This Limoncello Cake has wonderful lemon flavor, a soft texture and fine crumb, and a light Limoncello flavor. It is the perfect celebration cake for spring and summer gatherings.
What is Limoncello?
Limoncello is an Italian Lemon Liqueur which is produced primarily in Southern Italy along the beautiful Amalfi coast.
Amalfi lemons are large, uniquely juicy, sweet, and fragrant- and perfect for making Limoncello.
The liqueur is made by steeping lemon zest in ethanol or vodka to release the oils from the lemon zest, which is then combined with simple syrup.
For today’s recipe, our Limoncello Cake Layers are brushed with a Limoncello simple syrup and frosted with a Whipped Limoncello Cream Cheese Frosting.
The delicious Limoncello flavor is subtle, but makes this lemon cake extra special.
How to Make a Limoncello Cake
This Limoncello Cake is based on our popular Lemon Velvet Cake recipe, but with Limoncello added to the cake batter. It is super moist, lemony, and has a wonderful texture.
You can find the full recipe recipe further down in this post, but here is a quick rundown of our steps!
- Preheat Oven & Prepare Pans: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (8×2) round pans. You could also use two (9×2) round pans.
- Flour Mixture: In a medium bowl, add the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Whisk for 30 seconds to combine and set aside.
- Wet Ingredients: In another bowl, combine the Limoncello, milk, lemon juice and lemon extract. The mixture will take on a thick look because the lemon juice will turn the milk into buttermilk.
- Butter & Cream Cheese: In the bowl of your mixer, add the softened butter and softened cream cheese. Mix until smooth.
- Add Sugar: Gradually add the sugar and mix at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Eggs: Add the room temperature eggs one at a time, mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears.
- Alternating Dry and Wet Ingredients: With the mixer on low speed alternately add the flour mixture and the liquid mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 additions of dry mixture and 2 additions of wet).
- Fill the Pans: Divide the batter between the pans. 350 degrees F for 22 to 25 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. *Baking time may vary.
- Let cool for 5 – 10 minutes in the pans then then turn out.
This recipe makes about 8 cups of batter and also works well for cupcakes (with little to no dome).
Limoncello Simple Syrup
A quick simple syrup is a great way to add additional flavor to your cakes.
For this recipe, we needed to incorporate just a bit more Limoncello as the lemon liqueur flavor in the cake batter tends to fade as the layers bake.
To make Limoncello Syrup, in a small saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil over medium heat. Then, reduce the temperature to low, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved.
Remove from heat and stir in the Limoncello. (You can adjust the amount of Limoncello to your liking).
You may have a small amount leftover. We applied our simple syrup generously to the top of the cake layers as we assembled the cake.
(If you are baking in advance and need to freeze your cake layers, wait and do the Limoncello simple syrup step at the time of assembling to be on the safe side, after the cake has thawed).
Limoncello Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
Today, we chose to make a Limoncello Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting- we love the light and airy consistency and flavor.
This recipe is based on our Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting recipe, with a bit of lemon extract and Limoncello added.
This frosting is simple to make. First, using a chilled bowl and beaters (we used a hand mixer for this), whip up 3 cups of heavy cream or whipping cream to stiff peak stage.
Next, in the bowl of your mixer, combine the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon extract and Limoncello until smooth.
Combine the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until incorporated. It will be light, fluffy, and so delicious!
You can add a bit more Limoncello for a stronger flavor if you’d like. As with any of our recipes, you can adjust the flavoring to your liking!
Assembling the Limoncello Cake
Place the first Limoncello Cake Layer on a cake pedestal or cake plate. Brush the Limoncello Syrup over the cake layer- we like to use a silicone pastry brush for this.
Next, spread the top of the cake layer with Limoncello Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting.
Top with the second layer and repeat the above steps- don’t forget to brush on the Limoncello Syrup!
Finally, top with the third cake layer, brush with the Limoncello Syrup and frost the cake.
I like to add a thin layer of frosting to crumb coat the cake first, then chill for about 15 minutes in the freezer (or longer in the refrigerator) to firm things up before adding the final layer of frosting.
Whipped cream frostings like this one are not going to spread as flawlessly as buttercream frosting or cream cheese frosting, and so I like to smooth over it with a warm bench scraper. (I run my metal bench scraper under very hot water before smoothing over the final coat of frosting.)
Decorating the Limoncello Cake
For the top of the cake, I tinted the remaining frosting with a touch of Lemon Yellow coloring gel and piped a design over the top using a 1 M piping tip.
