The Best Lemon Cake Recipe

This flavorful and moist Lemon Cake recipe with homemade lemon curd and a light and fluffy lemon buttercream is truly a delicious, bright cake that will easily become a new fan favorite.

Slice of lemon cake on a plate.

Moist Lemon Cake Recipe

Hard to believe that with all the lemon flavored cakes on my blog, I actually don’t have a basic lemon cake recipe. That is, until now!

A lemon cake recipe is long overdue on CakebyCourtney.com and I’m so excited to share with you this delicious, new lemon cake recipe with lemon curd and lemon buttercream.

So what’s different about this lemon cake?

You’ll notice, I have several lemon cake recipes on my blog. Some are light and fluffy, some are slightly more dense, some are flavored with Jell-O, while others are flavored naturally. It’s really fun to create different types of cake recipes that have the same flavor profile, because we all like different flavors and textures of cake.

Here’s a little rundown of the cakes:

So we’ve got a few variations, which hopefully means you find the perfect lemon cake for you!

For my new Lemon Cake recipe, my number one goal was to make sure it was MOIST! Sometimes, cakes with only egg whites, can over bake easily and taste dry. The goal for this one was to make it as fool proof as possible.

Yellow lemon cake on a cake stand.

Ingredients You Need for Lemon Cake

  • Cake flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • 3 large lemons
  • Eggs
  • Buttermilk
  • Food coloring, optional
Taking a slice out of a whole lemon cake.

How to Make Moist Lemon Cake from Scratch

To make a moist lemon cake from scratch, be sure to follow these tips:

  1. Use room temperature ingredients – any ingredient you store in the refrigerator should be room temperature before you start making your cake. Room temperature ingredients better blend together and are better absorbed by the dry ingredients – which both help to create a high rise and moist cake.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and eggs well – these first few ingredients need to be mixed on a medium high speed for a few minutes before you add anything else. Specifically, start with beating the butter and sugar together on a medium-high speed to lighten the texture and create a little air in the mixture. You’ll then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. THEN, after the eggs are adding, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and continue to mix on medium-high speed for a couple minutes. We want the mixture to be smooth, lighter in color, and fluffy in texture.
  3. Don’t over-mix the batter when you add dry ingredients – once you start adding dry ingredients, you’ll want to make sure your mixer is on low speed. Over-mixing the cake batter can cause it to be dense and sink because you overwork the gluten (the flour).
  4. Be sure not to over-bake the cakes – sometimes are cakes taste dry because we’ve simply over-baked them. As you bake recipes, from me or any author, be sure to watch the baked good during the last few minutes of baking. Take note if your oven bakes faster or slower than given times. You may need to adjust for your oven, since all ovens act so differently.
Woman holding a plate of cake.

How to Make Homemade Lemon Curd

Adding lemon curd to any cake is almost unfair to the cake because no matter how delicious the cake is, homemade lemon curd always steals the show!

You will only need a handful of simple ingredients to make the lemon curd:

  • Granulated sugar
  • Lemon zest from one large lemon
  • Lemon juice 
  • Eggs
  • Egg yolks
  • Unsalted butter
Ingredients to make lemon curd

First, whisk the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. In a separate bowl, whisk together your eggs and egg yolks, and then whisk them into the lemon mixture. Do this before you turn on the stove, or right at the beginning. Adding the eggs too late after the sugar mixture has been heating can create an egg-y flavor in the curd.

Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until it’s thick like pudding. This usually takes 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and then whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time, until it is all incorporated.

Once everything is all mixed in together nicely, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. It helps to push it through with a rubber spatula. Lastly, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the lemon curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate it until it is completely set. I recommend at least 4 hours. But it can be stored for up to 5 days!

Homemade lemon curd in a class bowl.

Tips for the Best Buttercream Frosting

Making homemade buttercream is a game changer, compared to anything you’ll buy at the store. I have a couple key tips for making the best buttercream frosting every time:

  1. Sift the powdered sugar
  2. Beat the butter on its own for a few minutes
  3. Use a little heavy whipping cream
  4. Beat all of the ingredients together on medium-high for a few minutes.

Read more about how to make the best buttercream HERE.

Slice of lemon cake on a plate.

You may notice my lemon curd in this picture is extra bright. I used organic eggs that had a more orange yolk, which added a real pop of color to the curd!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make the cake layers ahead of time?

You bet! You can make each element ahead of time, actually, and store things separately.

If you make the cake layers ahead of time, allow them to cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap and then freeze them.

The lemon curd can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

The buttercream can also be store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Just be sure to let it get back to room temperature and re-beat it before using.

Can I make the entire cake ahead of time?

Yes again! After you assemble and decorate the cake, place it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. This will set the outer buttercream design. Once the buttercream is set, wrap it with plastic wrap.

