My Recipe Box

Triple-Lemon Layer Cake


Serves 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)
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.
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.  

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on ten servings; Calories (kcal): 870; Fat (g): fat g 44; Fat Calories (kcal): 400; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 27; Protein (g): protein g 6; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 11; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 115; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 240; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 240; Fiber (g): fiber g 1;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Definitely a time consuming recipe, but SO WORTH IT!! I made this cake filled with the (linked) lemon curd and topped with an Italian Lemon Meringue Buttercream. It was absolutely divine! Thinking of including it for a wedding sheetcake, to be served while the bride and groom are cutting the fondant covered cake. So very delicious! It is easier if made in stages.

I am making this cake this weekend, as a trial run for a wedding cake. The cake sounds yummy and the reviews are good, but I am worried about the lack of lemon juice or lemon flavoring in the cake. My niece, who I am making it for, loves lemon cake. Does the cake, by itself, taste quite lemony? Thank you to anyone who can reply to this.

The cake, the curd, the frosting .... all outstanding. I made it for a birthday girl that loves citrus, and love it she did, as did all of the other guests.

I made this cake again last night! I get better and better at it...However, since I was making this cake on a whim I didn't have time for the butter to come to room temp for frosting and used the microwave to soften (I should have used the warm water trick and cut the butter in small cubes to sit out)....DO NOT....and I repeat....DO NOT DO THAT!!! HAHAHAA!!! It still turned out very pretty and semi-pro but frosting was a little too loose---yet did not run off the sides of my cake...I didn't have dragees but I had silver gems...but this cake was sooooooo good...I wish I could post a pic...and nice n' tender! Jesus! This is a fool-proof no fail cake. I love it! It does take time but I went kind of fast and was done in about 2.5 hours total...the prepping takes a bit of time (lemons mostly)...but if you enjoy baking and its end result, it's not a bother! The frosting for this cake is perfect. It is not too sweet IMO in conjunction with everything else (but I'm from the South...sweet is everything to us...if it's not sweet we're not However, you can add popcorn salt to balance sweetness in your frosting! Not a cake recipe I would recommend for a beginner but if you feel like a challenge?...this one is the one! and very much worth every moment you spend! :)#serioushomechef

Really great cake! I skipped over the questionable frosting part and made an ordinary lemon buttercream frosting that went really well. I also doubled the curd recipe; I didn't use all of it, but I used more than half so I'm glad I doubled it. (Plus, as it turns out that lemon curd is delicious so leftovers are fun.) Btw, it's really really important to flatten the cake-batter before you stick it in the oven. (or err on the side of a shallower center). 'Turns out that lemon curd is slipperier than a greased pig and gravity will pull apart the cake if it's allowed to. And I wouldn't try to cook the curd past the point of slipperyness--you'll overcook it. I think it's just in curd's nature to be slippy. But really! A marvelous cake! Don't serve this to anyone who doesn't like lemons.

This cake is very good. I've made it with the lemon curd recipe. It is amazing! I did use buttercream for the frosting because the icing recipe seemed like it would be too sweet. Only problem I had is it didn't rise very much at all. I've made this recipe 5 times and it never rose very far so I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong but it still tasted great!

Excellent recipe! Made cake and curd just as written but used cream cheese in the frosting instead of butter, along with the zest and lemon juice. Came out exactly as it should have - fine textured, moist cake and tart silky lemon curd. Not difficult, but labor intensive - and absolutely worth it! To serve Easter Sunday I made the curd Thursday, the cake on Friday & froze it , then Sunday morning made the frosting and put it all together. I did make an icing dam around the curd which wasn't suggested in the instructions, but proved helpful. I have looked at this recipe for a couple of years and am so glad I finally made it! Go ahead - you'll love it and so will your guests! Really special cake!!

A very fine cake with excellent crumb and flavor and beautiful presentation for a birthday or special occasion. A slight change I made was an Italian lemon meringue frosting which keeps the cake light - a nice contrast to the more-solid lemon curd filling. Letting the cakes rest in the pan after removing from the oven is an important step, but no longer, or it will feel moist from condensation.

