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This light and fluffy homemade lemon cake recipe with buttercream frosting and lemon curd filling has become a family favorite. The triple dose of lemon is balanced and pleasantly sweet to satisfy those citrus cravings.
This is the best lemon cake recipe I have ever made. I adapted this recipe from my moist vanilla cake recipe.
You will notice that I have added lemon zest & juice to make it extra lemony! The key to getting good lemon flavor is to mix the sugar with lemon zest before creaming it with butter and oil.
The filling is my simple lemon curd recipe with gelatin. This helps keep the curd firm and stable.
The frosting is a simple American buttercream and it gets its flavor from the curd. You could also use my lemon cream cheese frosting on your homemade lemon cake.
For a fun garnish, you can also use my candied orange recipe to make candied lemons.
Why this recipe works
- Sugar is used to extract the oils from the zest to create a well-balanced, not-too-tart lemon flavor.
- The oil in the cake makes the texture light and fluffy with a soft crumb.
- The gelatin in the lemon curd keeps it firm and prevents it from seeping out of the cake.
You will love the light and fluffy texture of this homemade lemon cake recipe.
What you need
This is the best lemon cake recipe because it uses fresh ingredients. Let’s discuss just a few of the key ingredients:
This is a short overview of the main ingredients I used and why I chose them. The full recipe can be found at the bottom of the post!
- Lemon juice & zest: I recommend using freshly squeezed lemon juice because it is milder than bottled. These both add to the rich lemon profile of the cake.
- Butter & oil: This butter and oil ratio works to draw out the lemon flavor of the cake. The oil keeps the cake moist and soft.
- Cake flour: I have a homemade cake flour recipe, but I recommend using the real stuff for this recipe.
- Eggs: The eggs give color and structure to the cake.
- Sugar: This sweetness balances the tart flavor of the lemons.
- Ginger: Ground ginger is used in the cake batter. It is barely detectable, but I feel it enhances the lemon flavor.
This is a list of tools I used to make the homemade lemon cake recipe.
- Mixer: I prefer to use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. However, a handheld electric mixer will work, as well.
- Cake pans: I like using two 9-inch cake pans for this recipe.
- Sieve: You will need a fine-mesh sieve to press the curd through.
How to make lemon cake
1. Make the filling
To start the lemon layer cake, you will prepare the filling.
- Sprinkle gelatin over 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a small bowl. Then, set aside.
- Grab a small saucepan. Combine the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar. Then, whisk until frothy and smooth, about 4 minutes. Finally, whisk in the remaining lemon juice and lemon zest.
- Cook over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until thickened. This will take about 7-10 minutes.
- Remove done curd from the heat immediately. Then, stir in gelatin until fully dissolved and well-blended.
- Stir in the butter until fully combined.
- Then, press the curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. It needs to touch the surface of the curd to prevent a film from forming.
- Place the curd in the fridge for at least 4 hours. You can also store it for up to 24 hours. It will thicken once set. Stir vigorously before using.
2. Make the cake
Now that the filling is complete, you will work on the lemon cake layers.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the inside bottom and sides of the two 9-inch round pans.
- Then, line the pans with parchment paper cut to fit the bottoms. Lightly grease the paper, as well.
- Dust the inside of the sides and bottom with flour. Then, tap out any excess. Wrap the pans with wet bake-even strips. Set aside for later.
- Use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer for mixing. Then, beat the sugar and lemon zest on medium speed for at least 5 minutes.
- Then, add the oil and butter to this mixture. Mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. This should take about 5 minutes.
- Add eggs to the mix one at a time. Mix for 20 seconds after each addition to the mixture. Then, beat in the vanilla.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt. Then, stir with a whisk and add half to the mixture. Beat on low speed until almost incorporated.
- Then, mix in buttermilk and lemon juice. Add the remaining flour mixture. Beat on low until blended. Do not over mix.
- Divide the batter evenly between pans. Then, bake for 25-30 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean with only a few moist crumbs attached.
- Cool cake layers in the pans. Then, transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
3. Make the frosting
The frosting adds sweetness and flavor to the lemon layer cake.
- Use your mixer to beat the butter and salt on medium-high speed until creamy and pale in color. This should take 5 minutes.
