Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream
This is the only Lemon Layer Cake recipe you need!! Not only is it moist and loaded with fresh lemon flavor, but it’s frosted with a delicious creamy lemon buttercream frosting. This cake is a lemon lover’s dream and perfect for any special occasion!
It’s certainly no secret that I love lemon desserts and it’s very evident by the many lemon desserts I post, but I can’t seem to help myself. I love everything lemon! Last year I posted my Lemon Chiffon Layer Cake, a delicious and light cake, with a texture more like a sponge cake. The year 2021…what? I haven’t posted a recipe for a regular Lemon Layer Cake? What’s wrong with me? With that being said, I decided it was high time! I actually experimented with this recipe twice before getting the perfect texture, flavor, and moistness I was looking for and I was extremely happy with the end results!
If you want to make a perfect moist & tender lemon cake with an absolutely perfect lemon flavor, don’t worry I’ve got you covered. I’ve already done all the recipe testing for you. All you have to do is make it.
HERE’S WHAT MAKES THIS LEMON CAKE PERFECT…
CAKE FLOUR: I tested all-purpose flour in this cake first. I sifted it, then measured it. It just wasn’t giving me the fluffy or soft texture I was looking for. For the second test, I used cake flour that I sifted before measuring. Big difference in the softness and fluffiness! This recipe calls for “sifted” cake flour. This means to sift the flour before measuring it. Alternately, if the word “sifted” follows the word flour, it means to measure the flour, then sift it. This is important to know. If you were to measure the flour first, then sift it in this recipe, you would end up using too much flour, thus resulting in a drier cake. I used all-purpose flour in my Moist & Tangy Lemon Loaf Cake because I wanted a more dense texture.
BUTTER: I used butter for the pure buttery flavor, and it helps to aerate and tenderize the cake.
BUTTERMILK: I used buttermilk in this cake for several reasons. Using buttermilk results in cakes that have a lighter texture and a finer crumb. It also adds a bit of tanginess.
OIL: I used part oil, versus all butter. Butter adds structure and flavor, but too much butter lends a more dense texture, sort of like pound cake. The oil adds moisture and creates less density.
EGGS: I used 4 eggs in this cake. The protein & water in eggs helps the cake hold its shape. The eggs are a binding agent that holds everything together. Think structure! But that’s not all. They offer moisture too.
BAKING POWDER: I used 2 teaspoons of baking powder for leavening to make the layers rise up tall and fluffy. I didn’t want a dense cake such as poundcake here, I wanted tall and fluffy!
BAKING SODA: I used baking soda as a leavening agent also. However, I only used 1/2 teaspoon, since I was using buttermilk. A general rule of thumb is for every 1 cup of buttermilk, only use 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.
LEMON JUICE & ZEST: Baked lemon desserts seem to lose some of their lemon flavor once baked. In this recipe, I used the zest of 2 lemons, 1/4 cup of pure freshly squeezed lemon juice and I added 1 teaspoon of pure lemon extract, the second time I tested the recipe and finally got the perfect lemony tangy flavor I wanted.
LEMON CREAM CHEESE BUTTERCREAM
Talk about a velvety smooth frosting!! This frosting makes enough to generously frost the cake. Here’s what goes into this delicious tangy frosting!
- 2 8 ounce blocks of cream cheese
- 2 sticks of butter
- 3 tablesppons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
- Pinch of salt
- 6 1/2 to 7 cups powdered sugar
CANDIED LEMON SLICES (optional)
This step is optional, but I just couldn’t resist. I ended up with several leftover lemons, so I thought it would be fun to candy a couple of them and use them to garnish the cake. It’s super easy!
Here’s how to candy the lemons…
- Make an ice bath and set it aside.
- Slice 1 large lemon into very thin slices. Discard the seeds and rind ends. I used a mandoline, but you can use a sharp knife.
- Bring a medium pan of water to a bubbling boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the lemon slices and stir until they become softened, about 1 minute. Drain, and immediately plunge the slices into the ice-water bath, then drain.
- Add 1 cup each of sugar and water to a large shallow skillet. Bring to a boil, swirling the skillet to dissolve the sugar. Once sugar is dissolved, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the lemon slices in one single layer. Simmer (do not boil), for approximately 1 hour until the rinds are translucent.
