This luscious lemon layer cake is tender, moist and perfectly tangy and bright AKA the perfect spring cake! Whip up this lemon cake to brighten any day!
Luscious Lemon Layer cake
Layer cakes have always been one of my absolute favorite desserts to make. Chocolate cake, vanilla cake, carrot cake…I love them all. And this luscious lemon layer cake is no exception. It’s tender and moist with a silky crumb and the perfect amount of bright lemony tang to cut the sweetness. Layer this lemon cake together with a rich and creamy cream cheese frosting and you’re in for a light and springy treat to celebrate any day.
What ingredients do you need for lemon layer cake?
Homemade cakes may seem scary, but they’re actually pretty straight forward once you understand the process. Plus they call for relatively basic ingredients you probably already have in your pantry!
Vegetable Oil: The key to a silky crumb is a combination of vegetable oil and butter. Make sure your butter is at true room temperature to ensure it beats up light and fluffY1
Lemons: You’ll need lemon zest and a little bit of lemon juice to give this cake a bright and fresh lemon flavor!
Granulated Sugar: Sugar will aerate the butter oil to give you a sweet and fluffy cake.
Eggs: Any fluffy cake needs eggs! Make sure your eggs are at true room temperature to prevent your batter from seizing.
Buttermilk: Buttermilk will give your lemon layer cake a little extra tang and help to give it an even higher rise. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand (who does?!, you can make your own with milk and lemon juice. Find our homemade buttermilk substitute here.
Lemon Extract: Lemon juice is incredibly acidic, so using straight lemon juice in a cake can throw off the rise and cause the cake to rise too much and then fall. Using just a little bit of lemon extract will give you lemon flavor without tasting artificial.
All Purpose Flour: If you have cake flour on hand you can use that too, but who really keeps cake flour in their cupboard at all times? Not me. All purpose flour will do just the trick and give you a silky crumb.
Baking Powder: Baking powder gives this lemon layer cake the perfect rise.
How do you zest a lemon
I figured I’d just drop this here to spare you the google search. I didn’t know how to zest a lemon for the longest time and thought I was dumb for not knowing. So don’t feel bad. It’s actual super super simple. Just wash your fruit and whip out your zester. If you don’t have a zester, you can use a microplane too. In desperate times I have even used a fine cheese grater and it does the trick. Hold the zester at an angle and pull your lemon across until you reach the white of the rind. Rotate your lemon, repeating until you’ve gone all the way around your fruit. All of the zest will gather on the back side, where you can just scrape it into your batter!
How to dry lemons:
If you want to decorate your lemon layer cake all nice and purrty like we did here, you can easily dehydrate some fancy lemon slices like we did here. Simply slice 2 lemons very thin, sprinkle with sugar, and bake at the lowest temperature your oven will go to for a few hours, or until they’re dry to the touch. Voila! Dried lemons.
What size cakes will this lemon cake recipe make?
We made a cute little 3 layer 6 inch cake here, but you can make this cake in a few different sized pans fro whatever you have on hand.
3 layer 6 inch round cake
2 layer 8 or 9 inch round cake
1 9 x 13 inch sheet cake
24 standard cupcakes
Celebration or not, you’ll love this bright and springy lemon layer cake! Happy baking, my loves.
Preheat the oven to 325°F and grease and flour three 6 inch cake pans or two 8 or 9 inch cake pans. Set aside.
Combine the sugar and the lemon zest in a small bowl and rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers to infuse the sugar. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the softened butter and oil together until they become homogenous, about 3 minutes. This will not work if your butter is not completely room temperature.
Slowly add the granulated sugar to the oil and butter, beating on high until the mixture is light and fluffy and turns a very pale yellow, about 3 minutes.
Add the eggs in one at time, scraping down the bowl in between each addition. Add the lemon extract and the vanilla extract. Beat the mixture on high for 3 minutes more to incorporate as much air as possible.
In separate bowl sift together the cake flour, salt, and baking powder. Alternate mixing in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk in 4 batches, starting with the buttermilk and ending with the dry ingredients. It’s okay if the batter still has a few lumps in it–you don’t want to over mix it.
Split the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is a lightly golden brown and springs back when pressed. This will depend on your oven. Take out of the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Let the cakes cool completely.
If making dehydrated lemons, use a sharp knife to thinly slice 2 lemons. Preheat the oven to 300°F and line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Place the lemon slices a few inches apart on the prepared pans and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until dry to the touch, about 2 hours. Allow the lemon slices to cool, then store in an airtight container at room temperature. until ready to use.
While the cakes cool, make the frosting. Beat the butter and cream cheese together until combined. Scrape down the bowl and add the powdered sugar, 1 Tablespoon of the milk, vanilla extract, lemon extract and salt. Beat until light and fluffy, about two minutes. If the frosting is too thick, add in a Tablespoon of milk at a time until desired consistency.
Place first cake on a cake stand, then top with generous amount of frosting. Layer second and third layers, frosting the same amount in between each. Frost edges of cake with remaining frosting. If making a naked cake, use an offset spatula to scrape off any excess frosting. If using the dried lemon slices, gently press the lemon slices along the outside of the cake, layering them slightly over one another.
Keywords: lemon layer cake, lemon cake, spring cake
*If you don’t have buttermilk on hand you can always make a homemade substitute! Find our recipe for homemade buttermilk here!
Leave a comment and rate this recipe!
Can you give the gram or ounce measurement for the flour? I’ve found there can be up to 1/8 c difference depending on how the flour is measured and that can throw off the final cake texture.
Hi, the cake looks amazing. What flowers did you use for the decoration? Elderflower blossom?
We used baby’s breath!
Great recipe overall. I did three 6-inch cake pans and ended up only using 2 layers as the layers were quite thick and my cake was so tall. The texture of the cake was quite interesting. It was light and fluffy to the touch but had the texture of a pound cake. It was still overall delicious and I did add a little fresh lemon juice to the frosting to give it more a tangy taste.
This is my favorite lemon cake and I’d like to make it in a 10” pan for a larger group. Could you please tell me how to increase the ingredients to accommodate? Thanks!
Hi! You can double the recipe and make 2 10 inch cake layers!
Hi there! What’s the best way to prepare the cake the day before? Should I make the cake layers and store (room temp? fridge? freezer?) and then frost the day of? Or could I do it all the day before? If so, how should I store? Thank you!