Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream

Moist lemon cake with creamy lemon cream cheese buttercream frosting! Delicious homemade lemon cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Time for another layer cake! Not quite 14 layers like this guy, but just as fabulous. If you’re a lemon dessert lover like I am, meet our crowning glory.

Moist lemon cake with creamy lemon cream cheese buttercream frosting! Delicious homemade lemon cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

This lemon layer cake recipe is adapted from the most popular cake recipe on my blog: lemon blueberry layer cake. Lemon blueberry cake has been in my top 10 recipes for the past 4 years. It’s moist, sweet, buttery, and loaded with fresh lemon. Since its publish date, I’ve received many questions about leaving out the blueberries to make it plain. I decided a plain lemon cake needed its own separate blog post. Enveloped with lemon cream cheese buttercream and garnished with whipped cream, this towering beauty stands up to its blueberry studded sister!

Behind the Recipe

Besides the flavor and texture, this cake is loved is because of its ease. Very basic ingredients including a base of creamed butter + sugar, eggs, lemon, buttermilk, and flour. I love the additional tang buttermilk gives the cake, but you can use whole milk or 2% milk instead. I left out the brown sugar and replaced with more granulated sugar. No rhyme or reason here– just didn’t feel like reaching for both types of sugar this time. Between the cake and frosting, you’ll need 2-3 lemons. Both the juice and zest.

Lemon zest for lemon layer cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Let’s chat about the flour for a second.

The key to this recipe is using sifted all-purpose flour. Sifting the flour aerates it, creating an overall fluffier cake. Cake flour is too light for this lemon cake; my cakes were squat and flimsy. All-purpose flour is great, sifted all-purpose flour is much better. Sift flour in a large bowl, then measure 3 cups. Whenever the word “sifted” comes before an ingredient, that means you sift before measuring. (Alternatively, if the word “sifted” comes after an ingredient, sift after measuring.) Here’s my set of sifters. Love them. I’m using the medium one in this photo.

How to sift flour on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Lemon cake batter on sallysbakingaddiction.com

The lemon cake batter is velvety and thick. Divide between 3 9-inch or 8-inch cake pans– roughly the same bake time for both sizes. For a 2 layer cake, divide batter evenly between two 9-inch cake pans. Bake time will be longer, but you can use a toothpick to test for doneness. This lemon cake batter will fit into a 9×13-inch pan. Bake time will be close to 40 minutes. And while we’re on the subject of different size cakes, this recipe yields at least 30 lemon cupcakes. For 1 dozen cupcakes, here is my lemon cupcakes recipe. They taste identical to the cake!

Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream

I was torn between cream cheese frosting and lemon buttercream, so I combined the two by adding 8 ounces of cream cheese and a little extra confectioners’ sugar to lemon buttercream. The result is an infinitely CREAMY and BUTTERY lemon cream cheese frosting that I know you’ll love!!! Look at this stuff!!!

Creamy rich lemon cream cheese buttercream frosting made with butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and lemon juice. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Creamy rich lemon cream cheese buttercream frosting made with butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and lemon juice. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Glides on effortlessly.

Moist lemon cake with creamy lemon cream cheese buttercream frosting! Delicious homemade lemon cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Optional Garnishes!

The cake stand you see in my pictures is the brand Juliska. We received it for our wedding and I can’t find it anywhere online! Here is their line of cake stands.

Others I love:

Moist lemon cake with creamy lemon cream cheese buttercream frosting! Delicious homemade lemon cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Moist lemon cake with creamy lemon cream cheese buttercream frosting! Delicious homemade lemon cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Moist lemon cake with creamy lemon cream cheese buttercream frosting! Delicious homemade lemon cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Perfect lemon cake. Let me know when you try this beauty!

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (345g) sifted all-purpose flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 8 ounces (224g) full-fat brick style cream cheese, softened to room temperature5
  • 5 cups (600g) confectioners' sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients just until combined. With the mixer still running on low, add the buttermilk, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix just until combined. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be a little thick.
  4. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 21-26 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it's done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling. The baked cakes are fluffy, but they are not thick-- about 1 - 1.5 inches.
  5. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat until completely smooth and combined. Add confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin, more lemon juice if frosting is too thick, or add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I always add a pinch of salt!)
  6. Assemble and decorate: Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand, cake turntable, or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with about 1 cup of frosting. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with about 1 cup of frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Refrigerate for at least 30-45 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  7. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Make ahead tip: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Let the frosting sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting. Frosted cake or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving.

