How Much Sugar Is In A Lemon Pound Cake?

With rising rates of obesity and diabetes, monitoring sugar intake has become an important part of maintaining a healthy diet. Baked goods like cakes, while delicious, can contain high amounts of added sugars. Understanding the sugar content in baked goods can help people make informed choices about their consumption.

This article will provide an overview of the sources of sugar in lemon pound cake, including the natural sugars in ingredients, added sugar, and sugar produced during baking. We’ll calculate the total sugar per serving and compare that to daily recommended sugar intake. Sugar substitutes and other hidden sources of sugar will also be discussed.

What is Lemon Pound Cake?

Lemon pound cake is a variation on the traditional pound cake recipe that includes lemon juice and lemon zest. Pound cake dates back to the early 18th century in Northern Europe, where the original recipe called for a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour ( The pound cake was brought to America by European settlers and became popular in the South. It’s believed that lemon pound cake originated in the late 19th century as bakers started adding lemon flavoring to the basic pound cake recipe.

Traditional lemon pound cake contains simple ingredients like butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, lemon juice, and lemon zest. The butter and sugar are creamed together to create air bubbles, providing a light and fluffy texture. Eggs help bind the batter and add structure, while the flour gives the cake its cakey texture. Baking powder helps the cake rise. Lemon juice adds tartness and lemon zest provides bright citrus flavor. The batter is traditionally baked in a tube pan or bundt pan at 325°F until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 60-70 minutes.

Sugar in Cake Ingredients

The main ingredients in a typical lemon pound cake recipe include flour, sugar, eggs, butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt. Let’s examine the sugar content of each ingredient:

Flour – Most all-purpose flours contain 0g of sugar per serving (1 cup) (Source). Whole wheat flour contains around 0-1g of sugar per cup.

Granulated sugar – One cup of granulated white sugar contains 773.8g of sugar (Source).

Brown sugar – One cup of packed brown sugar contains 936g of sugar (Source).

Eggs – Eggs contain 0.6g of sugar per large egg (Source).

Butter – Butter contains 0g of sugar per tablespoon.

Lemon juice – Fresh lemon juice contains around 0.5g of sugar per fluid ounce (Source).

Lemon zest – Lemon zest contains minimal natural sugar.

Baking powder – Baking powder does not contain added sugars.

Salt – Table salt does not contain sugar.

So the ingredients that contribute the most sugar to lemon pound cake are granulated or brown sugar, followed distantly by eggs and lemon juice. Other ingredients provide minimal amounts.

Sugar Added to the Batter

Most lemon pound cake recipes call for 1 to 1 1/2 cups of granulated white sugar to be added to the batter. This amounts to about 200-300 grams of added sugar depending on the exact amount used (Source). The sugar helps provide sweetness to balance the tart lemon flavor, and also contributes to the cake’s texture and rise.

Some recipes also include additional sweeteners like a tablespoon or two of honey or agave nectar for extra moisture and sweetness. However, plain white granulated sugar tends to be the main source of added sweetness in traditional lemon pound cake recipes (Source).

Sugar Created During Baking

Baking a lemon pound cake creates additional sugars through chemical reactions. Two important reactions are the Maillard reaction and caramelization. The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that occurs when the cake batter is heated during baking. It causes the formation of hundreds of new flavor compounds that give baked goods their characteristic browning, aromas, and flavors. This reaction creates many new sugars that did not exist in the original ingredients (source).

Caramelization is another process that creates new sugars during baking. It occurs when heat causes the disaccharide sucrose to break down into glucose and fructose in a process called inversion. These monosaccharides then undergo further breakdown reactions, creating many new compounds including sugars that provide caramel flavors and aromas (source). The high temperatures of baking cause significant caramelization in pound cakes, leading to the formation of additional sugars.

Total Sugar Per Serving

a slice of lemon pound cake plated with some fresh raspberries

The total amount of sugar in a typical serving of lemon pound cake comes from added sugars as well as naturally occurring sugars in the ingredients. According to the USDA, a 1 slice (91g) serving of lemon pound cake contains approximately 30g of total sugars.

The main sources of natural sugar are the granulated white sugar added to the batter, which provides around 20g per serving. The eggs and lemon juice also contribute small amounts of naturally occurring sugars like glucose and fructose. During baking, the added sugars may caramelize slightly, producing more complex sugars. So the total sugars represent a combination of added and naturally occurring sugars in the cake ingredients, enhanced through the baking process.

For a typical serving size of 1 moderate slice, lemon pound cake provides around 30g total sugars, which is a significant amount compared to the recommended daily limits. Most guidelines suggest limiting added sugars to around 25-50g per day.

Daily Recommended Sugar Intake

Major health organizations provide guidelines on the maximum amount of added sugar that should be consumed daily:

  • The American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams (9 teaspoons) of added sugar per day for men, and 25 grams (6 teaspoons) for women and children (source).
  • The World Health Organization recommends limiting added sugar to less than 10% of total daily calories (source). For a 2,000 calorie diet this equals about 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of added sugar.
  • The US Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting added sugar to less than 10% of calories, and ideally less than 6% (source).

To put this in perspective, one serving of lemon pound cake can contain over 30 grams of added sugar, exceeding the daily recommendations from major health organizations for women and children.

Sugar Substitutes

There are several natural sweeteners that can be used to reduce the amount of refined sugar in lemon pound cake recipes. Some popular options include:

Fruit purees made from bananas, apples, or prunes can be used to replace some of the sugar in the recipe. Using 1/4 to 1/3 cup of fruit puree per cup of sugar can help reduce the total amount of added sugar. Fruit purees add moisture as well as sweetness.

Honey contains some nutrients like antioxidants and has a slightly lower glycemic index than refined sugar. Honey can replace up to half the sugar in a recipe, but may impart a slight honey flavor.

Stevia is an intensely sweet natural sugar substitute extracted from the stevia leaf. It contains zero calories and carbohydrates. Stevia can be used in very small amounts to sweeten recipes, but does not provide the same bulk or texture as regular sugar.

Using sugar substitutes affects the texture and flavor of baked goods. Cakes may turn out less sweet, more dense, or with different aromas depending on the sweetener used. Some trial and error is needed to find the right natural sweetener and ratio for the recipe.

Other Sources of Hidden Sugars

Many common foods and drinks contain surprisingly high amounts of added sugars. These include soda, candy, baked goods, and condiments like barbecue sauce and ketchup. Just 1 can of cola contains around 39 grams of added sugar, exceeding the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit for added sugars for adult men (36 grams) and women (25 grams) [1].

Foods like cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, and chocolate provide relatively “empty calories” with little nutritional value. It’s important to be mindful of added and naturally occurring sugars in these items. Limiting intake of high sugar foods can help reduce risk of chronic health conditions.


Lemon pound cake is a delicious treat, but it does contain a significant amount of sugar. Each serving provides around 20-25 grams of sugar, accounting for 80-100% of the recommended daily intake. While enjoying cake in moderation is fine for most healthy individuals, those watching their sugar intake may want to consider smaller portions, less frequent consumption, or alternative recipes with less added sugar.

There are options to still enjoy lemon pound cake while limiting sugar intake. Some ideas include using a sugar substitute in the recipe, skipping cake frosting or glaze, or pairing it with fresh fruit for a more balanced dessert. Portion sizes around 2-3 ounces are reasonable for keeping sugar moderation in mind. Most importantly, be mindful of all sweets and desserts consumed during the day, including hidden sugars in drinks, condiments, and packaged foods.

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