The night before you want to serve it, move it to the refrigerator with the wrap still on. About 6 to 8 hours before serving, place the cake at room temperature and remove the plastic wrap. If you have a cake dome, it’s best to cover the cake while it thaws completely.

Slice of lemon cake on a plate.

Lemon Cake

Lemon cake layers with lemon curd and lemon buttercream
5 from 37 votes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Cake
Servings 20

Ingredients
  

FOR THE CAKE

  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
  • 2 tsp (8 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp (2 g) baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp (3 g) salt
  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp (9 g) lemon zest, one large lemon
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (83 g) fresh lemon juice, about three large lemons
  • 1 cup (240 g) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1-3 drops yellow food coloring, optional (I used Americolor Lemon Yellow)

FOR THE CURD

  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp (9 g) grated lemon zest, one large lemon
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, about 3 large lemons
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tbsp (56.5 g) unsalted butter, cold

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

  • 2 cups (446 g) unsalted butter, slightly cold
  • 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar, measured and then sifted
  • 2 tsp (8.4 g) lemon extract
  • 1/4 cup (57.5 g) heavy whipping cream
  • pinch of salt
  • *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake, as decorated above. If you want additional piping, you'll want to make an extra ½ batch.

Instructions
 

FOR THE CAKE

  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans or four 6-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
  • In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk and lemon juice. Set aside.
  • In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and zest together on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl and begin to add the eggs and egg whites, one at a time, scraping down the sides and the bottom of the bowl and mixing well between each addition. Mix on medium-high speed until no grains of sugar remain, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Be sure not to over mix. Over mixing your cake batter will cause it to sink. ***As you add the last of the buttermilk mixture, this is a good time to start coloring your batter if you'd like it a brighter yellow.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, about 18 ounces in each 8-inch pan or about 13 ounces in each 6-inch pan. Bake the cake layers for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out with a few moist crumbs on it. Allow the cake layers to cool in the pans on wire racks for about 10 to 15 minutes. Invert cake layers onto a wire rack to cool completely. TIP: spray your wire rack with nonstick spray to prevent the cake layers from sticking.
  • Allow to cool completely before wrapping in plastic wrap and storing in the freezer until ready to decorate.

FOR THE CURD

  • This element is best done a day or two ahead of stacking and decorating your cake.
  • Whisk the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the whole eggs and yolks in a small bowl and then whisk them into the lemon mixture.
  • Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it's thick like pudding, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time until incorporated.
  • Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pushing it through with a rubber spatula. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely set, at least 4 hours and up to 5 days. 

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  • Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the powdered sugar, followed by the cream, salt and lemon extract. Mix until combined. Add yellow food coloring, if using. Mix until incorporated completely. Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat the frosting for about 5 minutes.
  • Before applying the buttercream to your cake, use wooden spoon to beat the frosting by hand for about 2 minutes to push out any air pockets. 

ASSEMBLY

  • Spread a small dollop of frosting onto a cake board. Place the first cake layer, top side up, on the board.
  • Spread about a half cup of frosting over the cake layer and pipe a rim of frosting around the edge of the cake to create a barrier to the filling.
  • Spread about ¼ cup of the curd in the center of the cake, carefully spreading it to the edge of the piping.
  • Place a second cake layer on top of the piped frosting and filling and repeat step 2 and 3. Place the final cake layer, top side up, on the second layer of filling.
  • Lightly coat the cake with a thin layer of frosting to lock in the crumbs. Freeze the cake for about 10 to 15 minutes to set the frosting.
  • Finish frosting and decorating the cake with the remaining frosting. Serve a spoonful of the remaining lemon curd with each slice of cake.
Keyword Intermediate, Lemon buttercream, Lemon Cake, Lemon curd
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Courtney Rich

I’m a self-taught baker, obsessed with cake.

I long ago ditched box mixes in pursuit of melt-in-your-mouth, to-die-for flavor combinations, fillings and textures. I believe cake must be decadent, life-changing and worthy of celebration! And I believe anyone should be able to bake that kind of cake – and I’m here to teach you just that!

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  1. 5 stars
    Thank you very much for sharing, this cake was so light and delicious.
    Just wondering if this will be hold up under fondant please

  2. Can’t wait to try this cake for Mother’s Day. All of your cakes have turned out fabulous for me!
    Edit: in step 7 of the cake steps, you have add blueberries:-) I think it carried over from the other cake

  3. For the cake ingredients it says two egg whites and two eggs but it only says to add the two egg whites to the batter. Is that correct?

  4. Are there really blueberries in this cake like the recipe says? The picture shows just a lemon colored cake and I wondered if I’m missing something? Thanks

  5. I used a recipe similar to this. The cake was in 4 layers and you brushed each top with lemon sugar syrup, two layers were lemon curd, and the middle and top layers were lemon buttercream. I lost the recipe and will use this one to make my cake. Thanks.