Calling all lemon lovers. . .help yourself to an easy and moist lemon cake
that starts with a cake mix!
Are you a fan of ‘doctoring the box’? I like using a cake mix for cakes or cupcakes as
the dry ingredients are measured and ready to go, cutting down on prep time.
With just a few substitutions, like swapping out the water for buttermilk,
subbing melted butter for oil and adding some flavoring like vanilla, or
in this case lemon, you improve the texture and make it more flavorful.
Topped with a glaze, homemade frosting or baked in a pretty pan,
no one would ever guess your cake started with a box mix.
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I started with a Super Moist Lemon Cake Mix.
A lemon syrup brushed on while the cake is warm, boosts
the lemon flavor and makes it extra moist!
I need another pan like I need a hole in my head :) but I couldn’t
resist this Nordic Ware Citrus Blossom Loaf Pan.
Alternatively, bake this cake in a 13 x 9 or (2) 8 or 9 – inch round pans or loaf pan of your choice.
Baking time adjustments can be found in the notes in the printable recipe below.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
15.25 oz. Super Moist Lemon Cake Mix, I used Betty Crocker pudding in the mix
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 large lemon, zested
I used some tips from King Arthur Flour to prevent Bundt cakes or pans
with an intricate designs from sticking, first used in my
Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Kahlúa-Cream Cheese Glaze.
Use melted shortening, rather than butter to grease your pan, as the milk solids
in butter can act like glue and cause the cake batter to stick.
Use a pastry brush to apply melted shortening to all the nooks and crannies in your pan.
Instead of flouring your greased pan, sprinkle it with granulated sugar!
Additional sugar on the surface of your cake adds a little sweet crunch and
is preferable to that layer of gunky flour that remains on your cake after baking.
The sugar will be in semi-liquid state while the cake is warm,
and allow your cake to slide right out of the pan!
Fill your pan only 3/4 full with your batter at least 1 1/2″ below the rim of the pan
to prevent your batter from overflowing.
Gently tap your pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles.
Nordic Ware Citrus Blossom Loaf pan has a 6-cup capacity, so there was batter left over for 6 cupcakes.
Baking times will vary depending on pans and your oven.
Oven temperatures vary widely, depending on brand, age, whether electric or gas
and it’s not unusual for an oven to run 5 or 10 degrees hotter or colder.
Preheat your oven at least 20 minutes and know your oven and its hot spots.
Use an inexpensive oven thermometer to monitor your oven’s temperature.
When using a new pan or recipe, always test for doneness on the early side.
Bake until toothpick inserted comes out batter-free, a few stray crumbs are fine.
The lemon syrup makes the cake extra lemony and moist!
Mix 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice with 1/3 cup sugar and heat until sugar is melted,
either on the stove or in the microwave.
Brush syrup onto warm cake, allowing the syrup to soak in before applying additional coats.
Serve the cake with additional lemon syrup if desired.
Alternatively or in addition, you can mix a lemon glaze using powdered sugar
and 1 – 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, mixing until reaching desired consistency.
Don’t have buttermilk or want to buy some for just one recipe?
Here’s an easy buttermilk substitution:
To make 1 cup of buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup.
Top with whole milk to the 1 cup line.
Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 10 minutes,
until slightly thickened and you see small curdled bits.
'Doctor the Box' Lemon Loaf Cake with Lemon Syrup
- 6 cup loaf pan (I used a Nordic Ware Citrus Blossom Loaf Pan)
- 1 15.25 oz. box Lemon Cake Mix I used Better Crocker Super Moist Cake Mix/pudding in the mix
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1/2 cup (I stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup buttermilk see substitution in notes
- 1 large lemon, zested
- 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Prepare pan by thoroughly greasing with shortening, using a pastry brush to evenly coat the all the details of the pan. Sprinkle sugar in pan to coat shortening on bottom and sides of pan, emptying excess sugar.
- Mix cake mix, melted butter, buttermilk, lemon zest and eggs in large bowl with mixer on medium speed 2 minutes.
- Pour batter into prepared pan, filling only 3/4 full to prevent batter from overflowing pan. Gently tap on a counter top to remove any air bubbles.
- Bake 43 – 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan before turning out onto wire rack to cool.
- To make lemon syrup:
- Combine lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan or microwave. Heat until sugar is dissolved.
- Brush lemon glaze evenly over the cake with a pastry brush while the cake is still warm, allowing syrup soak in before applying a second layer and third layer. Serve cake with additional lemon syrup if desired.
- Fill your pan only 3/4 full with your batter at least 1 1/2" below the rim of the pan to prevent batter overflowing pan. Remaining batter will make 6 cupcakes using a muffin tin.
Alternative method of greasing 6 cup loaf: Use baking spray containing flour, such as Baker's Joy and use a pastry brush to evenly coat the all the details of the pan. Do not use a regular cooking spray as it tends to leave a sticky residue on the pan, causing cake to stick.