- Gently remove the slices with tongs and transfer them to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Allow them to sit until they are no longer sticky, at least 1 hour. They will still be a little tacky. Use them or cover them for up to one day.
CHECK OUT MORE DELICIOUS LEMON DESSERTS…Print
This triple-layer lemon cake is made from scratch with lots of fresh lemon flavor. It’s moist and delicious and the tangy/sweet lemon cream cheese frosting totally complements it.
- 3 cups sifted cake flour, spooned and leveled (Sift the cake flour before measuring)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 1/2 sticks butter, unsalted, and softened
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups full-fat buttermilk
- 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, (not from a bottle)
- 1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
LEMON CREAM CHEESE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
- 2 8-ounce blocks softened cream cheese, (not fat-free)
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
- Pinch of salt
- 6 1/2 to 7 cups powdered sugar
- Candied lemon slices, optional (See notes above this recipe on how to candy lemon slices)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour three 8 x 2 inch round cake pans. Make sure to tap the pans and shake out any excess flour.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Set aside.
- Add the butter to the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, (or use a hand mixer). Mix on medium-high speed until it becomes very light and smooth. Add the sugar and mix on medium speed for about 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture is very light and smooth. It should be paler in color and there should be no grainy granules of sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing just to incorporate each time, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add the oil, lemon juice, and lemon extract and mix to incorporate.
- Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk mixture in three additions on medium-low speed, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix only to incorporate. Do not overmix!
- Divide the batter equally between the 3 prepared cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out with slightly moist crumbs on it. Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and gently shake each pan to ensure the cake is loose from the pan. Invert cake layers onto a wire rack to completely cool.
LEMON CREAM CHEESE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
- Make the frosting: Make sure the cream cheese is very soft. Add the cream cheese to a large mixing bowl. I prefer to use the whisk attachment for cream cheese, but you don’t have to. Beat the cream cheese on medium speed until it’s very smooth and there are no lumps. Add the butter and beat until the mixture is very smooth and light about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest, and salt and mix to incorporate.
- Add the powdered sugar on low speed, 2 cups at a time, mixing the sugar in thoroughly before adding more. If the frosting seems a little too thin for spreading, add a bit more sugar. If it seems a little too thick for spreading, add a tiny bit of milk or lemon juice, adding only 1 teaspoon at a time.
- Assemble & frost: If you want perfect flat layers, use a serrated knife and slice the dome top off of each cake layer. I did not. Place one cake layer on a cake plate or a turntable. Spread about 1 1/4 cups of frosting over the layer. Add the second layer and spread 1 1/4 cups of frosting. Add the top layer and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides. it.
- To serve: For nice neat slices, chill the cake for about 1 hour before slicing. Use a long sharp knife to slice the cake. Dip the knife in a tall glass of hot water before each cut and wipe the knife dry, then wipe the knife clean after each cut. This way the frosting will not stick to the knife and will look perfect on each slice of cake.
- Cover tightly and refrigerate the leftover cake for no more than 4 days for best freshness.
- Measuring the flour: This recipe calls for sifted cake flour. This means to sift the flour first, then measure it.
- Freezing the cake: The cake layers can be baked and frozen up to 3 months in advance. Bake the cake layers and allow them to cool completely. Wrap each layer tightly with plastic wrap. Do this twice. Then wrap each layer with a layer of heavy-duty foil. If you’re not sure when you’re going to use the layers, use a marker and write the date on the foil of when you froze it. When ready to use, thaw the cake layers overnight in the refrigerator.
- Freezing the frosting: I don’t recommend freezing the frosting. You can make the frosting a day or two in advance and bring it to room temperature before spreading it on the cake.
- Cake pans: This cake can also be made in two 9-inch round cake pans. The bake time will be a few minutes longer. I don’t advise using three 9-inch pans or the cake layers will be rather thin. I also don’t recommend using a 9 x 13 pan for this cake. There’s quite a bit of batter, and the cake may not be done in the center when the rest of the cake is done.
- Cupcakes: I have not made cupcakes with this recipe, but it should easily make 24 cupcakes, maybe more with plenty of frosting.
Keywords: cake, lemon cake, lemon layer cake,