This super lemony lemon cake is for serious lemon lovers – with a lemon sponge, lemon curd and lemon buttercream, it’s sure to please!
My skating bestie K’s birthday is July 5. Sadly, we usually travel that week to see family, so I am almost never here to celebrate with her on her actual birthday. However, I promised her that after I returned from my trip, I would bake her something special.
K has been a constant taste tester on the blog. Her #1 dessert so far are these whole lemon bars. I’ve made them for her multiple times but wanted to do something more special this year. I found a lemon cake recipe that sounded promising so here we are.
I brought this cake to the rink one evening for us to enjoy after class. I made sure that our collective adult skating community had an opportunity to enjoy some cake too. Some of them even claimed that it was the best lemon cake they’ve ever had (hooray!). Thankfully, I was able to save a piece of cake to bring back home and let my family try it.
The birthday girl said that this was a 4.5 out of 5, and my pairs partner – ever the lemon expert – agreed. He said that it needed to be more tart, while my husband said it was too tart and needed to be sweeter. Even though this cake has tons of lemon flavor, I think it could have used one more dimension… by adding candied lemon on top!
I’m happy my skating bestie enjoyed her cake!
Husband’s rating: 4.5 out of 5
Addie’s rating: 3 out of 5
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Lemony lemon cake
Lemon curd (make this ahead of time)
- 5 large egg yolks save the whites for the cake below
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice juice of 1 lemon
- ½ cup (1 stick or 8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter cut into cubes
- zest from one lemon use the same lemon that you squeezed the juice out of
- 2 and ¼ cups cake flour
- 2 and ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 large egg whites from the eggs you separated for the lemon curd
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 and ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
- ¾ cup (1 and ½ sticks or 12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 1 cup (2 sticks or 16 Tablespoons) unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
- 3 and ½ cups powdered sugar I used a bit more to make the frosting stiffer
- 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract optional
Make the lemon curd
- In a medium sized saucepan set over medium heat, mix together the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, butter, and zest.
- Constantly stir until the curd thickens to pudding consistency.
- Turn the stove off, remove the pan from the heat, and transfer to a heatproof container. Allow it to cool before covering and transferring to the refrigerator to cool completely.
- The curd needs to cool for several hours and can be made several days in advance. I'd recommend allowing it to thaw before assembling the cake.
Bake the cake
- Preheat your oven to 350℉. Grease and line two 8" round pans and set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whisk the egg whites on high speed until they get foamy. Turn the mixer off, add the cream of tartar, and then mix on high speed again until you achieve stiff peaks. Transfer the whipped egg whites to another bowl. Wash the bowl of the stand mixer and dry it thoroughly.
- In the bowl of a clean (and dry) stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a separate large bowl if using a handheld mixer, add the sugar and the lemon zest. Using your fingers, rub the lemon zest and sugar together until the sugar gets slightly clumpy. Add the butter and turn your mixer on medium speed until well combined.
- Turn the mixer to low and add in one third of the flour. Mix well.
- Add half of the milk and mix well. Then add another third of the flour mixture and mix well. Add the remaining milk and mix well. Then add the final third of the flour. Your batter will be thick.
- Gently fold in the whipped egg whites, being sure not to deflate them too much while mixing. Make sure that no egg whites remain, but be gentle when folding them into the batter.
- Evenly distribute the batter into your baking pans. Bake in your preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool completely before assembling.
Make the frosting
- In the bowl of a clean stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.
- Turn the mixer to low and add in the powdered sugar, about ½ cup at a time. Add the lemon juice, zest, and extract (if using). Adjust the powdered sugar as needed. If your frosting seems too runny to frost, add more powdered sugar. If it feels too stiff, you can add more lemon juice or a splash of milk. Set aside.
Assemble the cake
- Remove the cakes from the pans and slice each in half horizontally so that you now have 4 layers.
- Place on layer, flat side down, on a cake plate or platter.
- Put the frosting into a zip-top bag or pastry bag to pipe a ring around the circumference of the cake. You are creating a frosting "dam" so that the lemon curd will not escape.
- Add one third of the lemon curd inside the frosting dam. Spread evenly.
- Add another cake layer on top and gently press down. Pipe another frosting dam and spread the more lemon curd on top.
- Repeat with the third layer of cake.
- Once all the curd has been used up and you have 3 layers of cake with frosting dams and lemon curd, place the final cake layer on top, with the flat side of the cake facing up. Gently press on the top of the cake.
- Spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set. This is your crumb coating and will prevent the crumbs from sticking to the final layer of frosting.
- Once your crumb coating has set, add frosting to the top and sides of your cake. If desired, you can use a star piping tip to make decorations on the top or at the bottom of your cake. I used my star tip to make a giant rose design on top. I started at the center of the cake and moved the tip in a spiral pattern.
- If desired, you can add candied lemon, lemon zest, or fresh lemon slices on top for decoration. Keep the cake chilled until ready to serve, but be sure to let it thaw a bit before slicing to enjoy.