Alternatively to lemon syrup make a lemon glaze with 1 – 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice mixed with 1 cup powdered sugar. Mix sugar with lemon juice, adding 1 tablespoon of juice at a time until desired consistency. Pour glaze over top of cooled cake. Double amount of glaze if desired.
- Buttermilk substitution: Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Fill will whole milk to 1 cup line. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes, until slightly thickened and you see small curdled bits.
- Know your oven or invest in an inexpensive oven thermometer. Oven temperatures vary widely, depending on brand, age, whether electric or gas and it’s not unusual for an oven to run 5 or 10 degrees hotter or colder. Preheat your oven at least 20 minutes prior to baking.
- Alternate pan sizes and baking times: Bake at 350°F for shiny metal pan or glass pans / 325°F for nonstick pans. Shield top of pan with foil to prevent overbrowning if needed during last 10 minutes of baking time. 13”x9” or Two 8” Rounds : 28-33 minutes Two 9” Rounds: 24-29 minutes Bundt®: 38-43 minutes Cupcakes: 12-17 minutes If using a 9×5 inch loaf pan which holds 8 cups of batter, baking time will be closer to 1 hour.
Find a reader favorite and another ‘Doctor the Box’ recipe,
Carrot Cake from Spice Cake Mix, HERE.
As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you purchase anything through an affiliate link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Thank you for your visit, sharing with:
Yes, please! Love lemons, love your new pan!
Hi Mary, love love anything lemon…I will be trying this for sure…
NOTE: I use a product that is a powdered buttermilk…after opening, that’s when you store it in the fridge..it’s easy to use and last a lot longer than liquid buttermilk…I won’t post the brand…don’t know if that’s allowed! Thanks again for a great recipe!
I love lemons and their sunny color, just what we need right now to keep gloomy days at bay. Great tips on greasing the pan. I don’t usually keep shortening on hand. I wonder if it would work with coconut oil.
Hi Maria, Yes! You can use coconut oil to grease your cake pan in the same manner you would use shortening. :)
I love anything lemon! I would enjoy a slice with coffee on this gray and cloudy morning. Happy Thursday, Mary 🍋🍋🍋
That is a beautiful pan! I can imagine gifting that in a basket with fresh lemons, the Michel Design Works kitchen towels & hand soap. Thank you for giving me some great ideas as I am not at all creative!
So beautiful, we are on lemon wavelengths, I made lemon curd and wanted to make lemon blueberry loaf 😋 first, I can’t believe you can find a mix, our stores have been void of anything to bake since the pandemic! I think I have this pan, been head in the garden for years I have no idea what I own in the kitchen these days! You are inspiring me to start opening my cupboards, and no problem with opening my mouth! fabulous lemon start to my day!
ALL of the ABOVE, plez!!! franki
Beautiful pan Mary, I have been eyeing this pan for a few years now. We love lemons. Out tree didn’t produce enough lemons 🍋 so I shall ask Jain for some since we are getting our nails done on Monday. I also love using doctored cake mixes sometimes. I add a box of instant pudding to mine. Great tip too.
Thank you Linda! If anyone would know about growing anything, it would be Jain! 🍋 I wish I wasn’t 3000 miles away and could join you two in your fun. ❤️
Looks mouthwatering! I want to share the secret to cakes never sticking again. I recently found this recipe for Cake Goop by SugarGeeks and it is beyond astonishing. I’ll never buy Pam or Baker’s Secret again! She uses flour, shortening and vegetable oil blended together. It stores on the counter or in the fridge and the results are breathtaking. I just made my first rainbow cake and all six layers released without even a spatula round the edges and the surface was absolutely perfect. I reused the same two pans with just wiping with a paper towel between uses. She shares a link for an inexpensive bottle she uses that has a silicone brush in the lid. I bought it and it is truly the perfect combo. Hope you try it since you do so many bundt creations and so many of us follow you for baking inspiration. I can’t wait to use it on one of my Nordicware pans.
Thanks for letting me know Lynette! I do like the crunch and sweet layer from dusting the pan with sugar, but I look forward to trying it. 🍋❤️
Mary, thanks for the great tips! I love using my Wilton pans, and the sugar idea is fabulous! I just picked up a box mix at Trader Joe’s for a Blood Orange cake. I need to get a pan and make it using your wonderful tips. I love anything lemon, so will need to make a lemon cake too. Always good to have a cake in the freezer! Happy Thursday!
