Lemon layer cakes are always a favorite, and today we are happy to share a wonderfully moist and soft Lemon Buttermilk Cake with a whipped Lemon Mascarpone Frosting. The result is a light, soft, lemon cake that is sure to become a favorite of the lemon lovers in your life!
How to Make Lemon Buttermilk Cake
We based this lemon layer cake recipe on our Vanilla Buttermilk Cake recipe and we were so happy with the result! The buttermilk in this recipe along with the use of cake flour and the conventional method of mixing makes for a moist lemon cake with a soft, light and airy crumb. This lemon cake flavored with lemon zest, lemon extract, and fresh lemon juice. If you love lemon desserts, you are going to love this recipe!
*You can find the full, printable Lemon Buttermilk Cake below, but here is a quick rundown of our process!
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, grease and flour three 8×2 inch round pans. I love that this recipe makes three fluffy 8 inch cake layers- more room for the whipped lemon mascarpone filling!
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest for 30 seconds to evenly mix and aerate.
- In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil and lemon extract and 1/4 cup lemon juice.
- Next, in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer (and using the paddle attachment), add the butter and mix at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the two cups of white sugar and continue to mix on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until lightened in color and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears.
- Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of liquid).
- Be careful not to mix above medium speed or over-mix– I divided the cake batter between the prepared pans, scraping the sides with a rubber spatula. (I like to grease, flour, and line the cake pans with parchment paper).
- Bake at 350 degrees for 22-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just few crumbs attached. The baked layers will pull away ever so slightly from the sides of the pan. Let cool 10 minutes on a wire rack and flip out.
Freezing Cakes for Moistness
As an optional step, I like to freeze my freshly baked cake layers for at least a few hours (but you can freeze them for up to three months if properly wrapped). I do this with all of my cake recipes whenever possible.
The key is to wrap the warm cakes in plastic wrap and then foil. I remove the baked cake layers from the oven, allow to cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then I flip them out onto foil-wrapped cake cardboards. (The boards are wrapped so that they can be re-used). Then I tightly wrap the layers individually *while still warm* and place them immediately into the freezer.
The trapped moisture that is created from moving the warm cakes to the freezer makes for even moister cakes. Of course, this is an optional step–the lemon buttermilk cake layers are already moist– but it’s a step that I do whenever time allows as it’s an easy way to boost the moistness even more, no matter what cake recipe you are making. Try it next time you make a bake a cake see the difference!
When it’s time to thaw the cake layers, remove the wrapped cake layers from the freezer and thaw on the countertop until condensation forms. Then, unwrap and continue thawing. As an added bonus, you may find it helpful to assemble your tier when the layers are partially frozen as they are less fragile!
Whipped Lemon Mascarpone Frosting
We used an easy, delicious Lemon Mascarpone Frosting to complement our lemon buttermilk cake layers. Mascarpone is similar to the creamy consistency of cream cheese frosting, but doesn’t have the tanginess that cream cheese has. It makes for smooth, delicious, frostings.
This whipped lemon frosting is a fantastic choice if you are looking for something light, and a bit less sweet- it contains much less powdered sugar than buttercream. Keep whipped mascarpone frosting in mind for all sorts of layer cakes, even if just using it as a cake or cupcake filling.
To prepare the recipe, you’ll first want to freeze your mixing bowl and beaters 15 minutes before whipping the cream (30 minutes if chilling in the refrigerator).
Use the whisk attachment for a stand mixer or beaters if using a handheld mixer. Beat the whipped cream until stiff peaks form. This can happen very quickly so don’t walk away from the mixer. You are at the stiff peak stage when you lift the beater and the cream stands straight up forming a peak. Keep in the refrigerator while completing the next step.
In another bowl combine the mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar and extracts. Beat until very smooth. Fold the whipped cream into this mixture. Cover and refrigerate.
Consistency of Whipped Mascarpone Frosting
The consistency of this frosting is much like whipped cream, and the mascarpone gives it a bit more stability. Because of the whipped consistency, I find that it is more difficult to achieve a completely smooth finish when using it to frost cakes.
For this reason, I usually go with more of a swirled or textured look when using this frosting- piped designs would work well too.
However, if you really prefer a smooth finish to your frostings, your best bet is to freeze the frosted tier for about 15 minutes in the freezer and then glide over the sides with a heated metal bench scraper. It may slightly deflate the frosting, but you will have a smoother finish than would be possible otherwise.
Assembling the Lemon Buttermilk Cake
When it is time to assemble the cake, place the first (cooled or room temperature) cake layer on the cake plate or cake stand. Spread the top of the cake layer with lemon mascarpone frosting– I don’t take the filling all the way to the edge– I stop about 1/2 inch from the edge of the layer to allow a little wiggle room for the filling.
Add the next layer and repeat. Top with the final lemon cake layer and crumb coat the cake. You may want to chill your cake in the freezer for about 15 minutes before adding the final coat if you feel the need to firm things up a bit.
