Lemon Cake- A Doctored Cake Mix Recipe

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If you've been searching for the BEST recipe for Lemon Cake from a doctored cake mix, we are happy to say that this is it!

This easy lemon cake has a lovely soft texture, is ultra moist, has fantastic lemon flavor, works for cupcakes as well as cake layers, and is sturdy enough to hold up to fondant! What's not to love?

Moist and Delicious Lemon Cake Mix Recipe

We've frosted this lemon layer cake with a luscious Lemon Buttercream, which is a new recipe for our site also! We've fallen in love with its lemon flavor and it pipes like a dream.

We're so glad to have this lemon buttercream option for slathering and swirling onto all sorts of cakes from lemon cake to homemade vanilla buttermilk cake to classic yellow, coconut and even strawberry! Lemon buttercream pairs perfectly with so many cake flavors.

However, our Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting as well as our homemade Lemon Curd Filling would both be great choices!

Easy and Delicious Lemon Buttercream Frosting

How to Make a Lemon Cake- Doctored Cake Mix Recipe

You can find the full, printable cake recipe further down in this post, but here is a quick rundown of our steps!

First, you'll start with a simple white cake mix (look for recipes that do not contain pudding in the mix as we'll be adding a bit of  lemon pudding to this recipe). We used Duncan Hines.

  • Combine the sifted cake mix with the flour, sugar, and pudding and whisk to blend.  *Just 4 tablespoons of pudding is all that we needed to really make a difference in the texture and flavor of this cake.
  • We tried baking without the lemon pudding, and while it was good, the stand-out favorite among all of our family taste-testers was the version that contained pudding. The texture is more velvety and the lemony flavor is really nice. We also tried using Lemon Cake Mix instead of White, but didn't like the flavor as much. 
  • Add the remaining ingredients, including the eggs, water, sour cream, extracts, and lemon zest. The addition of pudding, sour cream, and flour give the cake a from-scratch feel, as it is a bit denser than a straight from the box cake mix cake...but I wouldn't describe this as a dense cake. It is light, has a soft texture, and did I mention an amazing lemon flavor? SO good!
The BEST Lemon Cake: A Doctored Cake Mix Recipe

This recipe makes about 7  ½ cups of batter which was just the right amount to divide between three 8 inch layers. I love cake recipes that have enough batter for three layers so that you can have an additional layer of filling! Mmmmm....bring on the lemon buttercream!

Looking for a Lemon Scratch Recipe Also? 

I should also mention that while we LOVE this doctored Lemon Cake Mix recipe, we have a favorite Scratch Lemon Cake Recipe as well! If you enjoy baking scratch recipes also, this is a great one.

We hope to eventually have a doctored cake mix version and scratch version of all of our recipes!

Moist and Delicious Lemon Cake Recipe from a doctored cake mix

Lemon Cake: A Doctored Cake Mix Recipe

Moist and Delicious Lemon Cake Recipe from a doctored cake mix

Nobody would guess that this amazing lemon cake recipe all starts with a simple cake mix! So moist and lemony!


  • 1 box (15.25 oz.) white cake mix, sifted (Any mix without pudding in the mix)
  • 1 cup (114g) all purpose flour (plain in the UK)
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • ½ box (4Tablespoons, (48g) instant lemon pudding (we used Jell-O brand) Do not make pudding, use the dry mix.
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ⅓ cups (322g) water
  • 1 cup (242g) sour cream (we use full fat sour cream)
  • 1 Tablespoon (12g) lemon extract
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) vanilla extract
  • zest of one lemon


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8x2 inch round cake pans.
  • In the bowl of your mixer, add the dry ingredients and whisk at least 30 seconds to blend.
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix for 1 more minute. If you are using a hand mixer, mix for a bit longer.
  • Pour into prepared pans and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Check at 25 minutes, if a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached, it is done.
  • Cool in the pans 5 to 10 minutes then turn out.
  • Makes 7 ½ cups batter
  • Works well for cupcakes
This Lemon Cake Recipe is the BEST!

