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! And this easy lemon bundt cake is a delicious lemon cake for snacking.)
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, Mother’s Day, 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.
1 CAKE LAYERS. To make the layers, sift cake flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl then set aside.
2 BUTTER AND SUGAR. 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.
3 MILK AND FLOUR. Alternately add your flour mixture and milk to your butter mixture, careful not to over-mix.
4 EGG WHITES. 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.
5 BAKE. 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.
Lemon curd buttercream
I used to pair this lemon curd cake with American buttercream, which is butter, confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest.
It was delicious but I always found it a little too sweet for my liking. So I used it sparingly (see photo above).
Later, I started making this lemon cake with Swiss meringue buttercream, which is egg whites, sugar, butter and lemon curd. It is fantastic.
Not too sweet, a perfect complement to the cake. It’s a delight to frost and decorate with as well.
I know a lot of you are a little intimidated by Swiss meringue buttercream so American buttercream is what I included in the recipe card below. The link to Swiss meringue buttercream is in the notes.
You can use either one – the cake will be delicious either way.
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:
- Cake flour
- Baking powder
- Granulated sugar
- Lemon zest
- Unsalted butter
- Egg whites
- Cream of tartar
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
If you choose to make lemon Swiss meringue buttercream, you’ll need:
- Egg whites
- Granulated sugar
- Unsalted butter
- Vanilla extract
- And more lemon curd
Tools you need to make the lemon layer cake and the lemon buttercream
To make this cake, I depend on my trusty stand mixer, especially to beat the egg whites. However, you can also use a handheld electric mixer; it’s just going to take a little longer.
In addition, you also need:
- 2 8×8-inch round cake pans
- Parchment paper
- Fine mesh sieve or flour sifter
- Rubber spatula
- Cooling rack
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).
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!
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 ⅓ cups cake flour
- 2 ¾ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 5 pcs egg whites from large eggs room temperature
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp lemon zest
- ¾ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup milk room temperature
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 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar sifted
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
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 ⅓ cups cake flour, 2 ¾ teaspoons baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
- In a bowl using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 5 egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy. Add ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar and whisk until you reach stiff peaks. Set aside
- Using your fingers, rub the 1 ¾ 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 ¾ cup butter and your lemon sugar on medium-high speed until light, fluffy and smooth.
- Switch to low speed and add a third of your flour mixture. Beat to combine.
- Add half of your milk and continue beating.
- Add 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 over beat (your mixture will be thick). Also remember to scrape the bottom and sides of your bowl.
- 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 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. Run a thin, sharp knife along the sides of the pan, take the cakes out, carefully remove the parchment paper and let cool on a cooling rack completely before frosting.
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 ½ 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.
- Trim the tops of your cake if they are uneven using a serrated knife or a cake leveller. The important thing is the tops are level and your two cakes are of equal height (you can eyeball this but a ruler is very handy).
- 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 ⅓ 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 ¼ 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.
- You can also make lemon sugar ahead. The recipe for lemon sugar is super easy; I have a stash of it all the time.
- Here’s the recipe for Swiss meringue buttercream if you prefer to frost the cake with that. Add about ½ cup of lemon curd into the mixture and beat until smooth. Adjust to taste.
- See post for the complete step-by-step photos and more baking tips.
Nutritional information are estimates only.
Did you make this lemon cake with lemon curd filling? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Thoughts on a cream cheese frosting?
Do you have a recipe for one to go with this cake?
Hi Jessie, have not used it on this cake but my favorite cream cheese frosting is the one I use in my ube roll cake. Check it out!
Hi, I’m looking to make this cake ahead of someone’s birthday…can I freeze it and then defrost it the day before the birthday? Will the curd/ frosting hold up? Or maybe freeze just the cake part and add the frosting the day of? Thanks!
Hi Cat, I would only freeze the cake and frost it the day you’re serving. Enjoy!
Easy to follow recipe. The lemon curd and frosting was much too sweet for my taste. It overpowered the delicate sponge.
Hi Mariah, what kind of frosting did you use? I usually go for Swiss meringue buttercream because I find the traditional sugar frosting to be a little on the sweet side too.
Can you use Buttermilk in place of whole milk???
Hi Margaret, I’ve never tried so I can’t say. In general, buttermilk is usually not a good substitute for milk because it has a different acidity level.
My rating should have been 5 stars, silly typos.
LOL and thanks for the rating, I really appreciate it! 🙂
I made this cake for my birthday cake today. Homemade lemon curd is heavenly and the cake with the Swiss buttercream…so amazing. Thank you so much for sharing. Every bite is perfection.
Hi Dana, happy birthday! So glad you liked the cake 🙂 Hope you had an amazing day!
My father-in-law loves lemon cake and requested one for his birthday. He specifically wanted it to be filled with lemon curd so I tried this recipe. It was delicious! It took quite a bit longer to cook, but we have propane and things take longer to bake. The only thing I wish I would have made more frosting because there was not enough to fully decorate it. I also candied some lemon peal to decorate the top. It was perfect!
Hi Heidi, glad you liked it! Candied lemon peel is a great idea. Hope you father-in-law had an amazing birthday!
I made this beautiful lemon cake today. So if you see information regarding someone on your page along time. It was me!
I believe this is truly one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. I am stunned how accurate you were on everything. You were so right about the egg whites that is something I will be incorporating into other cakes when I can.
I do love homemade lemon curd more than jar. However with so much on my plate to bake and make today for Easter tomorrow I decided to go with the jar.
This is a keeper. I honestly haven’t eaten any of the cake, yet! It’s in the fridge outside waiting for tomorrow after Easter dinner. However I tasted everything separately and omg wow! That lemon buttercream is awesome. So smooth and refreshing and just like silk.
Thank you so much for sharing a wonderful recipe. I mean this is beautiful.
I did like you and decorated the icing on top with piping though. It’s a pretty cake and I know delicious as well. Thank you again.
That’s awesome Felicia, your kind words made my day 🙂 Hope you and your family had a lovely Easter celebration.
can i make this cake with oil instead of butter?
Hi Jane, I haven’t tried. You can generally sub oil for butter in baking however, this recipe calls for creaming the butter and sugar together, and using oil won’t result to the same nice creamy, light texture.
Hi Jolina. I baked this lemon cake last weekend and it is so delicious!!! I just bought lemon curd but will try your recipe next time. I also chose to do the swiss buttercream and it is amazing. Thank you for your detailed steps. Have a good day!! – Jem
So happy to hear that Jem! Glad you liked it. Swiss meringue buttercream is my favourite frosting 🙂 Have a good day too!
Cake looks amazzzzzing!!! Can’t wait to try this. Thank you for the recipe.
One question though, can a cake filled with lemon curd be left at room temperature for a couple of days? It’ll be covered in fondant.
Hi Shiela! I always personally refrigerate lemon curd because it’s egg based. But there’s really conflicting opinions online. Check this out: http://www.cakecentral.com/forum/t/666810/lemon-curd-as-a-filling Good luck and hope your cake turns out great!
I have a feeling, that should I make this, it would be my ultimate weakness. All the more reason to! YUM!
Go for it Chloe! 🙂 It’s so lemony and delicious 🙂
A mere look at it has made my taste buds watery. Yummy! It must really be delicious
Thanks very much Mutange! It really is a very tasty cake 🙂
It looks so fluffy and beautiful, reading this before breakfast is definitely not a good idea ! Now I want this
LOL I consider my job done 🙂 Thanks Maryam! Hope you get the chance to try this recipe 🙂