Light and fluffy, this Homemade Lemon Cake features not only two layers of lemon cake but also a lemon curd filling and lemon buttercream frosting. It’s the trifecta of lemon flavors while still being easy to make that makes this the perfect spring dessert!
Homemade Lemon Layer Cake
If you love lemon, you have to try this lemon layer cake. With homemade lemon curd sandwiched between two soft, pillowy layers of cake, all topped with lemon buttercream each bite will light up your taste buds! The bold lemon flavor also helps prevent this dessert from becoming too sweet and makes it perfect for spring and summer.
This layer cake is very similar to my lemon cupcake recipe, with just a few changes. So if cupcakes are your thing, go check that recipe out as well.
If you’ve never made a layer cake before, don’t worry – this recipe is extremely easy and one that even a beginner baker can master.
Why I Love This Cake
This lemon curd cake has so many things going for it that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I love it so much. Here are just a few of the reasons!
- The lemon curd filling is SO good
- Sweet but not TOO sweet
- Light and fluffy texture
- Fresh lemon flavor
- Great layer cake for beginners
What You’ll Need
This lemon dessert is made with pantry staples, buttermilk, fresh lemons, and lemon curd!
- Flour – I used cake flour. See below for how to make your own if you don’t have any.
- Baking powder – The leavening agent that allows the cake layers to rise.
- Eggs – Room temperature.
- Buttermilk – I like buttermilk for both the tang as well as the fact it creates a more tender crumb. See below for what to do if you don’t have any.
- Lemon – Both the zest and juice of a lemon are used.
- Vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar – Used to make the homemade icing.
- Lemon curd – While you can buy this in the store, I used my 15 minute homemade lemon curd.
What If I Don’t Have Any Cake Flour?
If you don’t have any cake flour on hand, you can make your own by adding cornstarch to regular flour.
Measure out a cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons, then add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Combine well. This equals 1 cup of cake flour.
Homemade Buttermilk Hack
No buttermilk, no problem! Instead of skipping the buttermilk or buying a pint that’s going to go to waste, you can simply make your own by adding vinegar to milk.
Measure out just under 1 cup of milk. Add a tablespoon of vinegar. Then top it off with any extra milk needed to make it 1 full cup. Stir and let it sit for a few minutes before using in this lemon layer cake or other recipes.
How to Make Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd Filling
The most important thing to keep in mind when making this lemon layer cake is to allow plenty of time for the layers to cool before frosting and assembling.
- Make the batter. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg whites, followed by the buttermilk, lemon juice and zest, and vanilla. Combine well.
- Bake. Divide the batter evenly into two cake pans. Bake for 22 to 27 minutes, until lightly brown on top. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with no more than a few crumbs.
- Cool. Allow the pans to cool for 5 minutes. Then invert the pan on a rack to cool thoroughly.
- Make the frosting. Whip the butter until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Add in the salt, lemon juice, and vanilla. Whip until light and fluffy.
- Assemble the cake. Place a dollop of buttercream on the serving dish to hold the cake in place. Place the cake bottom side down on the buttercream. Add the lemon curd to the top, leaving about half an inch of a border. Place the second cake on top and lightly press down. Lightly frost the cake for a crumb coat then chill for two hours to set.
- Serve. Decorate the cake with the remaining frosting then slice and serve.
A Few Notes on Decorating
Before chilling the cake, I add just a small amount of frosting for a crumb coating. This makes it make easier to frost once it’s chilled.
Note, however, that the amount of lemon buttercream made in this recipe is just enough to lightly frost the cake. If you want a thicker layer of frosting or to decorate it as shown in the photos, you’ll want to 1.5x or 2x the frosting recipe.
In the photos, I used 1.5x frosting and my favorite icing tip to get the swirls. You can decorate the cake however you’d like. You can even add some candied lemons to the top!
While you want to keep the cake chilled until serving, it is best served at room temperature so just pull it from the fridge 20 minutes or so before enjoying it.
I like to decorate mine with some extra frosting (just make extra, as noted above) and some fresh lemon slices. Dried lemon slices would also make a great garnish.
Does Lemon Cake Need to Be Refrigerated?
Yes, the lemon cake does need to be refrigerated as lemon curd is perishable. Keep it covered tightly and in the fridge for up to 3 days.
You can also freeze the cake, after it has been set completely. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and foil then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge then set on the counter before serving.
More Lemon Dessert Recipes:
Homemade Lemon Cake
- 2 & 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temp
- 1 & 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 6 large egg white room temp
- 1 cup buttermilk room temp
- 1/4 cup lemon juice fresh squeezed
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- zest of 3 lemons 3 tablespoons
For the frosting:
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice fresh squeezed
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the filling:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray 2 9-inch cake pans with baking spray, take a pastry brush and brush the spray all over to make sure it is even. Place a parchment paper liner in the bottom and brush more baking spray on top, set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.
- Add the butter and sugar to the body of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. Add the egg whites into the bowl in three batches, mix thoroughly in between each addition. Add the flour mixture and stir it in until just combined, scrape down the sides. Add the buttermilk, lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon zest. Stir it in until combined. Scrap down the sides and give it another 5 seconds of stirring.
- Divide the batter among the two cake pans and smooth out the tops. Bake for 22-27 minutes until lightly golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, a few crumbs on the toothpick is okay, any wet batter and it needs to bake longer.
- Let the cakes cool on a wire rack in their pans for 5 minutes, turn out the cakes and place them top side up on the wire rack to cool completely.
- While the cakes cool, make the frosting by placing the butter in the body of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter until smooth, 30 seconds. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time until fully combined, scrape down the sides as needed. Stir in the salt, lemon juice, and vanilla until incorporated. Place the speed on medium-high and whip the frosting for 3 minutes until light and fluffy set-aside.
- To assemble the cake place a tablespoon-sized dollop of the buttercream onto the bottom of your serving dish or cake plate, this will help keep the cake in place while you assemble. Take the parchment paper off of one of the cakes and place it bottom side down onto the buttercream on your serving platter.
- Place the lemon curd on top and smooth it out to the edge leaving a half-inch border. Take the next cake and take off the parchment paper liner and place it top-side down on top of the lemon curd. Lightly press the cake down to distribute the curd out toward the sides but not so it is pouring out.
- Frost the cake with a small amount of buttercream for a crumb coat. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to set.
- Frost with the remaining buttercream, slice, and serve.