Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream

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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!

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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. I like to top mine with homemade whipped cream (I used Wilton 8B piping tip).
  7. Refrigerate for at least 30-45 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  8. 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.

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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. 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.

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.

206 Comments

  1. Hi Sally,
    I am hoping to use this cake recipe for a rainbow layer cake for my daughter’s birthday party. I trialled a bake with a white chocolate mud which came together well, but I am not fond of white chocolate mud- I chose it as I thought the texture of the cake would be easier for me to handle as a novice baker.

    I wonder if you think this recipe would be suitable for a rainbow cake. (1) will the batter colour up nicely and (2) is the baked cake loose and crumbly which will make it hard for me to cut the tops and sides off the layers, and then hard to frost. It certainly looks delicious and if I weren’t worried about having to colour, layer and decorate it, it would definitely be my cake of choice!

    Thanks for your time.
    Elin
    Melbourne, Australia

    1. Hi Elin! Thank you so much for asking me and I’m happy to help! This cake would be fantastic for a rainbow cake. You may need to play around with the colors a bit because this cake (and batter) are a little yellow. When cooled, the cakes layer off nicely and easily. No matter what, cakes are easier to frost when cold so you can always chill the layers in the refrigerator before assembling.

      1. Thank you for taking the time to reply!! I feel more confident now and will definitely give it a trial today. x

      2. Hi Sally, just a midway report. So I baked the cake layers yesterday and everything went well!! I was a little hesitant at first because the batter looked very runny- I had to use a lot of food colouring (shh!! don’t tell the parents) in order to get the colours to come through vibrantly- I offset it by sprinkling a bit more flour while I was mixing the colours in. When the cake layers were baked, the colours came through fine (purple was a bit dull but others were good) but the cake felt a bit crumble and loose, and I was a little worried. I popped them in the fridge, and later that night, I took them out and cut off the sides and the tops. Well, that went so smoothly! After fridging them, the layers firmed up and handled fine. So I now have 6 beautiful layers waiting to be assembled and iced on Sat night. That will be the final hurdle. Bonus is that I tasted the offcuts and loved how the cake tasted, much more than I did the trial white chocolate mud which I baked. 🙂 I will try and make the offcuts into cake pops to decorate. I hope to have a beautiful cake to show you on Sat night! Thanks so much!
        Elin

  2. Hi Sally,

    You mentioned sifting the flour before measuring the three cups. I always sift when noted in recipe but I may have not measured post sift as you mentioned. I have been using a scale for much of my baking (at least with majority of your recipes). Am I correct that I should sift first and then weigh the sifted flour to end up with the 345 g?

    Thanks!

    P.S. I made your Halloween Peeps Sandwich Cookies for one of three daycare treats for my granddaughters. Wow! Those are so yummy! One of those “sandwiches” was my lunch my day of baking.

  3. This recipe is excellent! In my new baking interest, I’ve followed about 5 other recipes that I googled, and this one led me to making the best cake, with a perfect amount of icing. Thanks!

  4. Planning to make this cake for my granddaughter’s birthday next week. She wants a lemon cake (for her individual cake). Also making Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes for the party guests (and kids). Her theme is “Emoji” (LOL)! I want to decorate the cake using the frosting and most likely using a star tip to create an Emoji face. Will this cream cheese frosting work well? I usually use just a normal buttercream frosting when doing cakes so unsure about the cream cheese and proper consistency. I guess I can just make my normal frosting and not worry about the frosting in this recipe. The cake should taste great with a regular buttercream frosting right?

    1. Hi Laurie! What a cute sounding cake! If you’d like to pipe cream cheese frosting, I recommend refrigerating it for 30 minutes before piping. It holds its shape beautifully. Regular buttercream works with this cake too, yes!

      1. Thanks for response on my frosting question. As much as I love a cream cheese frosting I may just stick with my usual buttercream since I need to decorate to look like the cute girl winking emoji with a pink bow. I have a few days to make my final design decision. I am also thinking I could do the cream cheese frosting on the cake but then do the emoji design on a circle of fondant and then just place the fondant on top of the cake. Also my son’s birthday is in a couple weeks and I’m going to make your Black Forest cake. So funny you posted this cake because just a couple of weeks ago my son brought up his memory of a Black Forest cake my mother made for our family Christmas Eve dessert. After he mentioned that and then coincidentally your post showed up I had a great idea to make your cake for his birthday. He will be thrilled! I won’t do the Kirsch since my three young granddaughters will be eating the cake too. Have I mentioned I LOVE your site?!

  5. Great recipe! I made this cake for my brother’s birthday dinner today and it was a hit. So delicious! The cake was fluffy, extremely moist, and very flavorful. The frosting was divine. It’s definitely a keeper! Thank you Sally!

  6. Hi Sally,

    This cake looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it! I’ve seen many other recipes where the lemon cakes are filled with a form of buttercream and then a few dollops of lemon curd inside. Would this go well with this recipe? Or is the lemon taste already quite strong that adding curd in between layers would overpower it?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Yes! You can freeze the frosting for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using to decorate.

  7. This cake was so good! The icing was so amazing! The whole thing tasted so great! My family loved it so much! Thank you so much!

  8. Hi Sally, I trialed-ran this recipe for my daughter’s christening cake for end of month. It tasted great! However it the layers were rose to different levels and I felt the icing was to not hard enough. Any tips to make butter icing harden better- the cake will be standing out for an hour maybe. This is a big rookie question but if I leave batter out (covered) and bake the layers separately after each other- is that ok?

    1. Hi Gemma! Are you saying that the icing was melting or was too creamy? You can leave the cake batter out at room temperature as the other layers bake. Cover loosely as it waits.

      1. Hi Sally, yes, the icing was melting…
        Thanks for the tips, I will bake separately next time! Hi from Germany! Love your site!

  9. Hey,
    One question do i have to leave tge cake for 5 days in the fridge before i can eat it?
    Or does ut just mean that the cake last for 5 days?
    Might be silly to ask but im nkt reallz sure.
    Thanks a lot

  10. Hi Sally. I want to make a pinata cake with this recipe. Do you suggest me 1.5x ing the recipe to make 4 layers or just doubling it and make a mini cake with the extra batter?

    1. Either way would work! Although I would suggest that you make it in two batches rather than just doubling it – you run the risk of over or under mixing the batter with that much in your mixer.

  11. Hi Sally! I love your recipes, because they always succeed! Now I tried this recipe and it came out really dense. Maybe I just whipped it a bit too long. Or is it because the baking soda is missing? Usually you add baking soda when you have acid ingredients, but in this one you don’t. Or is the cake supposed to be more dense in comparison to say, your triple layered chocolate devil cake. Would love to hear from you!! Because I’m looking for a good lemon cake! Thanks!!

    1. Make sure you are sifting your flour. Sifting the flour aerates it, creating an overall fluffier cake. You want to sift and then measure 🙂

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