found in BBC Good Food Magazine. As a family we’ve always loved lemon loaf cakes, but after baking four a week for months on end as welcome gifts for guests at the holiday cottages we used to run, we rather went off them. This syrup soaked, super-tender loaf with a zingy iced glaze however was enough to win us back over. In my version I’ve switched one of the four lemons called for for an orange, as well as slightly simplified the technique. Not only does this add a bit of sweetness and brightness calling for a more rounded, rather than slightly (albeit pleasantly) sour tang, but adds a little more liquid to the syrup leaving a loaf that you still don’t quite need a fork to eat, but is so, so wonderfully moist.  

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Spring Citrus Loaf Cake

  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 12 1x
  • Category: Baking


Adapted from BBC Good Food Magazine, this easy Spring Citrus Loaf Cake is packed with lemon and orange and has a super moist crumb, perfect for elevenses and afternoon tea! 



For the Loaf Cake

  • 125g (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200g (7 oz) golden caster (granulated) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 100ml (3.5 oz) buttermilk
  • 200g (7 oz) plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate (baking) soda

For the Syrup

  • 50g (2 oz) granulated sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 orange

For the Glaze

  • 23 tbsp lemon juice (approximately 1 small lemon)
  • 150g (5 oz) icing (powdered) sugar, sifted 
  • additional lemon and orange zest (optional, for decoration) 


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees and line a 2 lb loaf tin (the larger of the two standard sizes) with baking parchment (grease it with a thin film of butter to help the paper stick – if, like me you finished a butter pat weighing out the butter for this cake, I use the empty foil still coated with butter to grease the tin.)
  2. In a large bowl beat together the butter and the sugar until light and smooth. Beat in the eggs, one by one, followed by all the citrus zest, then the lemon juice and the buttermilk. 
  3. Gently stir in the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, then fold in the flour to produce a smooth batter. 
  4. Pour the batter into the tin and gently drop the tin from a moderate hight back onto the work surface to knock out any air bubbles. Transfer to the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the cake is firm and you can insert a shark knife or a cake tester into the middle and it comes out clean. If you need to return the cake to the oven (in mine I always do) test it for doneness every 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, make the syrup by combining the sugar, lemon and orange juice in a small saucepan set over a medium heat. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved, and set aside. 
  6. Leave the cake to cool in its tin for 10 minutes on a wire rack before carefully turning it out and setting it upright. Using a barbecue skewer or cake tester poke the cake all over with holes. Place a baking tray until the cake to catch any excess syrup, and spoon the syrup all over the cake. Don’t worry if it feels like you’re over saturating it, the syrup will soak in while the cake cools!
  7. Leave the cake to cool completely. Meanwhile make the glaze by mixing the lemon juice into the icing sugar to make a smooth paste. Add the lemon juice to the icing only a little at a time, and try to get a thick an icing as possible – my mother can get it so that she has a properly iced cake with a thick top and she makes iced loaf cakes all the time – mine tends to be more like the crisp glaze you can see in the picture – both are correct and delicious, and both are up to personal preference! 
  8. Once the cake is completely cool, spoon over the icing. Decorate the cake if you wish with a little more zest, and leave the icing to set slightly for 10 minutes or so before slicing. Keep the cake covered or in an air tight tin. 


Use the citrus you zested for yield juice for the syrup to cut down on waste!