Sunshine-sweet lemon layer cake dotted with juicy blueberries and topped with lush cream cheese frosting. Take a bite and taste the bursts of bright flavors!
What on earth is a lusciously fruit-filled recipe like this doing on my kitchen table in February? Because I’m desperately craving some sunshine, pastels, and floral sweaters as I watch the snow fall out my window.
While I know the east coast hasn’t been hit nearly as hard as the midwest, we’ve had more snow than we know what to do with. My parents didn’t have electric for days, our home flooded, cars got stuck, and there were a handful of days with a -10 windchill. Brrr.
I love the snow, but someone pass me a fork. I’m diving headfirst into this sunshine-sweet, springtime layer cake and not coming out until it’s April.
I made this cake for my girlfriends, Megan and Erin. The three of us got together on Friday night and had a little dinner party at Megan’s house. We drank wine, ate chicken piccata, toasted almond goat cheese salad, and fresh blackberry cheesecake for dessert. Made by Megan, who is a photographer, cupcake enthusiast, and accountant. Megan taught me a lot about photography.
On top of all of that, I brought over a few slices of this cake and a fresh batch of oatmeal cookies. It was our own little Thanksgiving. And yes, I’m still full!
Megan’s husband said the cake reminded him of a super moist sponge cake. Megan and Erin said the lemon flavor was spot on, as well as the cream cheese frosting’s sweetness. Not too sweet, not too tangy. The perfect accompaniment to the lip-smackin’ cake underneath.
Making a tall layer cake shouldn’t be overwhelming. Rather, it’s very simple if you take your time. Read the recipe and know ahead of time everything you’ll need and at which point you’ll need it. I’ve got a few pointers about this luscious cake. And I guarantee you will impress anyone who takes a bite!
Make sure you use fresh lemons. None of that lemon extract stuff! And no bottled lemon juice, which is quite potent.
* How to choose lemons at the store? Make sure the lemons you choose are smooth-skinned and heavy for their size. That way you know they are extra juicy.
Use buttermilk. Buttermilk, known for providing exceptional moisture to your baked goods, will leave each bite tender and lush. I’ve found that lemon cakes can easily be dry and gritty. There’s none of that in this recipe! Buttermilk, a little brown sugar, and 4 eggs assure the final product is as moist as it could possibly be without being wet.
* Did you know? It’s easy to make your own buttermilk alternative at home! I don’t typically keep buttermilk in the refrigerator. But you can sour your own milk (1% milk fat or higher) at home to make DIY buttermilk. For this particular recipe, simply measure 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice in a measuring cup/glass. Then fill the rest up with milk until you reach 1 full cup. Stir it around, let sit for 5 minutes, and it will be ready to use in your cake. (Alternatively, you could also use 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar.)
Fresh or frozen blueberries are OK. If using frozen, do not thaw. And don’t worry – the blueberries will not sink to the bottom of your cakes.
* Why not? Because I make sure the cake batter is extra thick. When you have a thin batter, your heavy fruit will likely sink to the bottom. This batter is thick and you’ll surely work a few arm muscles scooping it into the three cake pans. Toss the blueberries in a touch of flour as well – this way they won’t burst inside and turn your cake purple.
The frosting is lightly tangy, gently sweet, and not heavy in the slightest. It’s taken me a few years to find the perfect harmony of ingredients for this iconic frosting, but I’ve found it. It tastes like spreadable cheesecake. Yep.
It’s quite similar to the cream cheese frosting recipes I’ve made in the past, only doubled to assure there’s enough for this tall layered lemon beauty. I’m fairly certain you’ll want to spread it on nearly everything you bake from strawberry cupcakes to cinnamon rolls.
* How to assemble and frost this layer cake: Once the layers are 100% cooled, you may frost and assemble. You’ll be working with three layers. First, using a large serrated knife, trim the tops off the cake layers to create a flat surface. Place 1 layer on your cake stand. Evenly cover the top with cream cheese frosting. Top with 2nd layer, more frosting, then the third layer. Top with frosting and spread around the sides. The recipe doesn’t make a ton of frosting, just enough for a light frost.
