Light, fluffy layers of easy lemon sponge cake sandwiched with sweet lemon buttercream frosting and a touch of lemon curd makes this cake the ultimate summer indulgence.
Simply made gluten free. Gotta love that. It can be made either way, but even my pickiest tasters LOVED this cake made with a gluten free flour blend. You'll love the short list of ingredients needed to make this layered cake and you'll love the outstanding flavor even more!
Lemon Cake Ingredients
For the Lemon Cake
Unsalted Butter — bring to room temperature before getting started.
Granulated White Sugar — bring in the sweetness!
Vanilla Extract — enhances the flavors
Eggs - brings texture, rise and lightness to cakes
Gluten Free Flour Blend — or all-purpose flour. My favorite gluten free blend is King Arthur Measure for Measure. You can read why it's the best blend in our gluten free comparison post.
Salt — flavor enhancer
Baking Powder — get lots of rise and beautifully tender air bubbles
Milk — 2% or whole is best, but you can use a plant based milk as well.
Fresh Lemon Juice — from 2 lemons, or from a bottle if needed
Lemon Zest - from 2 lemons. The addition of lemon zest brings a special "lift" to the flavors and a little extra zing.
For the Lemon Frosting
Unsalted Butter — bring to room temperature
Powdered Sugar — sifted to remove lumps
Fresh Lemon Juice — lots of lemony flavor
Milk — whole milk is preferred, but use whatever kind you have on hand
Lemon Curd - this is the magically tart and smooth burst of lemon flavor for this cake. It really adds a whole dimension to the cake, but it's ok if you want to leave it out too.
All About This Lemon Layer Cake
- Flavor – If you're a lover of lemon desserts, then this cake is a dream come true! Moist, sweet, buttery and full of deliciously sweet lemon flavor. The pop of lemon in the buttercream and the smooth spread of lemon curd in the center really put this cake over the top.
- Texture – Moist and fluffy at the same time. Total cake perfection. While all-purpose or cake flour will lend itself to a little more natural fluffiness, the gluten free flour blend stands up very well and makes a great substitute for those who cannot tolerate it, like me.
- Time – 45 minutes start to finish. Pretty quick for a 2 layer cake!
- Difficulty – Totally simple! There are no tricks or special equipment needed to achieve exactly what you see in the photos.
Making Lemon Cake in Other Sizes
Using 8" cake pans - No changes need to be made to the recipe. Your layers will be slightly thicker than a 9" round cake pan.
Using a 9x13 dish - No changes need to be made to the cake recipe, however the frosting will be a little different. Since there won't be a layer for the lemon curd, I suggest spreading a thin layer across the top of the cake, chilling for an hour and then piping and gently spreading frosting on top. That way you still get the punch of lemon from the curd without the trouble of layers.
Using 6" cake pans - If you love a tall thin cake, you can substitute three 6 inch cake pans without any adjustments to the cake recipe. You can do another layer of frosting and keep it a single layer of lemon curd.
How to Make Lemon Cupcakes
To make this lemon layer cake into cupcakes, you'll keep the cake recipe the same, but scoop batter into greased or lined cupcake tins and bake for 15-20 minutes until the center springs back when lightly touched. To add lemon curd, spoon curd into small zip top bag and snip a corner about ¼".
Using a straw or chopstick, poke a hole into the top of the cupcake (using the same method as these Buttermilk Raspberry Muffins) and then squeeze curd into the center. Frost the top using a piping bag or gently spreading lemon frosting. YUM!
How to Easily Spread Frosting
To keep the lemon curd from squeezing out the side while cutting the cake, create a "dam" of frosting around the outer edge, as you can see in the picture below. So simple, but keeps the cake nice and neat.
If you're like me and you can't stand spreading frosting on tender cakes (hello cake crumbs in your frosting), simply put your frosting in a gallon sized zip top bag and snip the corner about ½". Then you can easily pipe the frosting and give it a quick spread, no special cake tools necessary. And you get an even layer of frosting without any frustration.
We're all about keeping our kitchen tools minimal and using what we have on hand without having to spend money or room on unnecessary kitchen items.
More Light Summer Dessert Recipes
- Lemon Cake Cookies - Delightfully light and simple recipe
- Almond Lemon Cake - Naturally gluten free and oh, so good!
- Cake Mix Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake - Start from a cake mix to whip this cake up in just a few minutes.
- Blueberry Muffin Cake - As delicious as it sounds-topped with a crumb topping
- Orange Dark Chocolate Chunk Scones - Try these with lemon curd, yum!
- Orange Cinnamon Tea Sandwiches - Kids LOVE these
- Healthy Chocolate Popsicles - Kids also LOVE these
- Pineapple Upside Down Cake - Gluten Free Option and Vegan
How to Store Cake
Since this cake has a buttercream frosting, it will keep fresh best when stored in the refrigerator. Place under a cake dome or cover loosely with foil and place in the refrigerator. Cover any exposed parts of the cake (once sliced) with parchment paper or foil to keep cake from drying out.
The cake will keep fresh when stored this way for up to 5 days.
Cakes are great in the freezer! In order to store cakes in the freezer, allow cake layers to come to room temperature. Tightly wrap each layer with 2 layers of plastic wrap and then wrapped in heavy duty foil. Remember to label and date the layers.
If you plan to freeze the layers for longer than a month, I recommend also placing these layers into a zip-top freezer bag, but that's optional.
Cakes will freeze well for up to 2 months!
How to Thaw Your Lemon Cake
When you’re ready to frost your cake, remove the cake layers from the freezer and unwrap from plastic wrap and foil. Allow them sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
Since cold cake is easier to decorate, this will allow the cake to thaw enough to frost, but still be cold enough to decorate.
Gluten Free Lemon Cake
For the Lemon Cake
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 ¾ cup granulated white sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 eggs room temperature
- 2 ¼ cup gluten free flour blend or all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ cup milk 2% or whole is best
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice from 2 lemons
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest from 2 lemons
For the Lemon Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 ½ cups powdered sugar sifted
- 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons milk
- ½ cup lemon curd store bought works great
For the Cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8" or 9" cake pans or one 9"x13" dish for a sheet cake. Line the bottom of the cake pans with parchment paper for easiest removal. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and vanilla on high for one minute until light and fluffy. Scraping the sides as needed.
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition.
- In a medium bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder.
- In a small bowl, combine milk, lemon juice and lemon zest.
- Alternate milk mixture and flour mixture into the butter mixture in 3 additions, ending with flour. This ensures all of the liquid is thoroughly incorporated into the batter and prevents the mixture from "splitting".
- Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix until fully combined, but careful not to over mix.
- Pour the batter into the pans, dividing evenly if using 2 cake pans. Bake on center rack for 25-30 minutes, until center springs back when lightly touched or a toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove and allow to fully cool on cooling racks.
For the Frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), beat butter on high for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
- Add lemon juice, lemon zest and half the powdered sugar. Mix on low until powdered sugar is mostly combined. Add remaining powdered sugar (adding slowly avoids a powdered sugar mess in the kitchen).
- Mix on low until powdered sugar is all mixed in, then turn the mixer up to medium high and beat for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
- To frost the cake, place first cake layer on a cake stand or serving platter. Pipe a ring of frosting around the outer edge. Spoon and spread lemon curd in the center (see notes above for pictures to show this process).
- Add second cake layer and pipe remaining frosting on top and sides and smooth with a butter knife or offset spatula.
- Top it off with lemon slices, mint leaves, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or lemon cookies. Or whatever your heart desires!
- Slice and enjoy!