Lemon Layer Cake

Lemon Layer Cake

This moist lemon cake is for lemon lovers with 3 kinds of lemon components in the cake batter (lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon extract) and of course, a lemon cream cheese frosting to finish it off. Add raspberries, strawberries, or a puree of choice between the layers for a perfect contrast.

lemon cake

This lemon cake is bursting with lemon flavor. Tied with a lemon cream cheese buttercream, it is the ultimate cake for lemon lovers. I loved pairing it with fresh raspberries in the middle of the layers, but feel free to trade them out for freshly sliced strawberries, a favorite berry jam, or just skip the fruit all together and go with lemon on lemon! 

Cake FAQ's

How to pipe rosettes?: Piping rosettes is easier than it looks! Use a 1M piping tip and starting from the center of the rose, pipe outward until you reach the desired size. If you have small gaps in between your rosettes, simply add a swirl to an edge of a rosette. If you look carefully, that’s what I did on this cake. It’s a no stress cheat and no one can see where you filled in gaps because of they way it blends together! For a slightly different rosette look, check out this style and consider turning this into an ombre cake with just a little bit of food coloring! 

You can also skip the piping and use the back of a spoon or spatula to swirl the frosting around the edges to achieve a simple, elegant look.

Frosting ideas?: If you would like a little more contrast, I LOVE pairing this lemon cake with my raspberry buttercream. It is so refreshing and tangy – like a raspberry lemonade! Head to this cake to use the raspberry buttercream recipe. I also include 2 classic favorite recipes to use in the recipe below – a lemon cream cheese and a classic lemon buttercream. 

You can also use mascarpone cheese instead of standard cream cheese. Mascarpone cheese is a light Italian cream cheese. So delicious and light. Can be found the in deli section of most grocery stores. 

Can I convert to cupcakes?: Yes! This recipe converts great to cupcakes. Just adjust the baking for slightly less time (about 15-20 minutes).


slice of lemon cake
cut lemon cake with raspberries

More lemon cake!

If you love this lemon cake, check out my Lemon & Blackberry Lavender Cake – cake layers filled with a blackberry lavender jam and a light mascarpone frosting. Topped off with a lemon glaze, it makes for the perfect refreshing cake. 

lemon cupcakes
lemon cake with raspberry filling
slice of lemon cake

Lemon Layer Cake

Lori Vaughn
This lemon cake is incredibly moist and packed full of lemon flavor. Top with a lemon cream cheese frosting or a classic lemon buttercream frosting to finish it off. Add raspberries, strawberries, or lemon custard between the layers for an extra touch.
5 from 1 vote



  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
  • 4 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest (2-3 lemons)
  • 3 cups (375 grams) all purpose flour *SEE NOTE BELOW
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) corn starch *SEE NOTE BELOW
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup buttermilk* room temperature

Glaze (Optional - keeps cake moist & flavorful)

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 2 TB water

Filling (optional)

  • 6 oz fresh raspberries or fruit of choice

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (Option 1)

  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest (optional for extra punch of lemon)

Lemon Buttercream Frosting (Option 2)

  • 2 cups unsalted butter
  • 6-7 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest (optional for extra punch of lemon)



  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease three 8" cake rounds, line with parchment rounds (to make it easy to release), and spray again.
    (You can also make as four layer 6" cake, two 9" cakes, a sheet cake, or cupcakes - just adjust baking time)
  • In a large bowl sift together the all purpose flour*, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Measure out the buttermilk with lemon juice and set aside.
  • In a stand mixer, combine the softened butter, sugar, zest, together and mix for a couple minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing briefly after each one. Add vanilla extract. Scrape the bowl as needed and mix together until everything is incorporated.
  • Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk/lemon mixture. Just be careful not to over mix.
  • Divide the batter into your 3 prepared pans (or alternate baking dish of choice).
    (I get about 12 oz batter in each of the four 6" pans and about 18 oz of batter in each of the three 8" pans.)
  • Bake for 22-25 minutes until a few moist crumbs are left on the toothpick. Remember, the cake continues to bake after you take it out of the oven. Remove from oven and set aside.
  • Sugar syrup: While cakes are cooling, make the sugar syrup in a small sauce pan on the stove. Combine the sugar, lemon juice, and water. Simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved, then immediately remove from heat.
  • Transfer cake layers on cooling racks and gently poke lots of holes in the top of each layer with a toothpick. Using a pastry brush (or spoon), generously brush layers with the lemon syrup. You may not use all of the syrup - that's okay. Let cakes cool completely before wrapping up or frosting.


  • In a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. (Add cream cheese if doing cream cheese option. If using lemon zest, add now. Mix for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add about half of the sifted powdered sugar.
  • Add the vanilla extract, lemon juice, (and heavy whipping cream if making classic buttercream recipe) and mix together. Add the remaining powdered sugar until you've reached desired consistency. Beat until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).


  • Place a small dollop of frosting on the bottom of a cake board followed by the first cake layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting on top of the first layer. Add a layer of sliced raspberries (or other fresh fruit, jam, or custard of choice).
  • Place the second cake layer on top and repeat the directions from the step above, adding frosting and any adders. Spread a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake. Chill for at least 15 minutes to seal your crumb coat.
  • After your crumb coat has chilled, continue to frost as desired. See my notes above for tips on piping rosettes using a 1M piping tip, or simply just use the back of a spoon or spatula to create gentle swirls. Both are elegant and fun looks!

Serving & Storing

  • If using cream cheese frosting, keep chilled in refrigerator until serving. I like to pull it out about an hour prior to serving so the frosting can begin to slightly soften again. Classic buttercream can sit out for 24-48 hours, or you can keep chilled in the fridge.
    If you are using fresh berries, I don't recommend freezing. If you just stuck with lemon on lemon, it freezes great. Place in freezer for 15 minutes to set the frosting, then wrap up well in plastic! Keeps fresh for 3 months.


*FLOUR SUBSTITUTE:  You can substitute the all purpose flour PLUS corn starch combo for a total of 3 1/4 cup cake flour. It makes the crumb a bit finer. I prefer a slightly denser crumb with the all purpose flour so I've adapted the recipe back to prefer all purpose, but the corn starch help keep it light, similar to cake flour. Plus all purpose flour is much more cost effective.
IMPORTANT - ensure you either weight or spoon and level your flour and corn starch. Never scoop or pack your flour. 
BUTTERMILK SUBSTITUTE: You can add 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice to milk to create a substitute for buttermilk. Because acid is prominent in the recipe, I've also used plain milk before as well and had great results. I love the richness of buttermilk, but you will love both results. 
4 Layer cake: To create a 4 layer 8" cake as pictured above, 1 1/2 the recipe.
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2 years ago

5 stars
This was sooo delicious and my first three tier cake and it turned out amazing! Super easy directions to follow and simple ingredients. My family wouldn’t stop raving about how delicious it was and my dad even said it was the best cake he had ever had!

Gina Shrout
Gina Shrout
2 years ago

Made this cake per request by my daughter for her 30th birthday cake.. I also made a raspberry filling and lemon curd that I alternated in between layers with buttercream roses that I made the day before . She wanted whipped cream frosting so I assembled everything the day of her birthday. It was alot of work but well worth it. The cake itself was the star!