Lemon cake with lemon curd filling – smooth and silky lemon curd reside between the layers of this soft lemony cake frosted with lemon buttercream. This is the ultimate lemon curd layer cake for lemon lovers. Did I mention there was lemon?
(If lemon desserts are your thing, you must try these classic lemon bars on delicious shortbread crust. Everyone’s favourite!)
If you’re a lemon dessert lover like me, you’d know that we’re the minority.
For example: you’re at a restaurant and you’re sharing a dessert with your friends. You’d almost always certainly be outvoted – you know the group would go for that devilishly delicious chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting.
Which is not a bad thing, we like chocolates too…we just love lemons.
And there are always chocolate cakes at the local bakeshop but when you’re craving for something lemony, chances are you’d have to search far and wide for one.
So being able to bake a lemon cake yourself is a big deal (at least for me!).
This lemon curd cake is easy and simple to make (always a good thing) and oh-so-lemony. Perfect for Easter, to welcome spring (now that is reason to party) or to surprise fellow lemon lovers in your life.
How to make lemon cake with lemon curd filling
And this lemon cake is definitely a celebration-worthy cake.
The cake, on its own, is light and soft but sturdy enough so it does not get all mushy once all the bells and whistles are put on top of it (or within it).
It also has a delightfully light lemony flavour that doesn’t overwhelm but makes you want to take another bite.
To make the layers, sift cake flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl then set aside.
In another bowl, cream butter and lemon sugar (one of my favourite things in world – I use it to make the easiest, flakiest lemon buttermilk scones and they are fantastic) until light and fluffy.
Add milk and mix just until incorporated. Then proceed to gradually add your flour mixture alternating with more milk, careful not to over-mix.
Fold egg whites which have been beaten to stiff peaks into your batter a little a time. Do this step gently so as not to deflate the air you’ve incorporated in it.
Transfer your cake batter into your prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
While your cakes are cooling, you can work on your lemon buttercream.
How to make lemon buttercream
The lemon buttercream is, quite literally, just icing on this already awesome cake. It’s made with lemon zest and butter – how could you go wrong?
Using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and lemon zest until smooth, light and fluffy.
Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until smooth.
Add lemon juice and beat until fully incorporated or until you get the consistency you want.
Ingredients for this easy lemon curd cake recipe
While the cake looks impressive, the ingredients to make it are actually very simple. I bet you already have most of it in your pantry.
For the lemon layer cake you would need:
For the lemon curd filling, you need pure, delicious lemon curd. I make my own lemon curd but you can also use ready-made curd if you like.
For the lemon buttercream, it’s just:
- Salted butter
- Lemon zest
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Fresh lemon juice
Tools you need to make the lemon layer cake and the lemon buttercream
In addition, you also need:
Cake assembly and decoration
Assembling a layer cake might be intimidating for some bakers but if you break it down into baby steps it’s really quite fun!
Step 1: Trim your cakes.
Once your cakes are completely cool, trim the tops of your cake if they are domed using a serrated knife or a cake leveller. The key is that the tops become level and your two cakes are of equal height (you can eyeball this but a ruler is inexpensive and very handy)
Step 2: Pipe your border.
Place one cake on a platter or cake turntable smooth side down (trimmed side up). Using a piping bag fitted with your favourite large tip (I recommend the Wilton 1A or similar), pipe a border around the cake to act as a dam so your lemon curd won’t ooze out later.
Step 3: Fill your cake.
Fill the centre of your cake (inside your little dam) with lemon curd. It’s important that the height of the lemon curd is equal to the height of your border so that your cake doesn’t sag in the middle.
Step 4: Finish and decorate.
Place the other cake on top of the first one smooth side up (trimmed side down) and frost like the crazy baker that you are! Decorate as simply or as elaborately as you like. Just keep an eye out for how much buttercream you have – you need enough to make your decorating dreams come true (double the buttercream recipe, if necessary).
Here are some of my favourite cake decorating tools:
Lemon curd cake recipe FAQs
I’ve had TUB readers reach out to me asking questions about this cake. Here are the most common ones.
How to make homemade lemon curd
This cake is filled with gorgeous and lustrous lemon curd that adds that rich, sweet and tangy lemon flavour we’re craving for.
Like I said earlier, I make my own lemon curd but you can certainly use your own recipe or just buy a jar of your favourite brand from the store.
I strongly recommend you try to make homemade though – so delicious, so easy and it only takes 10 minutes!
In a medium saucepan, simply combine egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and butter. Cook over medium heat, constantly stirring until the mixture is thick enough.
Remove from heat and carefully transfer the hot mixture into a heat-proof container. I like straining my mixture so I always get smooth, silky, pure lemon curd.
Cover by putting a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd and refrigerate overnight.
That’s it! The full recipe for delicious homemade lemon curd is here.
Can I substitute lemon pie filling for the lemon curd?
Lemon pie filling contains water and cornstarch to thicken it while lemon curd is made with eggs, butter and sugar. So you can expect not only the texture to be different but the flavour as well.
Pie filling won’t be as lemony as lemon curd and won’t be as rich. Which is why I always use lemon curd in this recipe.
