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!
Can this recipe be used for one layer of a wedding cake?
I made the lemon curd yesterday and it tastes out-of-this-world delicious! It’s in the fridge
Today I made the cake layers using gluten free flour mix It obviously wasn’t a “cake” flour, so for very cup called for in this recipe, I used 3/4 cup of the gf flour mix along with 2 tablespoons tapioca flour (also have corn allergy). Cake looks perfect as it’s cooling.
Putting it all together tomorrow.
This sounds similar to a recipe I saw. However, you sliced the cake rounds in half and brushed all slices with lemon syrup (lemon juice, sugar, and water), then assembled. First or bottom half of cake top with lemon curd, second layer top with frosting, third layer top with lemon curd, and last layer top with frosting and frost sides.
Can you clarify beating the egg whites with zest and buttermilk—-should egg whites be beaten to
foamy or soft or hard peaks??????? or simply combined
Simply combined to foamy.
Can I assemble the whole cake the day before, or will the lemon curd soak too much into the cake.
How dobI make my lemon curd thicker. It was a lil too loose.
Lemon curd will thicken up every day you let it sit. Mine was runny, but the next day I could see it was thicker.
I’m going to be making an 8×4 loaf cake. I want to slice it in half horizontally and fill it with lemon curd. How much lemon curd would you say I’d need. Do you think 1 cup is enough or would I need more? I’ve never made my own lemon curd, so just trying to judge ahead of time before attempting. Thanks.
What about high-altitude adjustments? I live in Colorado. Our cakes here rise fast and then sink. Usually I can adjust and put less baking soda/powder in, but I would love it if someone has tried this and could tell me the proper measurements. Thank you.
I have no way to test in high altitude, but hopefully someone can help you out!
Hello, I made this cake recipe (it is in the oven as I type). I followed the directions word for word. First of all I creamed the butter with the sugar and it wasn’t creamy enough to take the dry ingredients smoothly, it looked like bread crumbs. When I added the egg white mixture it mixed together smoothly. The batter was on the thick side. Not sure what I did wrong. Smells good baking in the oven but I have a feeling it isn’t going to be a very fluffy cake. Any ideas what I may have done wrong?
Hi Aimee – I want to make this a layered 13×9 inch cake. I’m guessing I would just double the recipe and make 2 layers that way? Can you share the recommended baking temp. and time for a 13×9 inch pan? Thanks!
Hi Wanda, to make this in a 13×9 you’ll bake it at 350 for about 40-44 minutes. ENJOY 🙂
Also, keep the ingredient amounts the same, do not double them!
My cakes sunk in. I used 6 inch pans and used two cups batter.
I have only used the large pans for this recipe.
This is truly THE Best Lemon cake❗️I’ve made it 3 times now ! It has Never disappointed I or my family & guests 🤩The taste is scrumptious, the texture divine & the presentation perfect 👌 This will be a go to recipe for years to come 😊☺️
I really want to make this for my husbands birthday. We are expecting about 30, so I need to make it as a 3 layer sheet cake. Can you tell me how much cake/curd/frosting I would make for that? Thanks in advance.
For me, I was also expecting 30 on a special occasion. I made about 1 cup and a half of curd. Hopefully thisis helpful!
I ordered the 6 piece set of the Wilton Bake Even Cake Strips. Thanks for the information on them.
I love anything lemon. This is going to be the next cake I bake. Thanks for all the yummy sounding recipes.
Always looking for new recipes to try. Glad I found you.
I made this for Easter 2019 and it was delicious!!! Your white cake is now my go to white cake recipe. Thanks.
So glad to hear it, thank you 🙂
I would like to make this for Easter but am trying to plan how to make as much of it in advance as possible. I don’t want to assemble the entire thing and have it dry out. What would you recommend?
hi Aimee, love your lemon cake. This came out a lovely white colour ideal for wedding cakes. The flavour was yummy even though I forgot about in the oven – I would imagine it would taste even better when cooked for the right amount of time. Good texture for simple carving of shaped cakes.
The cake is in the fridge. Yet to taste, my issue is
with the curd recipe. Why do we juice 4 lemons for
1/3 c juice? And zest of 4 lemons is not specific enough. I have a lemon tree and the lemons are huge. 4 lemons could yield a cup of zest. Thinking that would be too much.
The instuctions don’t seem to follow the picture, unless I’m just no reading it right. Could you list the order for assembling for me, please?
Hi Carole: thanks for stopping by! I updated the directions so they are hopefully more clear! Let me know if that helps 🙂
I just made this tonight and it took me four hours 🙁 It was my first layer cake and I did the lemon curd from scratch but mine doesn’t look like yours at all. The frosting and lemon curd are dripping down the side, I’m sure it’ll still be good though. I made it for my sister’s birthday tomorrow so hopefully everyone likes it! Don’t know why it turned out so messy though, it was hard to do the lemon curd, frosting and crumb layers on top of each other.