Ritz Carlton’s Famous 1920s Lemon Pound Cake
A vintage recipe for a lemony cake that’s bright and buttery. (And a little ritzy too.)
When I saw this recipe kicking around social media, I was instantly intrigued. First off, a lemon pound cake always sounds delicious. But also, it’s from the Ritz Carlton and dates all the way back to 1920! And that seems kind of fancy. Plus, I figure that anything with the staying power to date back a hundred years must be delicious. Spoiler alert: I was right. This cake is divine. Moist but not dense, with a delicate sunny lemon flavor and buttery background. It’s one to write down for the recipe box, that’s for sure.
The batter uses shortening and butter, which you’ll cream together with some sugar. I thought 1920 seemed a little old for shortening, but it turns out it was invented in 1910 as a cheaper alternative to lard and tallow. Learn something new everyday!
You’ll then beat in your eggs (five of them) and add your dry mixture (flour, baking powder, salt) in alternate additions with some milk. Simple. Easy.
After that you’ll beat in six tablespoons of lemon juice and the zest of one lemon. That’s about two lemons worth of juice. The lemon flavor here is, well, gentle… so if you wanted to add in a little more juice or zest, it’ll be a little brighter. (I loved the gentle lemon flavor — it doesn’t hit you over the head with lemon!)
Transfer to a fifteen-cup bundt or tube pan (greased well!) and bake for almost an hour.
And then look how sunny that cake is! Pale yellow with a golden outer crust. Just lovely.
I didn’t think it needed a glaze at all but powdered sugar makes things a little cuter. You can absolutely leave it plain — it really doesn’t need anything else.
While there isn’t actually a record on the internet of this being served at Ritz Carlton — and it’s definitely not served there anymore — the story gives it a little more pizazz. And this is certainly a good enough cake to be served at the Ritz Carlton, so we’ll just go with it.
It’s so good in fact, that I sent a slice with my fourth grader to school, and she came home asking me to pack “at least four more” slices in her lunch the next day. She’d shared some with her friends and they all loved it so much that they all wanted their own slice. Luckily the fifteen cup sized bundt pan made that possible!
Ritz Carlton's Famous 1920s Lemon Pound Cake
10m prep time
55m cook time
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup shortening, at room temperature
- 5 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup whole milk
- 6 tablespoons lemon juice
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Grease and flour a 15-cup bundt or tube pan. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat on low after each addition until just blended. Beat in lemon juice and zest.
- Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Let cake cool in pan 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!