Skip to Content

This Versatile Buttermilk Cake Will be Your Go-To Dessert

This Versatile Buttermilk Cake Will be Your Go-To Dessert

Buttermilk cake is delicately sweet with a texture that can’t be beat. The buttermilk makes the cake tender and deliciously moist and keeps the sweetness from taking over. It also makes it rise very nicely. It’s a basic dessert but is extremely versatile. 

Not only is this cake recipe easy, you can bake it in a variety of cake pans you may already have. It works well in a 9×9 cake pan, a loaf pan or bundt pan. You can top it with this glaze or use powdered sugar for a different taste and presentation. It goes well with fresh berries, caramel syrup, or fruit preserves. 

If you feel like tossing some berries or cocoa powder into the batter, you can change it up for whatever mood you’re in. Don’t be afraid to get in that kitchen and make this recipe your own.

Buttermilk Cake

For years I relied on boxed cake mixes. But it’s easier than you may think to make cakes from scratch. Once you have pantry baking staples such as flour, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pure vanilla extract, then you can fill in with other ingredients as the recipe requires. 

I typically don’t have Greek yogurt or buttermilk in my refrigerator, so this buttermilk cake is one cake I make that takes a bit of advance planning for me. Even still, it’s just a matter of buying these two ingredients, and maybe an orange or lemon, as I always have lots of butter and organic eggs in my refrigerator.

Use these step-by-step directions to make this buttermilk cake recipe. Prep time takes just 20 minutes. You can top it with the glaze, enjoy it plain, or add a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Buttermilk Cake Recipe

To make the cake:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange or lemon
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk – To ensure it’s palm oil free, choose buttermilk without Vitamin A Palmitate.
  • Powdered sugar for the top when serving (optional)

To make the glaze:

  • ½ cup lemon or orange juice
  • cup white sugar

Prep time: 20 minutes

Bake time: 50 minutes

Serves: 8

buttermilk cake recipe

You can use a bundt pan, cake pan, or loaf pan for this buttermilk cake recipe

How to Make Buttermilk Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8 or 10 cup bundt pan or a 9×9 cake pan. You can use a loaf pan as well.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

  3. Put the sugars in a large mixing bowl and zest the lemon directly into the bowl. Combine the zest and sugar, using a rubber spatula or your fingers until the sugar is fragrant.

  4. Incorporate the butter into the sugar mixture. Use a hand mixer and beat for about 2 minutes until it is fluffy and pale.

  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the yogurt, then add the eggs one at a time, beating them as you add them. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.

  6. Add the flour mixture a little at the time, mixing on medium until all the flour is incorporated.

  7. Add the buttermilk, and mix until it is well-blended, and you don’t see it anymore.

  8. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Oven times vary. Turn on the light at 40 minutes to see if the sides are turning brown. If so, remove it and do a toothpick check. 

  10. If you want a glaze for the buttermilk cake, you should prepare the glaze while the cake is baking. You need to put the glaze on the cake while it is still warm. In a measuring cup with a spout for pouring, mix together the 1/2 cup of lemon juice and 1/3 cup of sugar. Let it sit, stirring occasionally. 

  11. Remove the cake from oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. 

  12. If you want to remove the cake from the pan before serving, you can use a small spatula to gently go between the sides and the bottom to loosen the cake from the pan. Set on serving dish.

  13. Put the glaze on the cake while it’s still warm. See below for instructions.

  14. If you aren’t making the glaze, sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. Powdered sugar looks nice on top of fresh fruit such as berries or strawberry compote, chocolate shavings, or anything you top the cake with. 

How to Put Glaze on Buttermilk Cake

  1. Once the cake is out of the pan and is still warm, use a skewer (because it is long) to poke deep holes all over the top. Make lots of holes, don’t be shy. Pour half of the glaze over the top. Allow it to seep into the holes. Use a pastry brush to apply the glaze that dripped over the top and sides.

  2. Once the cake is completely cool, pour the remaining glaze over the top. Let it sit for a while then brush the drips again. You can dust with powdered sugar right before serving (on top of the glaze) or leave it off.

Add-In Ideas

There’s lots you can add to this cake recipe to make it your own. You can add fresh sliced strawberries or a mixture of different berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. It will take the presentation (and the health factor!) up a notch.

Dusting with powdered sugar also always dresses up vanilla cakes. If you like whipped cream, you can make it homemade (to be sure it’s palm oil free) and let family and guests add it as they wish.

The important thing when serving toppings on the cake is to add them just before serving. Otherwise the powdered sugar will seep into the cake. It will be delicious and sugary but it won’t have the same look of being freshly dusted with the sugar. The same is true with the berries. If you top the cake with them (instead of putting them on the side) you’ll want to add them immediately before serving so the cake doesn’t become soggy.