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  1. I had my husband’s work colleagues taste this recipe. They thought it was the best lemon cake they had eaten. I would like to size it up to a three layer 9” round. Would that still work in your recipe? I think I would need two boxes of mix instead of one. Also I need a stiff lemon cream cheese buttercream. Which of your lemon ones would work best? thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Jane, Thank you for your posting your nice comment on the cake. This recipe makes 7 1/2 cups of batter. You could double the recipe. 9x2 inch round pans can hold 5 cups of batter. We have not doubled this recipe but cake mix cakes are very forgiving and it should work well. Can your mixer hold that much batter? If not you could make the recipe twice. Fill the pans 2/3's to 3/4's full to avoid spill over while baking. Below is a link to the lemon cream cheese frosting we like. If you find that your cream cheese is too soft when using, refrigerate the bowl of frosting or the frosting you have in the piping bag for a short while and it will firm up to a consistency you like. Also, mixing the frosting for too long or too high a speed can soften it.


      1. This recipe has NEVER made 7.5 c. Of batter for me and I’ve made it several times! And the box mix is even slightly more than the recipe calls for, the flour is sifted and weighed …everything exact in the measurements. Can’t figure it out!

    2. Thanks so much. I did double the recipe and it worked perfectly. I filled it with a homemade raspberry purée and some fresh raspberries on top of the purée. Your lemon cream cheese buttercream was delicious. I was able to do a crumb coat with it and then I popped it in the freezer for a short time about 10-15 minutes and then did the final smooth coat. I decorated with a Swiss dot pattern. It looked lovely. Can’t wait to try your recipe for the blueberry cake with lemon cream cheese butter.

      1. Hi Jane, I am happy all went well with the recipe and the raspberry filling sounds delicious with the cake. Thank you so much for posting your review and how you decorated the cake, sound beautiful!!

  2. This cake is now "Georgia's birthday cake." Who imagined MY child, the offspring of. a choclate devotee, would opt for lemon birthday cake? So, what's a mom to do? Found your recipe, dove right in, and the results are superb. I should say, "were," as there is no cake left to be eaten. The flavor is pure scratch, pure heaven, and I'm grateful for the ease. As I foolishly made the first packet of pudding into pudding before realizing my error, I ended up using some of the lemon pudding as the middle layer filling. Perfect. The only upgrade I could see making for the future would be making a true lemon curd filling. I also made the lemon cream cheese frosting. The perfect mate. (As was my husband who had to run back out to store to get another box of lemon pudding....:-)

    1. Hi Rachel! Wonderful! So funny about the chocolate vs. lemon. Of all of our cake recipes, lemon cakes seem get the most traffic! There's just something about lemon ;0). I'm sorry about the pudding mishap! We'll have to update the recipe to be more specific!

      So glad that Georgia loved her cake! The lemon curd sounds like a great addition ;0)

    1. Hi Debbie, Do not make pudding, just use the dry pudding in the package. I hope you will enjoy the recipe.

  3. This cake was delicious and it held up really well! Most cake recipes are crumbly so it is hard to stack them, but this one was very easy to work with and it made a good sized 3 layer cake.

  4. I made this cake for Easter. I liked the cake, and followed the recipe exactly, using Duncan Hines Super Moist White mix. The only change I would make would be to reduce the Lemon extract to 1 tbs. instead of 2. I felt that the extract was somewhat overpowering. I used McCormick lemon extract. I frosted the cake with a Blackberry Mascarpone icing, and filled it with blackberry jam, whipped cream & blackberries.

  5. I have made this cake for Easter 2 years in a row and it is a family favorite! So Moist.
    This year is was a little more dense, but still awesome.
    I use two 9" round lighter color Non-Stick pans lined with parchment and spray. I bake at 325° for about 42 minutes. I also use 5% FAT greek yogurt.
    I also add (2) cups of frozen blueberries mixed with a tablespoon of flour and fold them into the batter at the end. This adds beautiful color and flavor to the cake.
    This year I was very distracted and forgot to add the Blueberries to the batter before I poured the batter into the baking pans😳 I decided to still add them to each individual pan and swirled them in. I was so nervous the cakes wouldn't turn out well, but they were still fine and the swirls made a beautiful presentation when the cake was cut.
    Thank you for the wonderful recipe😁

  6. I made this cake for Easter using Duncan Hines Super Moist White mix. I followed the recipe exactly. I liked the cake, but found that 2 tbs. McCormick lemon extract was too much. I would reduce it to 1 tbs. Otherwise a very good cake. I made a blackberry mascarpone frosting with blackberry powder, and filled it with blackberry jam, whipped cream & blackberries.