Recipe Notes:

  1. Sift all-purpose flour before measuring.
  2. Whole milk or 2% milk can be substituted for buttermilk. I don't recommend lower fat or fat free milk.
  3. For a vanilla cream cheese buttercream, replace lemon juice with milk or heavy cream in the frosting. Add an additional 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
  4. For a 2 layer cake, divide batter evenly between two 9-inch cake pans. Bake time will be longer; use a toothpick to test for doneness.
  5. Interested in lemon cupcakes? This recipe yields about 30 lemon cupcakes. Bake for 18-22 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. For 1 dozen cupcakes, here is my lemon cupcakes recipe. They taste identical to the cake!
  6. This batter will fit into a 9×13-inch pan. Fill 2/3 full. If there’s extra batter, you can make a few cupcakes. Bake time will be close to 40 minutes; use a toothpick to test for doneness.

Did you make a recipe?

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

Moist lemon cake with creamy lemon cream cheese buttercream frosting! Delicious homemade lemon cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

SHOP THE RECIPE

Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Love is Love Spatula | Zester | Sieve | 9-inch Round Pans | Icing Spatula | Icing Bags | Ateco #849 Closed Star Icing Tip | Cake Stand

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

143 Comments

Comments

  1. Amelia Sadler on August 28, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    Hi Sally,

    What frosting did you use to pipe on top on the pictures? The frosting here seems much too viscous to get that nice piped look. Did you make a separate batch?

    Thanks!

    • Sally on August 29, 2018 at 9:04 am

      Hi Amelia! That’s whipped cream piped on top 🙂

  2. Juan on August 29, 2018 at 6:01 am

    Made 1/4 of your recipe today for a test bake in a 6″ pan… was worried when I saw the color not browning as much. Did the skewer test, wire rack 10min and the drill before popping it out to cool completely. This is the BEST lemon cake I’ve ever tasted! Moist. Fluffy. Perfect crumb despite AP flour. I couldn’t stop eating. Was so excited I got my mum to do a blind tasting (I made another lemon cake using a different blogger’s recipe). And guess which recipe won? 😉 A huge thank you to you Sally for sharing this uh-maizing recipe!!!

  3. Joyce on August 29, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Hi Sally, making a birthday cake for my baby boy who turns 1 on Saturday. Did a cake test today, failed !! I did a 9” pan divided and weighed evenly for 2 pans. What did I do wrong it came out dense and not fluffy as people mentioned. What can I add to make it more moist and fluffy. More egg ? Buttermilk? Can I add plain greek yogurt ?

    • Sally on August 29, 2018 at 9:09 am

      Hi Joyce! This is a denser cake, not as airy as others. You can try adding another egg or perhaps folding in 2 beaten egg whites. Adding some fluffy beaten egg whites will help lift the cake crumb a bit.

      • Christa on September 6, 2018 at 9:29 am

        Hi Sally, I had the same issue with the cake being dense! When you say add 2 egg whites, this is in addition to the number of eggs already mentioned in the recipe, correct?



  4. Heather on August 31, 2018 at 8:40 am

    This was absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

    • Sally on August 31, 2018 at 10:07 am

      You are welcome, Heather! Glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Jana on September 2, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    Is it possible to do this cake with an egg alternative like flax egg or applesauce/baking powder?
    Thanks

    • Sally on September 3, 2018 at 10:24 am

      Hi Jana! I’ve never made this cake with an egg substitute, so I’m unable to give a definitive answer. Let me know if you try anything!

  6. Audra Martin on September 3, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Sally,

    I’m making this cake for my husband’s birthday and he loves lemon curd. Could I add a little in between the layers?

  7. Melissa Vincent on September 5, 2018 at 8:46 am

    This cake was AMAZING! The flavor was right on as was the moist texture. I received raves regarding the frosting. Thank you for an awesome recipe.

    • Sally on September 5, 2018 at 2:04 pm

      You are welcome, Melissa! Glad it was a hit 🙂

  8. Nomad on September 9, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    Hey Sally

    Since I’ve been making cakes I have always alternated the dry ingredients and the milk (buttermilk.) however your recipe says to add all the dry then all the milk.
    What difference does make to the cake?

    • Sally on September 9, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      I sometimes do that as well! It makes zero difference in the final baked good, but alternating makes mixing a little easier and quicker.