To the batter, you can add chopped walnuts or any nuts. You can add in chocolate chips to this buttermilk cake recipe as well. Or add 1/2 cup cocoa powder with an additional 1/4 cup of sugar to make a chocolate buttermilk cake. 

Just as you would add to other cakes, you can do the same with this recipe for buttermilk cake.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does buttermilk do to cake?

Adding buttermilk to cake will help it to rise. It will make the cake thicker and fluffier while adding moisture. It adds a slight tangy flavor as well. 

Does buttermilk change the taste of cake?

Buttermilk in cakes reduces some of the sweetness and adds a bit of a tangy flavor.

Does buttermilk make cake sour?

Many people prefer the taste of a buttermilk cake. It adds acidity which breaks the gluten down which results in a fluffier cake. It won’t taste sour but will have more of a tang.

Can I replace milk with buttermilk in cake recipe?

You can use buttermilk instead of milk in a cake recipe. You can switch the milk one-for-one but add a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.

How does buttermilk change a cake recipe?

Adding buttermilk to a cake recipe will make the cake fluffier and less sweet.

Can buttermilk be used in boxed cake mix?

You can substitute the water with buttermilk in boxed cake mix for a homemade taste. Buttermilk will add more flavor and richness than water.

Using Buttermilk in Baking

I don’t buy buttermilk too frequently but when I do, I try to bake a few different easy recipes with it in order to use it up. Sometimes I’ll make this recipe twice and make one vanilla and one chocolate by adding some cocoa powder. Or I’ll add the glaze to one and serve with strawberries and the other I’ll leave plain without a topping.

I also like that I can change up the pan to make a buttermilk pound cake or a buttermilk coffee cake. 

Buttermilk cake is a delicious palm oil free dessert. While this cake recipe is a dessert, it looks lovely on a breakfast table and also makes a nice presentation if you are serving a brunch. Serve it with fresh berries.

I’ve learned to bake everything from scratch and can’t rely on box cake mixes because my son has a palm oil allergy and palm oil intolerance. As long as I can find buttermilk without Vitamin A Palmitate, I’ll use buttermilk in recipes. Otherwise, I’ll use whole organic milk.

Baking gets easier the more you do it, and there’s nothing better tasting than a cake you bake from scratch. 

Love baking cakes? Try this easy chocolate cake recipe and this one-serving vegan mug cake

If you make this homemade buttermilk cake recipe, please leave a note in the Comments. Baking at home will reduce your reliance on processed foods and processed desserts. This means you’ll be using real ingredients without the preservatives in premade baked goods. 

buttermilk cake
Print

Buttermilk Cake

Buttermilk cake is delicately sweet with fluffy texture. The buttermilk makes the cake tender and deliciously moist and keeps the sweetness from taking over. Use a 9x9 pan, loaf or bundt pan. You can serve it with the homemade glaze and/or powdered sugar. Add fresh berries on the side for a lovely presentation.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword buttermilk cake, buttermilk cake recipe, homemade buttermilk cake, recipe for buttermilk cake, vanilla buttermilk cake
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Rest Time 10 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 ⅔ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange or lemon
  • ½ cup unsalted butter softened
  • ½ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • Powdered sugar for the top when serving optional

Glaze

  • ½ cup lemon or orange juice
  • cup white sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8 - 10 cup bundt pan or a cake pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a large bowl, combine the sugars. Zest the lemon directly into the bowl. Combine the sugar and zest, using a rubber spatula or your fingers until the sugar is fragrant.
  • Incorporate the butter into the sugar lemon mixture. Use a hand mixer or beat for about 2 minutes until it is fluffy and pale.
  • Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the yogurt, then add the eggs one at a time. Whisk them as you add them. Add the vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.
  • Add the flour mixture a little at the time, mixing on medium until the flour is incorporated.
  • Add the buttermilk and mix well.
  • Pour the batter into prepared pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 40 - 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan.
  • Prepare the glaze (this can be done while the cake is baking – it has to be put on the cake while it is still warm). In a measuring cup with a spout for pouring, mix the sugar and lemon juice. Let it sit, stirring occasionally.
  • Once the cake is out of the pan and is still warm, use a skewer to poke deep holes over the top. Make a lot of holes. Pour half the glaze over the top. Allow it to seep into the holes. Use a pastry brush to apply the glaze that dripped over the top and sides.
  • Once the buttermilk cake is completely cool, pour the remaining glaze over the top. Let it rest for a bit then brush the drips again. Optional: Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

Sharing is caring!

Recipe Rating