Lemon Cake {A Scratch Recipe}

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This moist lemon cake recipe has become one of our go-to birthday cake recipes and family celebration cakes no matter what time of year. Lemon lovers, this delicious scratch lemon cake is a keeper!

This Scratch Lemon Cake Recipe by MyCakeSchool.com is extremely moist and flavorful!

Not only are these homemade lemon cake layers super moist and fluffy, but a simple lemon curd filling and lemon cream cheese frosting bring a triple dose of lemon to this fantastic dessert.

We love lemon desserts and are always looking for an excuse to make this cake. Over the years, this lemon curd cake recipe has remained one of our most popular!

We also love Lemon Buttermilk Cake, Lemon Velvet Cake, and our Lemon Cake from Cake Mix!

There's just something about lemon cake, isn't there?

Delicious Lemon Cake Recipe from Scratch by MyCakeSchool.com! Super moist and delicious!

How to Make a Lemon Cake from Scratch

Our Lemon Cake recipe is one of my favorite year-round desserts, but it is an especially popular choice for spring and summer gatherings, when everyone's cravings for light and citrus filled desserts are at their highest!

*You can find our full, printable scratch lemon cake recipe further down in this post. Here is a quick look at our steps.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  • Prepare the Pans: Grease and flour two 8 inch pans. (We bake with 2-inch deep pans). You could also divide the batter between three 8 inch pans for slightly thinner layers which allows for an additional layer of filling! It's always a good idea to line the prepared cake pans with circles of parchment paper to ensure that nothing will stick.
  • Add Flour, Leavening, Zest: In a medium sized bowl add the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. Whisk to blend and set aside.
Mixing Dry Ingredients
  • Combine Liquid Ingredients: In another bowl, add the milk, vegetable oil, fresh lemon juice, and lemon extract. Whisk to blend the wet ingredients and set aside.
  • Cream Butter & Sugar: In the bowl of your mixer (fitted with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer), beat the softened unsalted butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and mix on medium speed 3 to 5 minutes until it is lightened in color and fluffy.
Creaming Butter and Sugar with paddle attachment of stand mixer
  • Eggs: Add the room temperature eggs one at a time, mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears.
  • Adding Wet and Dry Ingredients Alternately: With the mixer on low speed (if using a stand mixer, use a paddle attachment), add the flour mixture and the milk mixture alternately. Begin and end with the flour. We do three additions of flour and two additions of milk. Mix just until combined.
Cake Batter in mixing bowl with spatula.
  • Fill the Pans: Pour batter into the prepared cake pans, spread over the top with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350 degrees.
  • Time to Bake! If baking three 8 inch pans, bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. For two 8 inch pans, bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake layers comes out clean or with only a few crumbs attached.  
  • Let the freshly baked layers cool for ten minutes before turning out.
Two Lemon Cake Layers, each resting on foil-wrapped cake boards.

Lemon Curd

Lemon curd is one of our all-time favorite fillings. We've used it (as well as other fruity curd flavors) for countless cakes over the years. There's just nothing like a lemon curd cake!

It is not difficult at all to make and totally worth the extra few minutes! It's bright lemon flavor is perfect for our lemon layer cake. You can find the full instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. Here is a quick look at our steps!

Amazing Lemon Curd Recipe by MyCakeSchool.com! So delicious and simple to make. MyCakeSchool.com Cake Recipes, Cake Tutorials, Videos, and more!
  1. Preparing the curd involves combining sugar, cornstarch (for thickening), and water in a small saucepan until it thickens and begins to boil. 
  1. Next, spoon about a half cup of the hot mixture into a small bowl along with egg yolks and stir quickly to combine, then return to the saucepan. 
  1. Return to the saucepan, stirring until thickened, and remove from heat, adding the butter, lemon juice and lemon zest. Allow to cool and then place plastic wrap over the surface and refrigerate. It is silky smooth and delicious!

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

We frosted our cake with a flavorful, simple  Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting Recipe.  

This lemon frosting is divine, and so simple to make with cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, extract (optional) and powdered sugar.

We love the creamy consistency and it is pipeable also. Chill it in the refrigerator if it becomes too soft while you are decorating the cake. The same goes for your bowl of lemon buttercream and your piping bag as well. A few minutes of chilling makes a big difference

If you love cream cheese frostings like we do, don't miss our full roundup of Favorite Cream Cheese Frosting Recipes!

Bowl of Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Assembling the Lemon Cake

  • When you are ready to assemble the lemon curd cake, pipe a dam of the lemon cream cheese frosting around the outer edge of the bottom cake layer-- we pipe about ¼ inch from the edge. Then, spread the cake layer with a thin coat of lemon curd.
  • Follow that by spreading on a layer of lemon cream cheese frosting. You may find it easier to pipe a spiral of lemon cream cheese frosting on top of the lemon curd, and then lightly spread it with an offset spatula. Then, add the next layer of cake.
Delicious homemade Lemon Cake recipe by MyCakeSchool.com with lemon curd and lemon cream cheese filling!
  • Once the two layers are stacked, I like to pipe lemon cream cheese frosting in the gap between the two layers to make sure that the filling is well sealed inside.
  • *One note about the filling...it is SO good that you will be tempted to really slather it on thick between the layers.  However, doing this will make your layers more likely to  slip in slide.