  9. Annie Park on September 10, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Absolutely brilliant cake and now a favourite. Made it twice in 2 days as it was a trial run for my daughter’s birthday (she requested lemon) and I’m not a fan of the drizzle cake. Took it to work and received many compliments. Thank you it was worth the search and I hit on the right one!

    • Sally on September 11, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      I’m thrilled that you found a lemon cake that worked for you! I hope she had a great birthday 🙂

  10. Petals on September 10, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Hi sally, I am thinking of making this for my son’s wedding. I have few questions.
    Can I use this cake as a nude cake?
    Is it stackable and how early can I make this.
    Thanks

    • Sally on September 11, 2018 at 12:31 pm

      Lemon makes a wonderful wedding cake flavor! Yes, it can be a naked cake and you should be able to stack it with the right supports in place if you are making multiple tiers. Please see the make ahead tips at the end of the recipe for make ahead directions 🙂

  11. Paula on September 12, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    I always come to your site first for recipes, Sally. I deviated, and tried a recipe my sister swears by…which my family didn’t like it at all. I also didn’t like it. So, today I tried a 1/2 recipe of your lemon cake. I made 2 6″ rounds. It is really good!!! I am a fan of all purpose flour vs cake flour, and I am not a fan of the reverse creaming method, so I was happy to see your recipe. Dense, but not tight and pound cake like. I added a little extra zest and switched the vanilla for lemon extract. As I like tall cakes, and each layer here is around 1- 1 1/4″ tall, would you suggest the full recipe in 2 6″ or doubling the recipe? Sometimes I torte my layers, but when I don’t, I like my layers to be around 1 1/2″ tall, at least. Thanks Sally!!!

    • Sally on September 13, 2018 at 9:25 pm

      Hi Paula! I’m so happy you trust my recipes. I really appreciate that! The full recipe would be way too much for 2 6-inch cake pans. I would still make the full recipe though and fill the cake pans about 2/3 – 3/4 full. You could even do 3 layers that way then. Use any extra batter for cupcakes, if desired.

      • Paula on September 15, 2018 at 12:38 pm

        Thanks Sally!! Will pair nicely with my homemade lemon curd…and I will try your lemon cream cheese buttercream as well!!!!



      • Paula on September 15, 2018 at 12:48 pm

        Sorry for so many comments/questions! Can this recipe be double in the same bowl??



  12. Danielle on September 16, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    Do I need to alter the recipe at all for high altitude? I’m I Colorado 🙂

  13. Karen J on September 18, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Sally. I love your recipes. You are my go to for my baking fixes. Can I put fresh blueberries in batter to make it a lemon blueberry cake?

  14. Karen J on September 18, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it .
    Thanks for responding so quickly.

Reviews

  1. Penny Fraker on July 11, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    I made this beauty today and it did not disappoint! I made 3, 8-inch layers. They baked up perfectly flat for stacking. My layers were about 3/4 inch tall. I forgot the cream cheese so I just made a lemon buttercream. I have baked other lemon cakes that didn’t taste very lemon-y, but this one has lots of delicious lemon flavor! The cake is moist and has a somewhat dense texture, but not too dense, which I love. It’s a keeper for sure! Thank you Sally 🙂

    • Sally on July 12, 2018 at 9:19 pm

      Hi Penny! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review. So glad you tried and loved this lemon cake!

  2. Jessica on July 15, 2018 at 8:02 am

    My daughter and I made this yesterday to celebrate her 13th birthday. It was utterly delicious! I told her to pick a recipe and she would only choose one from you, Sally. You have earned one more fan!

    • Sally on July 16, 2018 at 1:52 pm

      That is so sweet! Please tell her happy birthday from me! 🙂

  3. SallyT on July 29, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    I made this today – did 1/2 recipe for the cake, full frosting recipe, and made 3 8″ layers – they were thin but delicious! My frosting was REALLY runny but I didn’t want to add much more sugar, so put it in the fridge for 30 min and it was perfect. Cake was a BIG hit! (and wasn’t dense AT ALL like previous reviews – very light and fluffy)

    • Sally on July 30, 2018 at 1:55 pm

      Yay! Glad you enjoyed it!!

