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Lemon Cake Recipe

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My lovely baking friends, I’m so delighted you’re joining me today for a refreshing escape into the heart of a delightful Lemon Cake. This sunny cake brings together everything we adore about lemon’s vibrant flavor and pairs it impeccably with moist tender crumb and fluffy decadence. With each bite, you’ll taste sunshine itself!

I’m often asked why lemon shines so beautifully in baked goods. The answer lies in how it contrasts sweetness with bright acidity, creating a flavor experience that dances on your tongue. By using both lemon zest and juice, we harness the aromatic oils and tart juice for lemon essence through and through. Paired with a fluffy cake crumb and sweet vanilla buttercream, it creates a symphony of flavors in perfect harmony.

Many ask how to achieve that balance of moist yet tender texture. Here, using both butter and buttermilk gives us the best of both worlds! The butter creates richness while the buttermilk tang makes it melt-in-your-mouth tender. My special technique of carefully alternating the wet and dry ingredients protects our delicate batter so the cake bakes up featherlight.

So come along on this happy baking adventure with me! At the end, you’ll have a glorious, sunshine-filled centerpiece ready to grace any spring gathering. The floral aroma and citrus sweet-tartness dance together so beautifully, this cake is bound to be the highlight of your event!

Let’s start with the FAQs:

What kind of lemons work best for this cake recipe?

I highly recommend using fresh lemons with bright yellow skins and no blemishes. Organic lemons tend to have the best flavor. Meyer lemons also work well if you want a slightly sweeter, more floral flavor. Avoid using bottled lemon juice as it lacks the vibrant fresh lemon taste.

Can I make the cake ahead of time?

Yes! The flavors in this lemon cake actually improve after a day of sitting wrapped at room temperature. The cake will stay fresh for 3-4 days stored this way. You can also freeze the unfrosted cake layers for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before assembling and frosting.

What is the difference between lemon zest and lemon juice? Why use both?

Zest is the outermost, brightly colored skin of the lemon. It contains aromatic oils that give an incredible fresh lemon flavor. The juice provides acidity and tartness. Using both zest and juice gives a well-rounded depth of flavor that reads as “bright lemon” with each bite.

How do I stop my lemon cake from drying out?

A few tips! First, don’t overbake. Test for doneness early and err on the side of slightly underdone. Second, while the cakes cool, poke holes and soak them with the lemon syrup. This adds moisture back into the crumb. Finally, store leftovers well-wrapped at room temperature to prevent drying. Enjoy!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 30 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes


For Cake:

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3⁄4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1⁄4 cup lemon juice
  • 3⁄4 cup buttermilk

For Lemon Syrup:
1/3 cup lemon juice

For Frosting:

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) softened butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1⁄4 cup lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in lemon zest.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk/lemon juice to butter mixture.
  5. Divide batter between cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
  6. While cakes bake, make lemon syrup by simmering lemon juice and sugar.
  7. Once cakes are done, poke holes and pour syrup over. Let cool completely before frosting.
  8. For frosting, beat butter until creamy then mix in remaining ingredients except cream. Add cream as needed to reach desired consistency.
  9. Frost cooled cake, slice and enjoy!

Cooking tips:

  • Use fresh lemons – Freshly squeezed lemon juice and zest have the brightest, most vibrant flavor. Avoid bottled juice.
  • Don’t overmix – Gently fold the batter rather than beating to prevent overmixing. This gives a tender, delicate crumb.
  • Test doneness early – Check for doneness a few minutes before recommended bake time. It’s better to slightly underbake than overbake.
  • Poke holes before soaking – Use a fork or skewer to poke holes all over the cooled cake layers before pouring on the lemon syrup. This helps the cake absorb more moisture.
  • Make stabilized whipped cream – Add a tablespoon of corn starch to the heavy cream before whipping it into the frosting. This prevents weeping.
  • Store cake at room temperature – Wrapped well in plastic, the frosted cake will stay fresh 3-4 days stored at room temperature.

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