Decorating the Cake

  • Next, we crumb coated the outside of the cake cake with a thin layer of Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting, and followed immediately with large rosettes piped using a large star tip (1M or 2D).
  • As always, if the cake or frosting seems too soft to easily decorate, chill it in the freezer for about 15 minutes (or longer in the refrigerator) to firm up the crumb coat and proceed with your decorating.
Lemon Cake from Scratch

Recipe FAQs

Yes! These lemon cake layers freeze beautifully. After baking, allow them to cool. Then, wrap each cake layer in plastic wrap followed by foil.

We like to wrap the layers while they are still a bit warm. This seems to give an added boost of moisture to the cakes thanks to the dramatic change in temperature.

For more support, you can place each layer on a foil-wrapped cake board. Once wrapped, into the freezer they go!

If you are working in advance, you can freeze your cake layers for up to three months, and then allow them to thaw on the countertop when ready to use.

Thawing the Lemon Cake Layers

Thaw the cake layers on the countertop while still wrapped. Allow to sit for about 30-45 minutes before unwrapping. Then, thaw to desired amount for assembling. (Some decorators prefer to assemble cakes when the layers are partially frozen because they are less fragile.)

Yes, because of the cream cheese frosting and lemon curd filling that we used for our lemon cake, it does need refrigeration.

For best taste and texture, remove the cake from the refrigerator about 2-3 hours before serving so that the cake and frosting will have time to warm and soften.

If you are unable to chill the cake, a lemon buttercream frosting and filling would be a better option as it can sit out for a day or two at room temperature.

As with any of our scratch cake recipes, we highly recommend measuring the ingredients (especially dry ingredients) by weight with a digital kitchen scale. This will ensure that you are using the intended amount of flour, etc. 

However, if you do not have a digital scale, lightly spoon the dry ingredients into your measuring cup or measuring spoons and slide a knife across the top to level.

This is a much more accurate way to measure  than "scooping" the ingredients, which will pack down the dry ingredients and give you more than the intended amount. 

Make sure to put a digital scale on your wish list if you don't have one. They are very reasonably priced and so helpful!

Lemon cake pairs wonderfully with so many filling and frosting flavors, including coconut cream cheese frosting, orange cream cheese frosting, homemade whipped cream filling, orange curd, lime curd, and many more!

Today, we are going full-lemon with lemon cream cheese frosting and lemon curd filling.

Whenever you are making a cake with soft fillings, it is best to piping a dam of frosting around the inside edge of the cake. About ¼ -½ inch from the edge of the cake is a good distance.

You can pipe the dam of frosting with a disposable piping bag with the tip snipped away. It should be slightly taller than you plan for your filling to be.

Then, add your filling within the dam- it today's case, it is our lemon curd and lemon cream cheese frosting. Top with the next cake layer and continue.

It is also a good idea to fill in any gaps between the cake layers with frosting once the cake is assembled. (I do this using the same piping bag that I used for the dam.)

More Lemon Cakes and Desserts

We've made so many lemon cakes and lemony desserts over the years! Some of our most popular are our Lemon Velvet Cake, Lemon Almond Cake, Strawberry Lemonade Cake, and Lemon Cake from Cake Mix.

You can find our full collection here!: Favorite Lemon Cakes, Fillings, and Frostings.

We hope that you enjoy this lemon cake from scratch! It is delicious with all sorts of fillings and frostings but we love a good lemon curd cake. ;0)

We also have hundreds of cake recipes from scratch as well as cake mix recipes in our Cake Recipes section! You can also learn more about cake decorating in our collection of cake decorating video tutorials!

This amazingly moist and delicious scratch lemon cake belongs in your recipe box! Delicious! MyCakeSchool.com

Lemon Cake from Scratch

This light and lemony scratch lemon cake is so moist and flavorful! I love it year-round, but especially in the spring and summer months! This has been one of our most popular recipes over the years!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Servings: 15 servings
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Ingredients

  • 1 ½ sticks (170g) unsalted butter, softened (should hold its shape but dent when pressed).
  • 1 ½ cups (300g) sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature (if cold, place in a bowl of warm water for 5 min.)
  • 3 cups (342g) cake flour *if you do not have cake flour, see note below
  • ½ teaspoon (3g) salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (7g) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (3g) baking soda
  • 1 cup (242g) milk
  • ¼ cup (57g) lemon juice
  • ¼ cup (53g) vegetable oil
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 Tablespoon (10g) lemon extract

For the Lemon Curd Filling

  • ¾ cup (150g) sugar
  • ¼ cup (30g) cornstarch
  • 1 cup (236g) water
  • 2 large egg yolks lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons (28g) butter
  • 1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For the Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter, softened.
  • 16 oz (453g total) Cream Cheese, softened (this is two 8 oz packages). Use full fat.
  • 2 teaspoons (8g) lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) lemon extract, optional
  • Zest from 1 lemon approximately 1 ½ teaspoons (3g)
  • 6 to 6 ½ cups (690g - 747g) powdered sugar adjust amount to your liking for preferred consistency.