However, if you are using lemon pie filling for this cake, you need to be careful that the cake doesn’t become too soggy in the middle and the filling doesn’t ooze out at the sides because it’s too watery.
Does cake with lemon curd need to be refrigerated?
Personally, I always refrigerate lemon curd cake since the lemon curd is made with eggs and I make it from scratch. Commercially-made ones have ingredients that help preserve it longer…but I still won’t risk it.
There are conflicting opinions online though so it’s really a personal choice. My suggestion is to err on the side of caution on this one.
Don’t worry – the cake will remain soft and moist in the fridge because the buttercream acts like a cling wrap protecting it from air and moisture. Here are more tips on how to store cakes.
Can I substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour in the recipe?
The main difference between cake flour and the more popular all-purpose flour is their protein content (that thing that becomes gluten). Cake flour has about 8-9% while all-purpose flour has about 10-13%.
This means cake flour results to baked goods that have super-tender texture with a fine crumb.
If you don’t have cake flour, you can still use all-purpose flour but the substitution is not 1:1. Here’s a good substitution guide.
Recipes using lemon curd
Looking for other recipes that use lemon curd? You’re in the right place!
Start with this no-bake lemon cheesecake. Lemon curd mixed with cream cheese makes for a delicious lemony treat.
Summer calls for unlimited scoops of this homemade lemon curd ice cream. No ice cream machine, no problem. You won’t need it for this recipe.
What to keep things simple? Make lemon pavlova with toasted almonds and coconut. Slather some lemon curd on top and call it a day.
Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd Filling and Lemon Buttercream
For the Lemon Cake:
- 2 1/3 cups cake flour
- 2 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp lemon zest about 2 medium sized lemons - I used Meyer lemons
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup milk divided into 1/4 and 3/4 cups room temperature
- 5 pcs egg whites from large eggs room temperature
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
For the Lemon Curd Filling
- Lemon Curd See my recipe for homemade lemon curd or you can also use store-bought
For the Lemon Buttercream:
- 1 cup salted butter room temperature
- 2 tbsp lemon zest
- 3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar sifted
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 medium-sized lemon should be enough - again, I used Meyer lemons for the frosting
For the Lemon Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350F and prepare 2 8-inch pans by greasing the bottoms and sides and putting parchment paper at the bottom for easy release.
- In a medium bowl, sift 2 1/3 cups cake flour, 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
- Using your fingers, rub the 1 3/4 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon zest together until they are combined and the sugar slightly moist (and your kitchen filled with that wonderful lemon sugar smell). Set aside.
- In another bowl, using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 3/4 cup butter and your lemon sugar on medium-high speed until light, fluffy and smooth.
- Add 1/4 cup milk and mix just until incorporated.
- Switch to low speed and add a third of your flour mixture. Then half of your remaining milk. Then another third of your flour, the last of your milk then finally the last of your flour. Make sure each addition is well combined before adding in the next but do not overbeat (your mixture will be thick). Also remember to scrape the bottom and sides of your bowl. Set this batter aside for now (I only have 1 stand mixer so I transfer this to another bowl and wash and thoroughly dry my mixer bowl before I work on my egg whites. If you have two stand mixers you can obviously skip this step - and know that I am jealous).
- In another bowl using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer this time fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the 5 egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy. Add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and whisk until you reach stiff peaks.
- Gently fold your egg whites into your batter with a rubber spatula about a quarter a time. Be very careful not to deflate the air you've incorporated into the egg whites. You will notice that as you fold, the batter (which was very thick earlier will become smoother and easier to handle.
- Divide your batter equally and transfer to your two pans.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Take out of the oven and cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Then take the cakes out of the pans, carefully remove the parchment paper and let cool on a cooling rack completely.
For the Lemon Curd Filling:
- You can use store-bought lemon curd or if you want to make your own, see this recipe for homemade lemon curd.
For the Lemon Buttercream:
- Using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 1 cup butter and 2 tablespoons lemon zest until light and fluffy.
- Gradually add the confectioner's sugar about 1/2 cup at a time and beat until smooth.
- Add the 3 tablespoons lemon juice and beat until fully incorporated or until you get the consistency you want.
- Take one and place on a platter or cake turntable smooth side down (trimmed side up). Using a piping bag fitted with your favourite large tip (I would recommend the Wilton 1A or similar or just simply cut the end of the bag to make a hole about 1/3 of an inch in diameter, pipe a border around the cake to act as a dam so your lemon curd won't ooze out later.
- Once you've done that, fill the centre with about 1/4 cup lemon curd. You might need to add more - the key is making the height of the lemon curd equal to the height of your dam so your cake doesn't sag in the middle.
- Put your other cake on top, smooth side up (trimmed side down). Now you can go crazy! Decorate as desired.
- Making homemade lemon curd would make this a 2-day cake because the curd has to be refrigerated overnight.
- I used Meyer lemons, which is sweeter, so when I tasted the different components of this cake I decided it would be too sweet if I frost the cake all the way around. So I made a nude cake and that worked perfectly for me. You can certainly frost and decorate any way you like.
Did you make this lemon cake with lemon curd filling? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.