  4. Juan on August 29, 2018 at 6:01 am

    Made 1/4 of your recipe today for a test bake in a 6″ pan… was worried when I saw the color not browning as much. Did the skewer test, wire rack 10min and the drill before popping it out to cool completely. This is the BEST lemon cake I’ve ever tasted! Moist. Fluffy. Perfect crumb despite AP flour. I couldn’t stop eating. Was so excited I got my mum to do a blind tasting (I made another lemon cake using a different blogger’s recipe). And guess which recipe won? 😉 A huge thank you to you Sally for sharing this uh-maizing recipe!!!

  5. Heather on August 31, 2018 at 8:40 am

    This was absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

    • Sally on August 31, 2018 at 10:07 am

      You are welcome, Heather! Glad you enjoyed it!

  6. Annie Park on September 10, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Absolutely brilliant cake and now a favourite. Made it twice in 2 days as it was a trial run for my daughter’s birthday (she requested lemon) and I’m not a fan of the drizzle cake. Took it to work and received many compliments. Thank you it was worth the search and I hit on the right one!

    • Sally on September 11, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      I’m thrilled that you found a lemon cake that worked for you! I hope she had a great birthday 🙂

Questions

  1. amanda vogtlin on August 28, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    Do you have a lactose intolerant lemon cake or have substitution suggestions?
    Thanks Sally

    • Sally on August 29, 2018 at 9:08 am

      Hi Amanda! No, I don’t have a lactose intolerant lemon cake recipe. I have little experience baking dairy free, but you can try vegan butter (I hear Earth Balance is great!) and nondairy milk.

  2. Vickie on August 28, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    I noticed there was no oil in recipe, any particular reason for that? Just wanted to make sure before I bake for my dad’s 80th birthday. Thank you so much for recipe.

    • Sally on August 28, 2018 at 1:32 pm

      Hi Vickie! This is a creamed butter/sugar based cake, so there is no need for additional fat. It’s plenty moist!

  3. Amelia Sadler on August 28, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    Hi Sally,

    What frosting did you use to pipe on top on the pictures? The frosting here seems much too viscous to get that nice piped look. Did you make a separate batch?

    Thanks!

    • Sally on August 29, 2018 at 9:04 am

      Hi Amelia! That’s whipped cream piped on top 🙂

  4. Joyce on August 29, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Hi Sally, making a birthday cake for my baby boy who turns 1 on Saturday. Did a cake test today, failed !! I did a 9” pan divided and weighed evenly for 2 pans. What did I do wrong it came out dense and not fluffy as people mentioned. What can I add to make it more moist and fluffy. More egg ? Buttermilk? Can I add plain greek yogurt ?

    • Sally on August 29, 2018 at 9:09 am

      Hi Joyce! This is a denser cake, not as airy as others. You can try adding another egg or perhaps folding in 2 beaten egg whites. Adding some fluffy beaten egg whites will help lift the cake crumb a bit.

      • Christa on September 6, 2018 at 9:29 am

        Hi Sally, I had the same issue with the cake being dense! When you say add 2 egg whites, this is in addition to the number of eggs already mentioned in the recipe, correct?



  5. Jana on September 2, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    Is it possible to do this cake with an egg alternative like flax egg or applesauce/baking powder?
    Thanks

    • Sally on September 3, 2018 at 10:24 am

      Hi Jana! I’ve never made this cake with an egg substitute, so I’m unable to give a definitive answer. Let me know if you try anything!

  6. Nomad on September 9, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    Hey Sally

    Since I’ve been making cakes I have always alternated the dry ingredients and the milk (buttermilk.) however your recipe says to add all the dry then all the milk.
    What difference does make to the cake?

    • Sally on September 9, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      I sometimes do that as well! It makes zero difference in the final baked good, but alternating makes mixing a little easier and quicker.

  7. Petals on September 10, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Hi sally, I am thinking of making this for my son’s wedding. I have few questions.
    Can I use this cake as a nude cake?
    Is it stackable and how early can I make this.
    Thanks

    • Sally on September 11, 2018 at 12:31 pm

      Lemon makes a wonderful wedding cake flavor! Yes, it can be a naked cake and you should be able to stack it with the right supports in place if you are making multiple tiers. Please see the make ahead tips at the end of the recipe for make ahead directions 🙂

  8. Danielle on September 16, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    Do I need to alter the recipe at all for high altitude? I’m I Colorado 🙂

  9. Karen J on September 18, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Sally. I love your recipes. You are my go to for my baking fixes. Can I put fresh blueberries in batter to make it a lemon blueberry cake?

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