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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

Reviews (37 reviews)

  • compactfish | 02/11/2019

    This is an amazing lemon cake! Super strong lemon flavor. Would be amazing after a heavy meal. The lemon curd was the best I've ever made... very thick, so it didn't get absorbed into the cake. I used three 9-inch cake pans (didn't cut the cakes), which resulted in a relatively short cake, but perfectly acceptable. The only critique would be the icing. It was a bit grainy because of the icing sugar. I would make this again with a lemon buttercream or flour buttercream icing.

  • Joey Tai | 03/31/2018

    This was an amazing tasting cake, albeit a lot of steps to complete it. The sponge was on the heavier side, but vey tender, moist and delicious. The baking time with convection was about 22 minutes. The colour on the top of the cake should barely have any colour.

    The lemon curd is out of this world. It will be my new go to lemon curd for cake fillings.

    The buttercream frosting was a bit on the sweet and firm side of things, so I would suggest cutting back the sugar to 3 cups and add 3.5 tbsp of lemon juice. This frosting is not as velvety as most butter creams, but don’t get me wrong, it is plenty tasty.

    All in all a delicious cake that can be beautifully decorated.

  • brozy_a | 03/17/2018

    Fantastic! This cake was perfect, everything I hoped it would be. Moist, tender, and very lemony. Everyone loved it, and the person I made it for said it was like something from a bakery.

    I was worried that because I have 9" cake rounds rather than 8", the lemon curd layer would be too thin, but it was still amazing. (I also used lemon oil rather than zest in the interest of saving time and clearing out some baking supplies; worked great.)

    The only thing I would do differently next time is make 1.5 batches of frosting. Perhaps because I used a different pan size, I ended up with exactly enough frosting for the cake and not a spoonful more. Frosting to cake ratio was perfect and delicious. I would like a little more room for error in my decorating work, though.

    I've finally found the lemon cake recipe I've been hoping for. I will be making this again and again, and experimenting to see how it translates to other citrus flavors.

  • 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.

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