A beautiful and different lemon layer cake, more similar to a pound cake in texture than a sponge cake, filled with lemony cream cheese, and frosted with a fluffy whipped cream. It's sweet, it's easy to make, with simple flavors, and perfect for small gatherings, birthdays, or a Spring celebration brunch.
Originally posted in 2012, this post has been completely updated with images, text, and tweaks to the recipe to serve you better.
About this recipe
I used to make this recipe as a loaf cake with a simple glaze. It was wonderful and perfect for an afternoon cup of tea. And it still a great idea.
But times changed, I eventually posted my favorite Lemon Sour Cream Pound Cake, so I decided to try it as a layer cake, double down on the cream factor and use a fluffy, sweet whipped cream as frosting and our beloved lemon cream cheese filling that holds better when the cake is cut.
A beautiful Spring cake, with simple flavors and light colors.
It was moist, but with an extremely tight crumb. I had expected that, but not for it to rise so much. My experience with cream in batters is that it weighs them down. Well, this one proved me wrong.
As far as lemons cakes go, I like mine very lemony. This needed about double the amount of zest that was called for in the recipe. So I changed that the next time I baked it. Which were a few.
I'm a huge fan of cream cheese frosting. Huge. So I decided to use a lemon flavored one, similar to the top layer of the Coconut Lemon Sheet Cake. Easy, fast, and delicious.
I decided to keep it simple and use whipped cream, lightly sweetened and with the addition of a few tablespoons of cream cheese to give it more structure. This is a trick I read in one of Nancy Silverton's books decades ago and always use it.
- Three layers - this is a nice amount of layers, and I recommend two sizes: 7-inch pans for a smallish cake like the images in this post, but with thicker layers, or 8-inch pans for a thinner layered cake.
- Two layers - this is another alternative, and I recommend 8-inch pans for a thicker layered cake and 9-inch pans for a more average cake.
Both are made with the same amount of batter and for me it comes down to the type of event where I'm serving it. Taller cakes are more of a showstopper, especially if you decorate it with flowers for example, while two layer cakes are easier to transport and cut and easier to handle for an intimate birthday for example. Either way the cake will be just as delicious.
My top tips
- Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
- Layers: don't over bake them! As soon as they're springy to the touch or a cake tester comes out clean, take it out of the oven. This recipe is more like a pound cake in texture, so over baking is never a good idea. That's why I also don't recommend refrigerating them for several days, so they don't dry out. I like to use them the next day I bake them.
- Make ahead: the layers and filing can be made ahead. Keep the former well wrapped in plastic until ready to use, refrigerated for no more than 2 days, or frozen for a few weeks. The cream cheese filling lasts for a few weeks in the refrigerator, in an airtight container.
Frequently asked questions
We love lemon cream cheese frosting. You can find the recipe in the post for Coconut Lemon Sheet Cake.
Because you didn't have the butter and the cream cheese at room temperature. It's a necessary step to let them soften so that they integrate well when you mix them. They should be completely smooth before you add the powdered sugar.
It lasts 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator, well stored. You should always cover it or store in an airtight container. But keep in mind that it will be different in appearance, with more air and the appearance of a 'bubbly' texture sometimes.
No, they're different. Heavy cream has a higher fat content and, ironically, will whip better and hold the shape longer than whipping cream. There's a 'heavy whipping cream' which might be the best, though it's very similar to heavy cream.
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- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 ⅓ cups (265g) sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 3 teaspoons lemon zest (about 3 or 4 lemons)
- A few drops vanilla extract
- 1 ¾ cups (245g) all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup (125ml) cream, at room temperature
- 5 ½ tablespoons (80g) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
- ½ cup (70g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar (you might up to a cup more to make it thick enough)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
For the frosting:
- 1 cup whipping or heavy cream, cold
- 4 tablespoons cream cheese, cold
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350ºF / 180ºC.
- Butter or spray three 7 or 8-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms. Reserve.
- Beat eggs, sugar and salt in a large bowl for a minute. It only needs to become frothy.
- Add lemon zest, vanilla and mix.
- Add sifted flour and baking powder (I sift it directly over the batter, but you can also sift if in another bowl first) in 3 parts. Mix well, we don’t want lumps, but don't over beat, just enough to integrate completely.
- Add the cream and mix.
- Add the melted butter, mix well.
- Pour into the prepared pan.
- Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden and a tester comes out clean. Depending on the size of the pan and the oven this time might vary slightly.
- Let cool completely on wire rack before removing from pans.
For the filling:
- Beat cream cheese with butter until smooth and creamy.
- Add sugar until you have a thick consistency.
- Add lemon zest and mix well.
- Adjust powdered sugar if you want a thicker frosting.
- Keep refrigerated.
For the frosting:
- Beat cold cream with cream cheese and sugar until medium firm peaks form.
- Finish with a hand whisk until you have a firm consistency. I always recommend this to avoid over beating which may curdle the cream. By hand it's easier to control the beating.
- Place the first cake layer and add several tablespoons of filling.
- Smooth with a spatula leaving about half an inch edges without filling.
- Place the second cake layer on top and gently press. The filling will expand filling the edges.
- Repeat with filling and the last cake layer.
- Frost with the whipped cream, both the top and the sides. You can make a semi-naked cake and smooth the sides so that the cake layers show. Or you can cover them with a thick layer of whipped cream.
- Decorate with lemon rind, slices, or edible flowers.
Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
Layers: don't over bake them! As soon as they're springy to the touch or a cake tester comes out clean, take it out of the oven. This recipe is more like a pound cake in texture, so over baking is never a good idea. That's why I also don't recommend refrigerating them for several days, so they don't dry out. I like to use them the next day I bake them.
Make ahead: the layers and filing can be made ahead. Keep the former well wrapped in plastic until ready to use, refrigerated for no more than 2 days, or frozen for a few weeks. The cream cheese filling lasts for a few weeks in the refrigerator, in an airtight container.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cooling time: 90 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Cakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: International
Keywords: lemon cream cake