The beauty of this cake is that the frosting doesn’t have to be neat. Its haphazardness adds to its charm, don’t you think?
Decorate with blueberries, lemon zest, lemon slices, whatever you like!
For when you really need something to cheer you up, this cake will transport you to sunny days, lemonade stands, and citrus fields. Take a bite!
More lemon-y recipes for you!
- Iced Lemon Pound Cake
- Glazed Lemon Poppyseed Donuts
- Meyer Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes
- Lemon Coconut Cake
- Glazed Lemon Blueberry Scones
- Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
- Lemon Sweet Rolls
- Blueberry Sweet Rolls with Lemon Glaze
Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake
- 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 and 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature*
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups (345g) sifted all-purpose flour, (spoon & leveled)*
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk*
- zest + juice of 3 medium lemons*
- 1 and 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh (258g) or frozen (do not thaw-- 275g)
- 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces (224g) full-fat brick style cream cheese, softened to room temperature*
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 and 1/2 cups (420g) confectioners' sugar
- 1 - 2 Tablespoons (15-30ml) heavy cream*
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease and lightly flour three 9x2 inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- Make the cake: Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high until creamy - about 1 minute. Add granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until everything is completely combined, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Set aside.
- In a large sized bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat on low speed for 5 seconds, then add the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Remove from the mixer and stir lightly until everything is just combined. Toss the blueberries in 1 Tablespoon of flour and fold into the batter. Batter is extremely thick. Do not overmix at any point. Overmixing will lend a tough, dense textured crumb.
- Spoon batter evenly into 3 prepared cake pans. If only using 2 cake pans, your bake time will be longer. Bake the three layers for about 21-26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine took 21 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.
- Make the frosting: Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until no lumps remain, about 3 full minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, 1 Tablespoon cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add 1 more Tablespoon of cream to thin out, if desired.
- Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, trim the tops off the cake layers to create a flat surface. Place 1 layer on your cake stand. Evenly cover the top with cream cheese frosting. Top with 2nd layer, more frosting, then the third layer. Top with frosting and spread around the sides. The recipe doesn't make a ton of frosting, just enough for a light frost. Top with blueberries or lemon garnish if desired. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before cutting or else the cake may fall apart as you cut.
- Make ahead tip: Prepare cakes and frosting 1 day in advance. Keep cakes at room temperature, covered tightly. Refrigerate prepared frosting in an airtight container until ready to use. Frosted or unfrosted cakes may be frozen up to 2 months, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature if desired before serving.
- The batter makes a perfect sheet cake! Simply spread into a 12x17 inch half sheet/jelly roll pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until cooked through. It also fits nicely into a 9×13 inch cake pan. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until cooked through.
- Room temperature eggs preferred for even distribution among batter. Simply set into a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes before using or set out when you set out your cream cheese/butter for the recipe.
- Be very careful not to overmeasure your flour. This will result in a heavy, dense crumb. You want a precise 345g all-purpose flour. For a lighter crumb, you can use 3 + 1/4 cups (about 325g) sifted cake flour instead.
- Please use buttermilk in this recipe. See note in post about how to make a DIY version at home.
- 1 medium-size lemon = approximately 1 tablespoon of lemon zest = 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.
- Use brick-style cream cheese. Not cream cheese spread.
- Heavy cream with 30% or more milk fat preferred in frosting for creamiest texture. For a less creamy texture, milk would be fine.
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PS: Try today’s cake with homemade strawberry whipped cream instead of cream cheese frosting. You’ll want to double my recipe here to frost this layer cake.
Here’s my recipe for Homemade Lemon Cupcakes – a reader favorite!
And just wait until you turn to page 126 in my cookbook. 🙂