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Triple-Lemon Layer Cake Recipe

Scott Phillips

Servings: eight to ten.

This light and tender cake flavored with lemon, layered with tangy lemon curd, and coated with a voluptuous lemony butter frosting will make any birthday happy. But why wait until then?


For the cake:

  • 9-1/4 oz. (2-1/3 cups) cake flour; more for the pans
  • 2-3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, completely softened at room temperature; more for the pans
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

For the filling:

For the frosting:

  • 8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, completely softened at room temperature
  • 2 Tbs. lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
  • 3-1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

For the garnish:

  • 2 lemons, zested with a channel zester, and silver dragées (both optional)

Nutritional Information

      Nutritional Sample Size based on ten servings
      Calories (kcal) : 870
      Fat Calories (kcal): 400
      Fat (g): 44
      Saturated Fat (g): 27
      Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2
      Monounsaturated Fat (g): 11
      Cholesterol (mg): 240
      Sodium (mg): 240
      Carbohydrates (g): 115
      Fiber (g): 1
      Protein (g): 6


Make the cake:

  • Position a rack in the middle of the oven; heat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour two 8 x 2-inch round cake pans. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. Pulse 1/4 cup of the sugar with the zest in a food processor until well combined.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and lemon sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 1-1/2 minutes). Add the remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar and beat until smooth (about 1-1/2 minutes). Beat in a quarter of the milk just until blended. On low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk in three batches, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; beat just until blended.
  • In another large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer (with clean beaters or the whip attachment) on medium speed just until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium high, and beat just until the whites form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. Add a quarter of the whites to the batter and gently fold them in with a whisk or a rubber spatula; continue to gently fold in the whites, a quarter at a time, being careful not to deflate the mixture.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Smooth the tops with the spatula. Bake until a pick inserted in the centers comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a table knife around the inside of the pans and carefully invert each cake out onto the rack. Flip them right side up and let cool completely.
  • With the palm of one hand pressed on top of a cake layer, cut each in half horizontally, using a long serrated knife. Put one of the four cake layers on a serving plate, cut side up. With an offset spatula or a table knife, spread a generous 1/3 cup chilled lemon curd on top of the cake layer. Lay another cake layer on top, spread it with another generous 1/3 cup lemon curd, and repeat with the third cake layer, using the last 1/3 cup lemon curd. Top with the fourth cake layer.

Make the frosting:

  • In a medium bowl, beat the butter and lemon zest with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar in batches and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and beat for 1 minute. (You can make the frosting a couple of hours ahead and keep it, covered, at cool room temperature.)

Frost the cake:

  • Up to a few hours before serving, spread a thin layer of frosting on the cake, filling in any gaps as you go. Chill until the frosting firms a bit, about 1/2 hour. (This “crumb coat” will keep crumbs from catching on your spatula and marring the finished cake.) Spread the remaining frosting decoratively over the top and sides of the cake. Scatter with bits of lemon zest and dragees, or garnish as you like.  


To create curls of zest for garnish, strip the zest from two lemons with a channel zester. Cover the strands loosely with a damp paper towel; they’ll curl as they begin to dry.


Rate or Review


  • MaryLouM | 07/31/2017

    I just made this cake for a second time. Both times a huge, huge hit. this time, I used buttermilk instead of whole milk because it was what I had, and will always make this substitution going forward. the cake was far more moist this time, especially in the days following. the cake is a nice foil for the beautifully tart curd. Like others, double the curd. Even with the whole milk, the cake itself was lovely and moist. Perhaps keep a close eye on the baking so it is baked, but not over-baked?

  • It'sThatGirl | 05/14/2017

    I ignored the reviews that said this cake was too dense, and I wish I hadn't. It is like a rock, and I can't understand why. Maybe too many egg whites. Also, the cake itself, without the lemon curd, had very little flavor except for an almost savory aftertaste that's hard to describe. I had high hopes for its cakes, but was sadly disappointed. Will not be a repeat for me. :(

  • Sparklepo | 12/25/2016

    I was very excited to bake this cake based on the reviews. I just made it for Christmas and I was very disappointed, The layers were extremely dry and had very little taste. The curd was good but definitely meant for lemon extremists. I really wish the cake would have been more moist.

  • JeanetteJunk | 04/27/2016

    My meyer lemons molded after two days, so I used Blood Oranges instead and added a bit of lemon extract for some bite. I would have preferred lemon, but the blood orange was delicious and viaually stunning. All the useful comments and reference to the more detailed curd recipe saved the day! I made 1.5 times the curd and frosting. Balance worked out perfectly for my preferences. Cake crumb is lovely - not too dense, not too light. I made the frosting per the recipe. While it is on the sweet side, I thought it balanced nicely with the light cake and tart curd. Reduced the blood orange juice for concentrated flavor before adding to the frostIng. Can't wait to make it with Lemons.

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