Recipe: Lemon Butter Cake

published Oct 16, 2017
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You know how the saying goes: When life gives you lemons, find a bottle of gin and a cocktail shaker. Alternately, you could grab a citrus juicer and squeeze them into this perfectly tangy Lemon Butter Cake. No, maybe you wouldn’t expect to be juicing lemons for your baking this time of year, but if you’re a little pumpkin spiced out, citrus is a nice bright change of pace. (It’s OK to admit it. We’re all friends here.)

(Image credit: Christopher Broe)

The cake’s sweetness is nicely balanced with the tart star of the cake, the lemon curd. The frosting helps play down the sweet layers, too, by being more of a buttery and bright (it’s made with lemon juice and zest) addition.

(Image credit: Christopher Broe)

As for those layers, they’re a little denser than your typical sponge cake. Our trick for keeping them moist and fluffy was the microtextured surface of OXO’s nonstick pro cake pan that increases airflow during baking. Then, its two-layer non-stick coating help the layers slide out looking as good as anything you’ve seen in a TV kitchen.

(Image credit: Christopher Broe)

Some of the steps you’d think would be tedious are made quicker by OXO’s clever baking tools, from obvious timesavers like an adjustable citrus juicer that works on any citrus fruit to more subtly smart gadgets like an angled measuring cup that lets you read quantities from above and not just the side.

You can even make the cake layers in advance, take a two-day breather, and then assemble and frost it. (And remember, whether you’re piping impressive swirls of icing or not, there’s no wrong way to frost a cake).

(Image credit: Christopher Broe)

Hey life, how do you like these lemons now?

Lemon Butter Cake

Serves 12 to 16

Nutritional Info


For the cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon


  • 3/4 cup

    whole milk, at room temperature

  • 1/4 cup

    freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 2 sticks

    (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 1/2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    finely grated lemon zest (from 4-5 lemons)

  • 4

    large eggs

For frosting and decorating the cake:

  • 2 sticks

    (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon

    finely grated lemon zest

  • 1/4 teaspoon


  • 4 cups

    powdered sugar, sifted

  • 2 tablespoons

    freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 3/4 cup

    lemon curd


  1. Make the cake: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350ºF. Prepare 2 (9-inch) cake pans by lining the bottom of each pan with parchment and greasing the parchment; set aside.

  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate mixing bowl or a 1-cup measuring cup, whisk the milk, lemon juice, and vanilla together. Set both mixtures aside.

  3. Place the butter, sugar, and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg has been incorporated before adding the next.

  4. Turn the mixer to low speed, and gradually add in 1/2 of the flour mixture, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add 1/2 of the milk mixture and beat until combined. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk mixtures. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and smooth, about 1 minute.

  5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake until the cakes are golden brown, the top springs back slightly when pressed, and the edges pull away from the sides of the pan, 25 to 30 minutes.

  6. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto the rack. Tap the bottom of the pan with your fingers to help the cake release. Peel off the parchment, flip the cakes again, and cool completely.

  7. Make the frosting: Place the butter, lemon zest, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until lightened in color and creamy, about 3 minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

  8. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until incorporated. Add the lemon juice and beat on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Cover with a clean, damp towel until ready to use. If the buttercream starts to dry and develop a crust, simply beat again with the mixer until creamy.

  9. Assemble and frost the cake: Place 1 cooled cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Fill a Baker's Decorating Tool or piping bag with 1/2 cup of the frosting. Pipe a thick bead of frosting around the top edge of the cake. Spoon the lemon curd on top of the cake inside the rim of frosting and spread into an even layer.

  10. Invert the second cake layer onto the first layer. Pile the remaining frosting onto the top of the cake and spread into an even layer on the top and sides of the cake, or refill the Decorating Tool with the remaining frosting and decorate as desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Unfrosted cake layers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

Storage: The frosted cake can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Lemons: Refrigerate zested lemons and reserve them for another use.

This post was created by the Kitchn Creative Studio and is sponsored by OXO.
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