- Add half of the confectioners’ sugar. Then, beat on low speed until the sugar has fully moistened.
- After that, turn up the speed to medium-high. Beat until well incorporated or about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar. Then, beat on low speed until it has fully moistened.
- Then, turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well-incorporated or about 3-5 minutes. Turn the mixer on low speed and slowly, add the heavy cream.
- Turn the mixer to medium heat and beat until the cream is well-incorporated or about 3-5 minutes.
- Finally, add the lemon curd and gently mix on low speed until fully combined.
4. Assemble the cake
Build the lemon layer cake from the cake layers, lemon curd and frosting.
- Place a cake layer onto the serving platter. Pipe a dam of frosting around the outer edge.
- Spread the lemon curd filling inside the dam in an even layer.
- Top with the second cake layer. Then, cover the top and sides of the cake with frosting.
- Finally, immediately refrigerate the cake until firm. This should take about 1 hour.
- Decorate your homemade lemon cake with candied lemon slices prior to serving. You can make the lemon slices from my candied orange slices recipe.
Jen’s best tips
- If you prefer not to use gelatin, leave it out. Be sure to cook the curd long enough to reach a super thick consistency at 180°F.
- Do not substitute the oil with more butter. The oil keeps the cake light and moist.
- Do not substitute the cake flour with all-purpose flour. I tested it with all-purpose flour and the final product was compromised. It lacked the superior soft crumb of the cake flour version.
- Use bake even strips to ensure the cake layers bake evenly. These are cloth strips that are soaked in water and wrapped around the cake pans.
Storing & Freezing
To store: You can store a fully-assembled cake, tightly covered, in the fridge for no more than 5 days.
You can also make the cake layers a day prior to assembling the homemade lemon cake. Once cooled completely, tightly cover and store in the fridge.
The frosting and lemon curd can also be made one day prior to assembly. Keep tightly covered and store in the fridge. Prior to using, bring frosting to room temperature, and then, re-whip it.
To freeze: Frosted and unfrosted cake layers can be stored for no more than 3 months in the freezer.
Wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Then, wrap with two layers of aluminum foil. Thaw overnight in the fridge. Then, bring to room temperature prior to using or serving.
More lemony good recipes to try
If you loved this lemon layer cake, take a look at some of my other lemon favorites on the blog:
- Lemon Meringue Pie
- Lemon Blueberry Muffins
- Coconut Lemon Bars
- Lemon Thumbprint
- Tarts: Lemon
- Lemon Cheese Pie
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Is it okay to use cake flour that is enriched and bleach like the Swans Down cake flour or is it better to use organic unbleached cake flour. I have the unbleached all purpose flour by Bob Mills.
Either will work just fine.
Does it matter if you use buttermilk or whole milk for the lemon cake. What flavor does the butter milk give.
You want to use the milk that is called for in the recipe because that is how it was tested and will give you the results that are promised. In this case, the recipe calls for whole milk.
The lemon cake is it just as good without the lemon curd filling, Is there a big difference without the filling,
The filling adds so much lemon flavor to the cake. You could make it without but the flavor will be milder.
Hi, can you please recommend if I can halve this recipe to make a 6” cake.
Halving the recipe will yield you one 9-inch layer. I’m not certain if that is enough for a 6-inch layer cake as I’ve never made a 6-inch cake before. If you give it a try, do let me know how it goes.
If making this in a 9×13 pan what times and temp do you suggest to bake it? Also, I am planning on making this and then cutting the cake in the shape of a fish. Will it hold up to being cut? Will the buttercream separate if I add food coloring? Thank you!
You’d bake it at the same temperature but adjust how long it bakes. I’ve not baked in a 9×13 pan so I can’t say exactly how long it will need. It may hold up to being cut out. Again, I’ve never carved this cake so I say for sure if it will work out as you envision. The buttercream will be fine as long as you use gel food coloring.
Hi! Do you think I can use this recipe and bake the cake in a square pan? if so what size would be good?
You could probably bake it in a 9×13-inch pan. The bake time will need to be adjusted slightly.
Hi! Can i add blueberries to this recipe?
While I’ve not added blueberries to this recipe before, I imagine it would be fine. You may wish to toss the blueberries in a little flour first. This will help prevent them from sinking since the batter isn’t super thick.