Ooh that’s sounds so good Sarah! The closest Trader Joe’s to me is a hour away…*sigh* 🍋❤️
Mary, I have used a lemon cake mix from Aldi’s before and have added fresh blueberries. It is a big hit but Aldi’s does not always have the mix in stock. I will use your recipe now. Pat
Blueberries are the perfect partner to lemon Pat! 🍋Thank you for your visit. ❤️
Mary, I absolutely love lemon cake. Have already added the Nordic pan to my Amazon list and will add the boxed cake mix to the grocery list. My mouthing is already watering. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank you for your visit and comment Andree! I hope you enjoy the recipe. 🍋❤️
Mary, I just made a batch of lemon curd from one of my old recipes and scones. Love lemon tea cakes, and yours is extra pretty!
OMG to die for! And thanks for all of the tips which I pretty much knew, but, put all together in one recipe, you are providing us with a Master Class! Thank you.
Thank you for your visit and comment Donna! I hope you enjoy if you try it. 🍋❤️
What a great idea! I never ever buy boxes of cake mix – but this is one I absolutely want to try! TY for the suggestions, Mary!
(Your take great foodie pics, too , by the way!) Love your new Nordic loaf pan. I can see why you had to have it. : – )
Thanks so much Michele, you must be an awesome scratch baker! 👩🍳🍋
It sounds wonderful Mary, I have been in such a lemon mood lately! I am all about doctored cake mixes, and I even have a similar loaf pan that I haven’t used in ages! Can’t wait to make!
I love your pan Mary, and the cake sounds puckery good:@)
PS-My co-worker’s pup wouldn’t take his calm down pill before the groomer today… Hair cut kinda looks like it-yikes!!!
Hi Lynn, it is puckery good.🍋🍋🍋😀. I don’t know how dog groomers do it, Sophie is a squirmer on a good day. 🐾
Mary, your recipe for the Lemon Loaf sounds so delicious! I am going to make one tomorrow! I have to order one of those Nordic loaf pans as it is just so nice to have that decor on the top of the loaf baked in with the loaf! Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipe — and your loaf pan!
Thanks so much for your visit and comment Mary-Ann! I hope you enjoy the recipe. 🍋
My family loves everything lemons. Love this recipe and thanks for the great tips!!!
Yes, yes, yes! Love lemon anything and everything! Hehe. At my sister’s attending to her as she recovers from back surgery so since we both LOVE lemon everything, this sounds just like a perfect prescription for her road to recovery. We are under a winter storm watch (again) with 6-8 or possibly 10″ of snow and 55 mph winds. So as soon as roads are clear, I will head to the store for the box mix and will do as you suggest. She doesn’t have your fancy pan ( so beautiful!) but we’ll enjoy it I’m sure made in a regular loaf pan with a cup of hot tea! YUM! Thanks Mary! This will be printed and added to my “Mary HIWTBI Recipe Book”. 😁♥️🍋🍋
Oh gosh Cyndi! Wishing your sister a speedy recovery, I know she’s glad you’re with her. We had 50 mph winds last night with storms moving through and was just picking up limbs this morning. Hope you have all your provisions for your snowy weather! ❄️🌨🍋❤️
Mmmm! Mmmm! Isn’t that the cutest loaf pan! And this recipe will be perfect for my Book Club meeting.
Thank you Mary!
Thank you Nancy! 🍋My book club disbanded about 10 years ago as members and neighbors moved away. I miss it! 📚
I too have had friends and neighbors move away… it’s hard to see them go.
I understand how you miss your book club… hugs!
I got my Lemon Cake mix today, and I already have this same pan !! I am looking forward to making this, it looks so pretty !
Thanks for sharing,
Paula – IN.
Hi Paula! Isn’t it a pretty pan? 🍋 I hope you enjoy it, Happy Friday 💗
Hi Mary! I had to LOL when you stated that you needed another pan like you need a hole in your head! That’s a saying that I say quite often about kitchen things, cookbooks, teacups, etc. Your lemon loaf in your new pan is beautiful and so are the plate and the tablecloth! Happy baking!!
Thank you Kitty! Yes, my pan as well as dish collection runneth over! 🍋🍽❤️
OH Yumm Mary!! Thanks for the wonderful baking tips – sprinkling the pan with sugar is brilliant!
We love lemon everything and hope to get a pretty pan soon. The lemon syrup recipe couldn’t be easier! Where did you get the beautiful lemon tablecloth? Is it oilcloth? Love the bees on it too! Perfect!
Thank you Debbie! It’s actually a kitchen towel that I found at HomeGoods. 🍋🐝
This looks similar to the lemon cake that my grandmother always made. The recipe was lost to us after she died. Everyone assumed someone else in the family had the recipe. :(
As a teen, I helped her a few times. She used a vanilla cake mix, not a lemon one. She was very emphatic about that.
One of her tips, which I’ll share with you, is to take a toothpick and prick the surface of the cake before applying the syrup to the top.
I was SOO looking forward to making this recipe but when I did it completely failed. The cake just fell apart. The taste was good, although I think I would add a bit more lemon such as lemon flavoring.