I alternated between piping rows of shells and rows of rosettes as I worked my way towards the center of the cake as you can see in the photo below.
For the bottom “border”, I used a small tapered offset spatula to add a little texture, incorporating some of the yellow tinted frosting.
More “Boozy Cakes” to Try
We’ve made many celebration cakes over the years that are either cocktail-inspired or flavored with champagne or liqueur. Here are just a few of our favorites, but you can find our full roundup here: Favorite Boozy Cakes!
Enjoy the Recipe!
Thanks so much for stopping by! We hope that you enjoy the recipe. If you give it a try, we would love to hear from you- please leave a comment and photo below!
- 1 (8oz.) (226g) package cream cheese, softened, do not use reduced fat or whipped cream cheese
- 1 ½ sticks (¾cup) (168g) unsalted butter, softened (if using salted butter omit the ½ teaspoon salt)
- 2 cups (400g) sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature ( you can warm cold eggs in a bowl of very warm water for 5 min.)
- 3 cups ( 342g) cake flour - see Notes for substitution
- zest if 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons (8g) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon (3g) baking soda
- ½ teaspoon (3g) salt
- ½ cup (121g) Limoncello
- ½ cup (121g) milk
- Juice of 1 lemon (approximately ¼ cup)
- 1 Tablespoon (10g) Lemon Extract
For the Limoncello Syrup
- ¼ cup (60g) water
- ¼ cup (50g) sugar
- ⅓ cup (70g) Limoncello
For the Limoncello Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
- Two 8 ounce (423g total weight) packages cream cheese, softened. It must be full fat, not reduced fat or cream cheese in a tub, those are too soft.
- 2 cups (230g) powdered sugar, measure then sift
- 2 teaspoons (8g) lemon extract
- 1 ½ Tablespoons (15g) Limoncello - Add a bit more if you'd like.
- 3 cups (696g heavy whipping cream
For the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (8x2) round pans.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest). Whisk for 30 seconds to combine and set aside.
- In another bowl, combine the Limoncello, milk, lemon juice and lemon extract. The milk will take on a thick look - the lemon juice will be turning the milk into buttermilk
- In the bowl of your mixer, add the softened butter and softened cream cheese. Mix until smooth.
- Gradually add the sugar and mix at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears
- With the mixer on low speed alternately add the flour mixture and the liquid mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 additions of dry mixture and 2 additions of wet).
- Divide the batter between the pans.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 22 to 25 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Let cool for 5 - 10 minutes in the pans then then turn out.
- This recipe makes approximately 8 cups of batter. Works well for cupcakes (they bake with no dome). Bake cupcakes at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes. Can also be baked in a 9x13 pan.
For the Limoncello Syrup
- In a saucepan over medium heat bring the water and sugar to a boil. Turn the heat to low and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear.
- Remove from heat and stir in the Limoncello. Cool. If you want the mixture to be a thicker consistency, cook longer over low heat.
- As you assemble your cake, brush the top of each cake layer with the Limoncello syrup- it will sink right in. We like to apply the syrup using a silicone pastry brush. Apply to your liking- we had a bit leftover.
For the Lemon Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
I like to prepare this frosting just before it's time to assemble and frost the cake.
- 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 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 cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon extract, and Limoncello. Mix until very smooth. Gently fold this into the whipped cream. This frosting should be refrigerated.
To Assemble the Cake
- Place the first cake layer on cake plate or pedestal. Brush the top generously with Limoncello Syrup. Spread with frosting.
- Repeat the steps for the next two cake layers and crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of frosting. At this point I like to chill the cake in the freezer for about 15 minutes to firm things up.
- Finally, add the next coat of frosting and smooth to your liking- you can heat your bench scraper or spatula under very hot water and dry it before smoothing the frosting for a smoother finish.
- I tinted the remaining frosting yellow with a very small amount Lemon Yellow coloring gel, and used a 1M large star piping tip to add alternating rows of shells and rosettes. I started on the outer edge of the cake and worked my way in. For the bottom of the cake, I applied more of the yellow frosting with a small, tapered offset spatula for texture.
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
The cake can be baked in 2 (9x2) inch round pans. Bake at350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached.
For standard size cupcakes, bake at 350 degrees F for 18 to 20 minutes.
The recipe can be baked at 350 degrees F. in a 9x13 sheet pan for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached.