Sweet zingy Lemon Cake frosted with lemon buttercream frosting then decorated with a fresh sprinkling of lemon zest! This goes along with my other classic lemon recipes like my Lemon Bars and Lemon Crinkle Cookies.

whole frosted lemon cake

Lemon Cake Basics

If you know me, you know I love lemon. And if you’ve been following the blog for a while you know I have developed quite the collection of lemon recipes, let alone lemon cake recipes. But I had never posted a plain lemon cake before. Well, folks, that’s changing today. I’ve got a purely amazing Lemon Cake Recipe that is anything but plain. Based on my vanilla cake recipe and classic buttercream frosting I’ve added lemon juice, zest, extract, and slices to make this baby as sweet and lemony as can be.

This Lemon Cake is moist, tender, light, sweet, zingy, fresh, bright, and just overall so darn good.

Tips for Success

Here are a couple of pointers if you’ve never made a cake from scratch before, or if you just need a reminder.

  • Use room temperature ingredients. Believe it or not, using butter, eggs, egg whites and milk all at room temperature yields you a smoother, better incorporated cake batter and thus a better cake.
  • Do not over bake. Moistness comes with just the right amount of time in the oven. Start checking your cake for doneness after 30 minutes and then go from there. Every oven is different (some run hot, some run cold) so be sure you are checking your cake for doneness every few minutes once you’re getting close to it being completely baked.
  • Line baking pans with parchment paper. Parchment paper is my favorite kitchen tool. Your cakes will come out with ease!
  • Cool completely before frosting. Frosting is primarily made up of butter and the butter will melt if your cakes are not cooled completely.
whipped butter, sugar and eggs

How to Make Lemon Cake

For full details on how to make this lemon cake, see the recipe card down below 🙂

Preheat and Prep

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line three 8-inch round baking pans with parchment paper and/or spray well with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Do I have to make a tiered lemon cake?

No! This recipe will make:

  • one 9×13 thick cake (bake for 40-55 minutes)
  • two 8 or 9-inch round cakes (40-50 minutes)
  • 24 cupcakes (bake for 18-20 minutes)

Regardless of how you bake this cake recipe, be sure to use lighter-colored baking pans (or glass). Using a darker Teflon will give you darker, crispier edges that don’t really have a place in cake, in my humble opinion.

Mix Wet Ingredients

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter, oil, and sugar together until combined. Mix in eggs and egg whites, one at a time, until the mixture becomes very light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix again briefly.

Make Milk Mixture

In a liquid measuring cup, stir milk, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and lemon zest together. Set aside.

Can I use a milk substitute?

I used whole milk for this recipe to provide moisture and richness. You could use lower-fat milk or milk substitutes like plain almond or oat milk however just note that your cake will not be the same.

Combine Dry Ingredients

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together to combine. Set aside.

Make Lemon Cake Batter

Alternate adding in flour mixture with milk mixture, being sure to start and end with flour. Scrape the sides and mix again to ensure a smooth batter.

Bake and Cool

Divide evenly between three baking pans and smooth the top.

Bake 30-40 minutes in the lower 2/3rds of the oven. The cake will be done when a toothpick comes out clean or mostly clean with a few moist crumbs.

Cool 15-20 minutes in cake pans before trying to invert on cooling racks. Cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Make the Lemon Frosting

To make the lemon frosting, mix softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon zest together slowly to break apart the butter. With the mixer on low, add in lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time until it turns into a thick paste. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until completely smooth. Frosting may only use 3 tablespoons of lemon juice but may need up to 4.

The frosting is done when it can hold its shape, but you can run a butter knife through it easily.

Frost and Decorate the Lemon Cake

Layer cake and frosting together using an offset spatula to spread the frosting evenly between the layers. Add frosting around the edges and across the top. Use any excess frosting to decorate with a large star tip and disposable piping bag.

Add extra lemon zest and/or lemon slices and serve.

layering frosting with lemon cake

Lemon Cake Topping Options

I kept things simple and topped this lemon cake with lemon zest and a lemon slice. However, you could decorate it however you want! Here are a couple of different suggestions:

whole frosted lemon cake

Make Ahead Instructions

Bake, cool, and cover cake layers tightly with plastic wrap. Store at room temperature overnight, in the fridge for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If freezing, allow the cake to thaw overnight in the fridge and bring to room temperature before decorating.

The frosting can also be made ahead of time and then covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days. Allow the frosting to soften and feel free to give it a quick mix to loosen it up before assembling your cake.

More Lemon Cakes to Try!

Make this bright and happy lemon cake soon! The printable recipe card is down below, enjoy 🙂

whole frosted lemon cake

Print

Lemon Cake

Sweet zingy lemon cake frosted with lemon buttercream frosting then decorated with a fresh sprinkling of lemon zest! Perfect for springtime!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword Lemon Cake, Lemon Cake Recipe
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 16 servings
Calories 459kcal

Equipment

  • 3 8″ round cake pans
  • 1 stand mixer

Ingredients

For the Lemon Cake

For the Lemon Frosting

  • 1 cup salted butter at room temperature
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice give or take 1 tablespoon
  • 1 whole lemon zested

Instructions

Make the Lemon Cake

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line three 8-inch round baking pans with parchment paper and/or spray well with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. (See notes)
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter, oil, and sugar together until combined. Mix in eggs and egg whites, one at a time, until the mixture becomes very light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix again briefly.
    whipped butter, sugar and eggs
  • In a liquid measuring cup, stir milk, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and lemon zest together. Set aside.
    adding milk to cake batter
  • In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together to combine. Set aside.
    dry ingredients added to lemon cake batter
  • Alternate adding in flour mixture with milk mixture, being sure to start and end with flour. Scrape the sides and mix again to ensure a smooth batter.
    cake batter in bowl
  • Divide evenly between three baking pans and smooth the top.
    lemon cake batter in three round cake pans
  • Bake 30-40 minutes in the lower 2/3rds of the oven. The cake will be done when a toothpick comes out clean or mostly clean with a few moist crumbs. Cool 15-20 minutes in cake pans before trying to invert on cooling racks. Cool completely before frosting and decorating.
    baked lemon cake layers on cooling rack

Make the Lemon Frosting

  • To make the lemon frosting, mix softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon zest together slowly to break apart the butter. With the mixer on low, add in lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time until it turns into a thick paste. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until completely smooth. Frosting may only use 3 tablespoons of lemon juice but may need up to 4. The frosting is done when it can hold its shape, but you can run a butter knife through it easily.
    whipped lemon frosting in bowl

Frost the Lemon Cake

  • Layer cake and frosting together using an offset spatula to spread the frosting evenly between the layers. Add frosting around the edges and across the top. Use any excess frosting to decorate with a large star tip and disposable piping bag. Add extra lemon zest and/or lemon slices and serve.
    layering frosting with lemon cake

Notes

Recipe will make:

  • 1- 9×13 thick cake (bake for 40-55 minutes)
  • 2- 8 or 9-inch round cakes (40-50 minutes)
  • 24 cupcakes (bake for 18-20 minutes)

Regardless of how you bake this cake recipe, be sure to use lighter colored baking pans (or glass). Using a darker teflon will give you darker, crispier edges which doesn’t really have a place in cake, in my humble opinion.

Nutrition

Calories: 459kcal | Carbohydrates: 73g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 254mg | Potassium: 104mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 54g | Vitamin A: 566IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 1mg

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