Homemade Lemon Cake with a middle layer of creamy lemon frosting and fresh lemon curd! Delicious and made entirely from scratch, this is one impressive cake. Yet easy enough for you to make too!
Love lemon desserts? Be sure to try out shortbread based Lemon Bars. Or whip up a batch of Lemon Crinkle Cookies!
Why this Recipe is Best
This cake. Words hardly do it justice.
Lemon Cake has a stronghold over my heart. Okay, all lemon desserts do.
Seriously, have I mentioned how much I love lemon desserts? Has it been made clear to you all yet that I would choose a lemon treat over a rich chocolate brownie?
For instance, the only item on the hypothetical dessert buffet I’d choose over a good lemon dessert is a Rice Krispie Treat. That’s because Rice Krispie Treats and I have a bond that goes WAY back. In all other cases, lemon will win out every time.
Today’s lemon cake is based off my favorite white cake recipe and is completely from scratch.
But don’t let that scare you. Let it inspire you instead to create the best lemon cake of your life!
- Soft, tender crumb that holds up to the frosting layers
- Moist cake balanced with fresh flavor
- Lemon buttercream frosting bursting with citrus flavor
- Creamy lemon curd filling made with homemade lemon curd and lemon frosting
Does that convince you yet to at least keep reading?
- Cake Flour. This is a must when baking white cakes (and lemon cakes). It’s how you achieve that perfect white cake texture. Read my tips on how to make cake flour if you don’t have any on hand.
- Buttermilk. The tanginess of buttermilk not only gives flavor to this cake, but also creates a slightly porous yet fine crumb! None on hand? Use my buttermilk substitute recipe.
- Lemons. Always use fresh lemon zest and juice for desserts. The store bought lemon juice has a terrible aftertaste in frosting. You’ll need to zest 2 lemons for the cake batter and 1 lemon for the frosting. (each lemon is about 1 Tablespoon of loosely measured zest).
- Egg Whites. This recipe uses 5 egg whites, which is perfect because the lemon curd uses 5 egg yolks!
- Lemon Curd. Mixing in some of the homemade lemon curd to a portion of the frosting creates and velvety smooth layer of frosting that pops with citrus flavor! You can skip the curd if you prefer, but if you want the ULTIMATE lemon cake, it’s highly recommended.
How to Make a Lemon Layer Cake
Lemon Curd. If you’ll be using lemon curd in the frosting, you’ll need to get this made and refrigerated (needs to chill for 2 hours minimum).
Cake Layers. First prepare the 9-inch cake pans. Use my homemade cake release (or generously grease with baking spray). Set aside.
Combine the egg whites with some of the buttermilk and lemon zest. Set aside.
Beat together the butter and sugar. Add dry ingredients then slowly add in egg white mixture. Beat in remaining buttermilk. Pour into cake pans.
Frosting. Make a batch of homemade lemon buttercream frosting.
Portion out 1 cup of the frosting and mix it in a separate bowl with 1/4 cup of the homemade lemon curd. This is your filling for the cake.
Put the bottom layer of the cake on a cake stand or serving platter. Spread the lemon curd frosting filling over this layer.
Top with the second cake layer. Spread the lemon buttercream frosting around the sides and on top of the cake. If your cake is real tender, you can do a crumb coating first (spread a thin layer, chill cake for 30 minutes, the spread remaining frosting over the chilled crumb coat).
Tips and Tricks
- Egg Whites. It’s easier to separate your eggs when they are cold. Save those egg yolks to make lemon curd.
- Lemon cupcakes. You can use this lemon cake to make delicious Lemon Cupcakes.
- Plan Ahead. Because you’ve got several components to this cake, plan ahead. Make the lemon curd the day before to make things easy. You can also bake the cake layers up to 1 day in advance as well. Wrap them in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.
- Substitutions. Swap out the lemon frosting from cream cheese frosting (with or without lemon). So good!
- Add Cheesecake. Turn this cake into something even more spectacular. Our Lemon Cheesecake Cake recipe features a cheesecake filling that is out of this world!
- Add Poppy Seeds. Add a pop of texture like I did with this Lemon Poppy Seed Cake recipe!
Yes. This lemon cake freezes well. Wrap the leftover slices of cake in plastic wrap and place in airtight container (or freezer bag). Thaw in refrigerator overnight.
To make level layers of cake, you can slice the dome off the tops of a cooled cake using a serated knife. Or prevent them from doming by using bake even strips instead!
Most layer cakes stay fresh at room temperature, if properly covered for several days.
More Lemon Recipes
- These Lemon Crunch Cookies are filled with lemon cream cookies, crumbled. Oh my are they delicious!!
- These Citrus Cookies not only have lemon, but also some orange and lime! One of my favorite cookies!
- Lemon Curd Tart with Macadamia Crust. Really, no other words are necessary!!
- Fresh citrus and juicy berries come together in this easy Lemon Blueberry Cake recipe. Made from scratch, it’s topped with a sweet lemon cream cheese frosting!
Hi I am a new follower can you use carton egg whites from the supermarket in this recipe? Thanks
I’ve never tried it! But if they have measurements that equal one egg white than I don’t see why not!
Can’t wait to try this recipe! Just want to confirm though, you don’t need to bake the crumb topping before applying it to the cake? Thanks!
Nope, no need to bake it!
OH and thanks for the tip about the bake even strips – I have been baking cakes at over 7000 feet for a few years now and I just tried them for the first time – Amazing!
OH. MY. WORD. love this cake! I made the other day while trying to find a lemon cake recipe for a bridal shower – this is IT! Thanks SO much 🙂
OMG!!!! I don’t know where to begin. This was heavenly. I also made the lemon curd as well. This was just awesome!
Hooray!!! So glad you enjoyed the recipe 🙂
I made this cake and it was a show stopper! It was worth the work!
looks like a delish cake!
Just whipped up a batch of these in my cupcake pans, need a lemon cupcake for an order…omg couldn’t wait to test one. These are spot on what I was looking for! Light, fluffy, not too sweet and oh so delicious! Now I want to do the proper cake recipe, I bet it’s even better!! Your my go to site when developing new desserts!
I’m so glad you enjoyed the cupcakes! It’s one of my favorite recipes! By leaving out the lemon and adding in some vanilla bean you will have the best white cake recipe around, Just sayin 😉 Thanks for stopping by!!!
Looking at this cake makes my mouth water. Yum! And it’s so pretty, too.
thank you thank you thank you! this is THE BEST cake! amazingly delicious!
i am making this for mother’s day, for me! i might let the family have some if the house gets cleaned and they cook everything else. sounds like a fair trade to me!
WOW. Yes, please!!! Just pinned it 🙂
I love this cake, Aimee! I adore lemon curd and there is something so spring-ish about it. Yummee. Pinned.
I would definitely choose lemon dessert over chocolate any day! Looks amazing! Pinning onto my Lemon Board!
So many great tips – like the Wilton strips for leveling cakes. I’m going to try those!
Holy moly, what a beauty this cake is. I’m in love with lemon desserts 🙂 this one looks awesome!
You never can have enough citrusy sweet desserts heehee. I love how you didn’t frost all the way around the cake either; so I get to see all the delicious ooey gooey lemonyness happening in every bite. 🙂
Oh my gosh. LOVE the look of this cake! The streusel/crumbly topping is to-die-for! This is my first visit to your blog and it definitely won’t be the last. Your recipes are gorgeous.. can’t wait to delve through your archives 🙂 Thanks so much!
What a beautiful cake! I just made lemon curd for the first time last week and it was so easy and delicious! I’m eager to try this cake now that I know how to make the curd!
If you can make homemade curd (and love it), you will definitely enjoy this recipe 🙂
That is one beautiful cake!
So I have tried three lemon cake recipe and each time the texture was too dense I want to make this fir my daughters wedding cake (the real wedding got postponed until next year but it is a small ceremony in July Does the texture in this cake appear to be okay for a wedding cake ? I just wanted to know before I made another one. Also can I add real lemon juice or extract to cake batter? I will leave crumb topping off and use buttercream frosting. Thanks!