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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


  • magekka | 02/01/2018

    Amazing cake! Made this for a friend's 40th birthday as she wanted "a lemon cake". Even people that don't like cake loved this cake. Secret is is how you measure the flour. To get a light cake measure the flour, then sift, then measure again, and sift one more time. This makes a world of difference.

  • lizzymacz | 01/19/2018

    This was AMAZING! I have never attempted anything like this before, but my daughter wanted “something lemony” for her 18th bday and I just happened to have saved this recipe a while ago because it looked so good...I am so happy that I did! Everyone loved it, kids and teens and adults! After I was done making the whole thing, I only had still to frost it after the crumb coat, I decided to read the reviews. The only thing I decided to do extra, was to put raspberries around the edge to decorate and decided to wait and taste the whole thing and see if I agreed with any of the changes some people were making. Well, everything turned out PERFECTLY- the cake, the lemon curd (I would love to make more, but I didn’t think the recipe was lacking. It just tastes so good!), the icing, every part I made exactly to the recipe. Although, I ran out of zest after a while so the icing probably had less zest than the recipe requires. The raspberries added the perfect touch and looked very elegant. I will definitely be making this cake again and I won’t change a thing!! OUTSTANDING!!

  • caitlingwynne | 01/04/2018

    This receipe is unessesarily fussy, dense, chewy, and dry. My cake didn't rise at all which I think is due to combining the baking soda mixture with the butter mixture too soon. Then having to take time to beat the egg whites, causing some of the rising agents to leave my mixture. The curd recipe was delicious but that's it unfortunately.

  • 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?

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