I added another layer of whipped lemon mascarpone frosting and smoothed with a bench scraper. I went back in and added texture here and there with an offset spatula as well as on top of the cake.
I tinted a bit of the frosting (maybe 1/2 cup or so) with lemon yellow coloring gel, and piped various sized stars of frosting and rosettes using large and small star tips (2D and 21 piping tips), working my way halfway around the top of the cake. I added a bit of yellow frosting around the base of the cake as well.
What Makes Lemon Buttermilk Cake so Moist?
This Lemon Buttermilk Layer Cake recipe is soft and very moist which we love! One of the reasons for this is that the recipe uses buttermilk. The acidity in the buttermilk helps to soften the tough strands of gluten, which results in a more tender cake. Buttermilk also helps with leavening as it reacts with the baking soda, creating a fluffier texture. And finally- the hint of tanginess is delicious in any cake but works especially well with our lemon cake!
Cake flour also has a lower protein content than all purpose flour, which results in softer, more tender cakes. If you don’t have any cake flour on hand, you can make your own! See the Notes section of our Recipe below.
Just a Hint of Lemon Flavor
This light homemade layer cake does not have an overwhelming lemon flavor. For us, it is just the right amount! If you prefer even more lemon flavor, you can add lemon curd to the filling (followed by a layer of our whipped lemon mascarpone frosting) for a double dose of lemon! You could also add even more lemon extract and lemon zest to the frosting to suit your tastes. The oil in the lemon zest is a great way to add an instant boost of lemon flavor!
More Lemon Cakes, Fillings, and Frostings to try!
Lemon is one of our favorite cake flavors and so we’ve filled our recipes section with all sorts of delicious lemony cake and frosting recipes over the years! Don’t miss these other great recipes, and keep these popular lemon fillings and frostings in mind as well!
…and this isn’t even all of them! You can find our full roundup of favorite lemon cakes and frostings here: The BEST Lemon Cakes, Frostings, and Fillings
- 1 1/2 sticks (170g) unsalted butter, softened ( holds it shape but dents when pressed)
- 2 cups (400g) sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups (342g) cake flour (spooned into measuring cup and leveled off) If you do not have cake flour see substitution in Notes below.
- 2 teaspoons (8g) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (3g) baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
- 1 1/4 cups (296g) buttermilk — if you do not have buttermilk, see substitution below
- 1/4 cup (57g) lemon juice
- 1/4 cup (54g) vegetable oil
- 1 Tablespoon (10g) Lemon Extract
- Zest of two lemons
For the Whipped Lemon Mascarpone Frosting
- Two 8 ounce packages mascarpone, softened.
- 2 cups (230g) powdered sugar, sift then measure
- 2 teaspoons (8g) vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons (8g) Lemon Extract
- 2 1/2 cups (605 g) heavy whipping cream
- Zest of one Lemon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour three 8×2 inch round pans.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and zest for 30 seconds. Set aside
In another bowl, add the buttermilk, oil and lemon extract and lemon juice. Set aside..
In the bowl of your mixer, add the butter and mix at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and continue to mix on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until lightened in color and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears.
Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of liquid).
Do not mix above medium speed or over mix the cake batter
Divide batter between three prepared 8 inch cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 22-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just few crumbs attached. Let cool 10 minutes and turn out.
For the Whipped Lemon Mascarpone Frosting
Freeze your mixing bowl and beaters 15 minutes before whipping the cream (30 minutes if chilling in the refrigerator.
Use the whisk attachment for a stand mixer, beaters on your hand mixer. Beat the whipped cream until stiff peaks form. This can happen very quickly so don't walk away from the mixer. You are at the stiff peak stage when you lift the beater and the cream stands straight up forming a peak. Keep in the refrigerator while completing the next step.
In another bowl combine the mascarpone, powdered sugar and extracts. Beat until very smooth. Fold the whipped cream into this mixture. Cover and refrigerate. If you are piping this frosting and it becomes too soft, just refrigerate the filled piping bag for a short while.
Substitute for Buttermilk: No Buttermilk? Here is a substitution: To a measuring cup, add 1 Tablespoon plus one teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice. Add milk to the 1 1/4 c. mark, stir. Wait 5 minutes and it is ready to use.
Substitution for Cake Flour: Using all purpose flour (plain in UK) to make Cake Flour: For each cup of flour in a recipe, remove 2 Tablespoons of flour and replace with 2 Tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour in the UK). This recipe has 3 cups of flour so you will measure out 3 cups of all purpose flour, remove 6 Tablespoons and replace with 6 Tablespoons cornstarch, whisk to blend
Recipe makes approximately 7 1/2 cups batter.
*If making standard sized cupcakes with this recipe, bake at 350 for 18-20 .minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (or with a few crumbs attached).
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