Lemon cake is a wonderfully light, refreshing and bright cake for spring and summer occasions. Unlike lemon bars that can quickly become too sweet and concentrated, lemon cake presents a mild lemon flavor that is not overpowering or too sweet to compensate for the sourness of the lemon.
From icing with lemon cream cheese frosting to a lemon glaze for a pound cake, there are several lemon cake recipe options for making a delicious dessert. No matter which lemon cake recipe you use, you and your guests are sure to be satisfied.
Lemon Cake Recipe
Total Time: 2 hours | Prep Time: 1 hour | Serves: 12 slices
2 1/2 level cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons lemon zest
4 1/4 sticks butter, unsalted, room temperature
2 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup whole buttermilk
2 large eggs and 10 large egg yolks
1 cup and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter, salted, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons gelatin powder
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 cups powdered sugar
Yellow food coloring (optional)
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spray two 8-inch cake pans with baking spray to prevent sticking.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk 2 1/2 cups of flour with baking powder, baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon lemon zest.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream 2 sticks of unsalted butter with 1 1/2 cups of white sugar until light and airy.
- Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in 1/2 cup of flour mixture and 1/3 cup of whole buttermilk. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Next, add in 1 egg and beat until combined. Continue to alternate adding flour and buttermilk and then eggs and yolks until the flour mixture, 1 cup of buttermilk, 2 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks have been beaten into the cake batter.
- Once poured and leveled in the cake pan, bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- In a double boiler, combine 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons lemon zest, 1/3 cup white sugar, 4 egg yolks and 2 tablespoons salted butter, whisking constantly.
- Once the mixture is well combined and thickens enough to coat the spoon, remove from heat, pour in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap so the wrap is touching the top of the curd to prevent a film from developing.
- Refrigerate until firm.
Lemon Cream Filling
- In a small bowl, pour 4 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice and stir in the gelatin powder.
- In a medium bowl, whisk 3 egg yolks to break them up.
- Over medium heat, combine 1 cup heavy whipping cream with 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon lemon zest. Combine well and heat until warm.
- Slowly pour the mixture into the eggs a little at a time so as not to scramble the eggs with the heat.
- Pour the egg and cream mixture back into the pan and continue to heat until it is thick enough to coat the spoon.
- Pour in the gelatin and lemon juice mixture and stir until smooth.
- Pour the combined mixture into a bowl and set it inside a larger bowl of ice to cool until it is room temperature.
- In a large mixing bowl set in a mixing stand, whip the second cup of heavy cream with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
- Once the heated mixture has completely cooled to room temperature, fold in the sweetened whipped cream. If the mixture is not adequately cool, it will melt the whipped cream.
Lemon Buttercream Cake Frosting
- In a clean, large mixing bowl, beat 2 1/4 cups of unsalted, room temperature butter until smooth.
- Slowly add in 4 1/4 cups of powdered sugar, mixing well between additions to combine.
- Add in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons lemon zest and 2 tablespoons lemon juice, mixing well.
- Slowly add another 4 1/4 cups of powdered sugar, mixing well so the frosting is smooth.
- If you so choose, add in yellow food coloring. Add another tablespoon of lemon juice if the frosting is too thick.
- Once the cakes, lemon curd, lemon cream filling and lemon buttercream cake frosting are made, begin the assembly by smearing a small dollop of frosting on the base of the cake plate to keep the cake from moving, and place the first cake round on the dish.
- Spread a layer of lemon curd on top of the cake followed by a hefty layer of the lemon cream filling.
- Place the next layer of cake. Repeat the layering process. The cakes can be cut to 4 thinner cake rounds if you prefer, with thinner layers of curd and filling.
- Once assembled, coat the entire cake with a generous layer of lemon buttercream cake frosting.
This lemon cake recipe is already quite decadent, but to take it to the next level, try adding Albanian-inspired candied lemon slices.
To do this, slice a whole lemon into sections no thicker than 1/4 inch. Wrap them in aluminum foil and nestle among hot charcoals for a half hour. Once removed from the charcoals, unwrap and macerate in sugar and water for two to three days. After macerating, place the slices on top of the frosted lemon cake as an edible decoration.