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Grease and flour two 8 inch pans ( my pans are 2 inches deep). You could also divide the batter between three 8 inch pans for slightly thinner layers which allows for an additional layer of filling.
  • In a medium sized bowl add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and zest of 2 lemons. Whisk to blend and set aside.
  • In another bowl, add the milk, vegetable oil and lemon juice, and lemon extract. Whisk to blend and set aside.
  • In the bowl of your mixer, beat the softened butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and mix on medium speed 3 to 5 minutes until it is lightened in color and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until the yellow of the yolk is blended.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and the milk mixture alternately. Begin and end with the flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Slightly increase the speed and mix until combined and smooth, do not mix above medium speed or over mix.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the tops with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350 degrees. If baking three 8 inch pans, bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. For two 8 inch pans, bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only a few crumbs attached. Let the cakes cool in the pans 10 minutes then turn out.
  • (This recipe makes 7 cups of batter)
  • For the Lemon Curd Filling
  • Combine sugar, cornstarch and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil (3-4 minutes).
  • Boil, stirring, for 1 minute more.. Remove the pan from the heat.
  • Spoon about ½ cup of the hot mixture into a small bowl with egg yolks and stir quickly until combined. Continue stirring, while pouring the egg mixture back into the saucepan.
  • Return pan to medium heat and cook, stirring, until the curd is thickened and lemon colored (1-2 min). Remove from heat and stir in the butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest.-- Let the lemon curd cool, then press plastic wrap onto the surface, this will prevent a skin from forming on the top. Refrigerate.
  • This will fill a 2-3 layer 8 or 9 inch cake with some leftover. The recipe can be halved.
  • I have refrigerated the lemon curd for a week and it was fine....I'm not sure how long it will keep beyond that. Makes 1 ¼ cups
  • For the Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Cut butter into ½ inch slices and add to the bowl of your mixer, beat until smooth.
  • Cut the cream cheese into pieces and add to the butter, beating until blended.
  • Add the lemon juice and lemon zest. 1 teaspoon lemon extract, optional for a stronger lemon flavor.
  • Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until well blended.
  • This frosting will pipe best if used while still chilled. You can make it in advance, refrigerate and when ready to use let it soften slightly and remix. Do not microwave to soften.

ASSEMBLY OF CAKE

  • For the cake pictured in this post, we piped a dam of lemon cream cheese frosting about ¼ inch inside the edge of the first layer.
  • We spread a thin layer of lemon curd frosting, piped and spread a layer of lemon cream cheese frosting on top of it, and added the top cake layer. We thinly crumb coated the cake with our lemon cream cheese frosting before piping large rosettes all over the cake (use a 2D or 1M tip).

Notes

Cake Flour Substitution: ** If you don't have cake flour, for each cup of all purpose flour (or plain flour in the UK) remove 2 Tablespoons of flour and replace with 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch ( corn flour in the UK) For this recipe, measure out 3 cups all purpose flour, remove 6 Tablespoons and replace with 6 Tablespoons cornstarch. Whisk to blend.

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366 Comments

  1. Hello,

    The cake looks absolutely delicious and I would love to make it. Can it baked in 2, 9-inch pans?

    Thank you.

  2. Thank you for this site! I have tried several recipes and all have been excellent. My question is - could this recipe be cut in half and baked in an 8 x 8 pan? Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi @SaintsBaker- I haven't tried this, but I think it should work! Let us know if you try it!

  3. 5 stars
    Hello I’m making this in two 12 inch heart cake pans I’m curious should I double the recipe ?? Also how long do you think I should bake for with that much batter? Thank you I’m making this for my mothers wedding cake

    1. Hi Stephanie, that's great that you are making your mom's wedding cake! We don't make many 12 inch cake layers but yes I would double it. You should be fine to use one batch per pan. I'm not sure about the time- Wilton's chart (linked below) says around 55 minutes at 325F but they are basing that on 9.25 cups of batter per pan. Yours would be 7 cups per pan and so it will take less time to bake. I would just start peeking in as you approach the 30 minute mark and adjust accordingly.

      https://blog.wilton.com/cake-baking-serving-guide/

  4. Could you tell me if this would convert well to a 9x13 pan? Thanks in advance. Wonderful site with incredibly good cake recipes. :)

    1. Hello! Yes, I don't see why not. We recently made a Strawberry Sheet Cake (based on our strawberry sour cream layer cake recipe). It had a similar amount of cake batter (7 cups). We baked it at 350 for 30-35 minutes. (Bake times can vary so peek in as the end time approaches and adjust as needed.)

    1. Hi Yasmeen, the general rule of thumb is to serve the cake within 2-3 days of frosting it. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container, under a cake dome, or in a sealed bakery box.

      *As a side note, you can bake and freeze the cake layers individually for up to three months if they are tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen.

  5. 5 stars
    My niece made the Lemon Cake for me and I tell you the truth, it was the best cake I have had. Thank you.
    Emma

  6. Would this work in a sheet pan and cut outs to make mini cakes? How long do you think to bake. Would love to try this for a birthday party for about 12 fun loving ladies.