I'm not a big cake fan, but made this for Easter dessert. Now, this will become an annual addition to Easter. This recipe takes a little bit of effort, but is totally worth your time. Love, love, love the lemon.

Outrageously delicious. Rather than garnishing with lemon peel, I surrounded the top rim with Red Raspberries. I cut raspberries in half and surrounded the base. Since it was for my daughter's 8th birthday, I made a circle of whole raspberries in the center and used them as candle holders. It was gorgeous and delicious. I wish I could upload a photo as my guests were seriously impressed.

I made the cake and alternated layers of vanilla pastry cream and blueberry sauce (flavoured with lemon juice). I then topped it with cream cheese frosting (with vanilla and lemon juice) and blueberries and more blueberry sauce on top. It was divine!

Made this cake - but had to alter the frosting recipe. As written, the frosting was awful - and so the 4 star rating. I added 8 oz cream cheese to the frosting-then had to adjust the sugar to taste. If you have a favorite plain cream cheese frosting - go with that. On the whole - this cake was DELISH! The lemon curd is a must and is SO much tastier than store bought.

I made this recipe using a lemon cream cheese frosting in place of the buttercream frosting. I also took the lemon curd and folded it into some of the whipped cream frosting for the filling. I have been taking cake decorating and flower classes at Hobby Lobby so I made yellow primrose and daffodil flowers to decorate top of cake. Beautiful.

i didn't have any butter left for the frosting so i made a simple whipped cream using heavy cream, sugar, and lemon. the frosting had a noticeable hint of lemon in it which worked very well with the cake without being too overpowering. the cake and the curd were perfectly balanced. overall a great recipe. i did get around to making the frosting for this recipe and i must say it was really odd. just butter and confectioner's sugar? it was borderline disgusting trying it because it tasted like i was just eating a stick of butter. also, in order to get the butter to turn white, you need to add way too much sugar resulting in basically a really really sweet stick of butter. eating it with cake wasnt so bad, but just knowing i was basically spreading pure butter on it was just so off putting. stick with a classic buttercream or in my opinion an even better match up with this particular cake is a simple lemon whipped cream.

This cake was on the front cover of Fine Cooking (I think) -- I made it several years ago and thought it was absolutely fantastic. After spending hours trying to rummage through my old Fine Cooking magazines, I realized, just go to the website!!! This cake does take time, but it is well worth it if you are a lemon lover like myself. The lemon flavor is exquisite.

Excellent cake packed with lemon flavor.

My daughter made it for her father's birthday. She used cake flour. It was fantastic. I highly recommend it. She did not put the decorations on top. It deserves the highest rating.

This was Soooooo delicious. The silver dragees were a neat idea for decoration. My little lemon peel strips didn't curl, so my cake was not quite as pretty at the photo here, but the taste was right up there with the best.

Very nice cake with lots of lemon flavor. Since my sister wanted Lemon 'Poppy Seed' Cake for her birthday, I folded in 2 Tablespoons of toasted poppy seeds with the egg whites. Interestingly, I misread the amount of butter in the cake batter and used only 6 Tablespoons (instead of 6 ounces) and the cake was still very nice. Maybe I'll do that again next time to save calories. I think it's important to give this cake enough time to set and let the flavors meld. And as others suggested, it's also helpful to make the 3 components in stages.

The cake was wonderful. Great flavor and texture. I did make a true buttercream, but found I had to add a touch of lemon juice and confectioners sugar to the buttercream to get the right balance of lemon.

Nice and tart lemon recipe. Add some raspberries and it looks wonderful.

Lovely! The lemon curd filling is outstanding. The frosting is too sweet (in my opinion) so I would make a true buttercream next time.

I love this cake! It is time consuming because you must use fresh lemons, but it is well worth the effort. I use the best butter I can find (Plugra) for the frosting. I also try to make it in stages so it doesn't seem so daunting a task. You can make the curd one day, the cake the next (I freeze the layers to make them easier to frost), then make the frosting and put it all together. I did find that it is better to refrigerate it before you cut it because the curd tends to make the top layer slide around a bit. I've also doubled it for a large 14" square cake pan and made a two layer cake that will serve up to 30 people. Everybody who has tasted this cake raves about it and requests it again and again.

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