Spring is finally here, and this cake is the ultimate spring dessert! It’s delicious, zesty, fresh- it’s simply a slice of heaven.
I adjusted the lemon in this recipe since some feedback I received was that it was a tad too lemony. If you LOVE lemon, then add a tad more lemon but I think it’s perfect this way.
It’s moist, fluffy, and the cream cheese frosting is like you’re eating a cheesecake. I hope you enjoy!
Lemon Cake with Zesty Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields: 10-12 slices
- 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk at room temperature**
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar**
- 1 heaping Tablespoon lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 8 ounces full-fat brick style cream cheese, softened
- 5 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- pinch salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes release from the pans.
- Mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and set aside.
- Make your buttermilk if you don’t have a store-bought one on hand – I mixed the milk with apple cider vinegar and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract on high speed until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients just until combined. With the mixer still running on low, add the buttermilk, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix just until combined. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl.
- Pour the batter evenly into the cake pans. Bake for around 21-26 minutes or until the cakes are completely baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done.
- Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
- Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Add the cream cheese and beat until completely smooth and combined. Add confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat 2-3 minutes. Add more confectioners’ sugar if the frosting is too thin, more lemon juice if frosting is too thick, or add a pinch of salt if the frosting is too sweet.
- Assemble and decorate: Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand, or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides.
- I love decorating with extra lemon shavings or keeping it simple with strawberry slices and fresh mint. It makes for a beautiful cake!
*You can substitute buttermilk for the milk+ apple cider vinegar mix. Use 1 cup of buttermilk instead.*
Recipe adapted by Sally McKenney*