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lemon layer cake with lemon cream cheese frosting

Citrus season is here, and we’re celebrating with lemon layer cake made from scratch with real lemons! You’ll love this soft lemon cake topped with lemon cream cheese frosting.

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Flavored with fresh lemon zest and juice, this easy lemon cake bakes up perfectly fluffy and moist. Topped with sweet and creamy lemon cream cheese frosting, this cake is a lemon lover’s dream!

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

How to Make the Perfect Lemon Layer Cake

Room Temperature Ingredients – Bring butter, eggs, buttermilk, and Greek yogurt to room temperature before beginning. Room temperature ingredients incorporate more easily and create a smooth cake batter.

Cake Pans – Bake this cake in two 8-inch round cake pans. To prepare the pans for baking, spray the pans with non-stick baking spray and line each pan with a round of parchment paper.

Bake – Bake cake layers for 24 to 25 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached.

Lemon Syrup – In the last 5 minutes of baking, combine lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and syrup thickens, about 4 minutes.

Cool – Remove pans from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Brush the warm cake layers with lemon syrup and let cool for 1 hour. Remove cake layers from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting – To make the frosting, beat butter, cream cheese, and salt until combined. Mix in vanilla extract and fresh lemon zest. Gradually add powdered sugar, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in lemon juice and beat frosting until smooth.

Assembly – Place one cake layer on a rotating cake stand and use an offset spatula to swirl lemon cream cheese frosting over the cake. Add the second cake layer and chill the stacked cake for 20 minutes.

Apply a layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake while you rotate the cake stand, then gently smooth the sides with a bench scraper. If desired, pipe remaining frosting decoratively on the top cake layer. Chill the frosted cake for 30 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead – The cake can be made and assembled a day ahead and refrigerated overnight. Before serving, let the cake stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Best Lemons to Use

I love baking with Meyer lemons and highly recommend them. Meyer lemons are a cross between regular lemons and mandarin oranges, and the zest and juice is sweet and aromatic. If you can’t find Meyer lemons, you can also use regular lemons. Regular lemons will add a slightly more tangy, zesty flavor to the cake and frosting.

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Our favorite lemon desserts:

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

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Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Author: Laura | Tutti Dolci
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
  • Yield: 1 8-inch cake
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Lemon layer cake made from scratch with real lemons! You’ll love this soft lemon cake topped with lemon cream cheese frosting.


Ingredients

Lemon Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (see note below)
  • 1 1/2 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt, at room temperature

Lemon Syrup

  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp sugar

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 oz full fat cream cheese, at cool room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and spray two 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the cake pans with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Beat butter and sugar in a large mixer bowl at medium speed until light and fluffy; beat in lemon zest and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Combine buttermilk and Greek yogurt in a small bowl. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk mixture (begin and end with flour mixture).
  4. Divide batter evenly between cake pans and smooth with an offset spatula. Tap pans sharply to reduce air bubbles.
  5. Bake cake layers for 24 to 25 minutes, until the top and edges are golden, cakes spring back to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached.
  6. In the last five minutes of baking, make the lemon syrup. Combine lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and syrup thickens, about 4 minutes. Remove pans from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Brush the warm cake layers with lemon syrup and let cool 1 hour. Remove cake layers from pan and cool completely on wire racks.
  7. For the lemon cream cheese frosting, beat butter, cream cheese, and salt in a large mixer bowl on medium speed until combined. Beat in vanilla and lemon zest. Mix in powdered sugar on low speed 1 cup at a time until incorporated, scraping down bowl as needed. Mix in lemon juice and beat frosting until smooth. If frosting is too soft to use immediately, chill for 15 to 20 minutes in the refrigerator before using.
  8. To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a rotating cake stand and use an offset spatula to swirl frosting over the cake. Add the second cake layer and chill the stacked cake for 20 minutes.
  9. Use offset spatula to apply a layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake while you rotate the cake stand, then use a bench scraper to gently smooth the edges of the cake and remove any excess frosting. If desired, pipe remaining frosting decoratively on the top cake layer. Chill the frosted cake for 30 minutes before serving.
  10. Store leftover cake covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days; bring to room temperature before serving.


Notes

Lemons: I made this cake with Meyer lemons. A cross between regular lemons and mandarin oranges, the zest and juice is sweet and aromatic. If you can’t find Meyer lemons, you can also use regular lemons. Regular lemons will add a slightly more tangy, zesty flavor to the cake and frosting.

To make your own cake flour: For every 1 cup of cake flour, place 2 tablespoons cornstarch in an empty 1-cup measure, then top up with all-purpose flour. Sift the mixture several times to evenly distribute the cornstarch.

Make Ahead: The cake can be baked, cooled, and frosted one day in advance. Cover the frosted cake and chill overnight. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products I use and love!

Keywords: Lemon Cake, Layer Cake, Cream Cheese Frosting

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7 Comments

  1. This cake is divine! Light, fluffy, with perfect lemon flavor. The lemon cream cheese frosting is incredible too (my kids couldn’t stop “sampling” it). Highly recommend this recipe!

  2. Wonderful lemon cake! The cake is soft and buttery, with nice lemon flavor, and the frosting is perfectly sweet and tangy.

  3. Made this! So good! Perfect height for a two-layer cake and the lemon flavor is delicious.