Lemon Upside Down Loaf Cake

Cakes, Desserts

Lemon Upside Down Cake // A Cozy Kitchen

Can I be honest? I don’t LOVE lemon flavored desserts. You’ll never see me whipping up a lemon bar and passing them out to all my friends. I’m more likely to give you pie or pancakes or hugs. Lemon desserts are usually a tad too sweet for me, and they usually make me pucker way too much and I make a super ugly “pucker” face. Trust me, it’s not cute.

There’s a popular photo amongst my family of me when I was three years old being taunted by my much older uncle to “close my eyes and stick out my tongue.” My aunt was camera-ready while my uncle swiped a lemon on my tongue. I apparently made the scariest “pucker” face ever. Also, now you know that my family found it funny to torture me as a small child. This explains why I torture Amelia–it’s a learned practice!

Lemon Upside Down Cake // A Cozy Kitchen

Back to lemons…this upside down loaf is an adaptation of one of my favorite recipes of the year (yes, I said that), this Bourbon Banana Upside Down Cake–so good!

This of course is quite different. There’s a lemon zest, a good amount of salty, which works really lovely with the tartness and brown butter! Yes, butter is cooked with brown sugar until it browns. Yum. Yes. Yum.

Lemon Upside Down Cake // A Cozy Kitchen

Lemon Upside Down Cake // A Cozy Kitchen

The slices of lemon on top of the cake actually caramelize in the oven, getting a candy-like coating. When the cake is cooled the lemon slices are chewy, delicious, sweet and just a teeny bit bitter. A good bitter.

The cake is light and fluffy with the perfect hint of lemon.

Lemon Upside Down Cake // A Cozy Kitchen

Lemon Upside Down Loaf Cake

5 from 1 vote
Serving Size: 1 9x5-inch loaf cake



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 4 ounces 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 white granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest, from 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Lemon topping:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

Butter and flour for the pan


    • Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment, butter once more and dust with a tablespoon of flour. Set aside. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
    • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Next, in a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla; and then mix until the mixture is smooth.
    • To the butter and sugar mixture, mix in half of the flour mixture and the buttermilk. Then, mix in the remaining flour mixture, being sure not to over mix.
    • In a small skillet, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the butter begins to brown and then mix in the brown sugar and salt; stir until the sugar begins to bubble, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and let stand for a few minutes to cool slightly. Pour the butter/mixture into the loaf pan, spreading it around evenly. Arrange the lemon slices atop, keeping in mind how it'll look when you flip the cake over.
    • Pour the batter over the lemons, and spread the batter gently so it’s nice and even. Transfer the loaf pan to the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
    • Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. To invert the cake, place a cooling rack on top of the loaf pan and turn both of them over; lift up the loaf pan, take off the parchment and voila! Your cake! Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before slicing.
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  • Reply get instagram photo likes June 2, 2015 at 12:16 am

    There’s definately a lot to know about this subject. I
    like all of the points you’ve made.

  • Reply Lisa December 4, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Hi. My cake is in the oven now and I can’t wait to see and taste the results. I do have a question and need your help. When I browned the butter and mix in the brown sugar(1 min), the sugar got a bit hard and stuck to the utensil I used. Is this suppose to happen?

    Thank you for sharing!


    • Reply Adrianna Adarme December 4, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Ahh yes…this is sort of normal. I usually use a silicon spatula to stir this kinda stuff. Did you use a wooden spoon?

      • Reply Lisa December 4, 2014 at 10:25 am

        Thank you for the quick response. No, I actually used a fork to stir the butter and sugar. Did you keep and use the hardened sugar and placed it in the pan or did you throw it out?

        • Reply Adrianna Adarme December 4, 2014 at 10:32 am

          For me it didn’t harden A LOT. But I remember little bits of hardened pieces and I just added it to the pan. And then when it came out of the oven it was totally fine. Did you throw it out? If so, it should still be completely fine.

  • Reply Alexis Bennett June 16, 2013 at 11:17 am

    I just made this last night and my house has never smelt better. Thank you so much for such a wonderful recipe, my boyfriend is going to want to this every day 🙂

  • Reply Ambar June 10, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Can I just say this looks BEAUTIFUL!?

  • Reply this is lemonade June 10, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I love lemon, but you’re right, it often is too sweet – too much sugariness in an effort to counter the sourness. But the way you describe the caramelisation on this one..sounds lovely. I must try it! Sounds like a great cake for summer – thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Reply Francesca June 10, 2013 at 6:24 am

    Yum lemon + salty is always a winner in our house. You rock!

  • Reply rebecca at thisfineday June 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Oh my! Another wonderful baking recipe. I think your site is going to single handedly undo all of the good work I’ve done in eating and exercising in the past year. Thank you!!

  • Reply steph@stephsbitebybite June 6, 2013 at 5:39 am

    WHOA!! This is gorgeous!! I’m so curious to taste the lemon slices!! They look mouthwatering!

  • Reply Sasha (The Procrastobaker) June 6, 2013 at 1:19 am

    I lovelovelove lemon cake, one of my favourite bakes is lemon drizzle cake and this looks like a wicked spin on my norm. Would love to try this soon indeed, yum 🙂

  • Reply Jayne June 5, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Unlike you, I absolutely LURVE lemons! haha… Which is why this cake got me at the edge of my seat. Only one question… when I try cooking or baking with lemon peel, it gets overwhelmingly bitter. Like too bitter. Will the baking and caramel help diffuse most of it?

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme June 6, 2013 at 8:40 am

      YES! That was the best part. The rind is still a wee bit bitter but the caramelization helps. It almost candies the lemons. 🙂

      • Reply Jayne June 6, 2013 at 7:55 pm

        Sounds incredible! Have got to try it. My bag of 6 lemons will finally have a use.

  • Reply Aimee @ See Aimee Cook June 5, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Oooh, that looks (and sounds!) delicious!! Definitely pinning for later baking 🙂

  • Reply Lisa June 5, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Love lemon; this looks great.
    I have a question about the Bourbon Banana Upside Down Cake (which I clicked over to see). How ripe should the bananas be? My guess is that fruit just starting to look ripe enough to eat would be best; but I’m not sure. I also wondered if you think ripe plantains would work in place of bananas; I think their firmness would hold up well to the baking.

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme June 5, 2013 at 7:04 pm

      I would say that the banana should be yellow–not overly ripe. As for plantains, I think they’d work! I would definitely go for ripe ones. They’re usually pretty sturdy, though you may have to half them since they tend to be bigger than regular banana. Hope that helps!

    • Reply Lisa June 8, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      That’s what I thought; you want the bananas fairly firm if you are going to bake them without mashing them (to stir into the batter).
      I usually use plantains when they are ripe, though my husband likes them made into chips before they get really sweet. I have started roasting slices (like veggies) in the oven, and they are AMAZING! The sweetness gets concentrated and they hold up much better than bananas.
      My kids (grown now) never really liked zucchini and cauliflower until I began roasting them. Now I have to buy at least 2 heads of cauliflower for holidays (it shrinks a lot when it’s roasted) because everyone fights over it!

  • Reply Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes) June 5, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Your cake is stunning! I love upside down anything but never tried it with lemons! So smart!

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