Best Lemon Cake Recipe – How To Make Lemon Cake

Will Dickey

Sunny Lemon Cake is the perfect dessert to anchor any celebration! This two-layered beauty is as wonderful as a Mother’s Day cake as it is to top off the ultimate Easter menu. Pair it with homemade lemonade on a sunny day for the most brilliant springtime dessert course!

How does lemon cake taste?

Lemon Cake is reminiscent of a simple vanilla or white cake made from scratch, with an added layer of shine and fresh lemon zing. This lemon cake uses both the zest and plenty of fresh lemon juice to give the cake its tangy, shiny edge. Butter, vanilla, eggs and sugar add richness and a hint of sweetness, but this cake recipe also uses an unexpected ingredient – olive oil – to achieve its moistness and tender crumb.

Can I cook with olive oil?

Yes! Olive oil cooks much like vegetable oil in baked goods, but there are a few things to keep in mind: olive oil has a more aromatic flavor profile than a neutral vegetable, and these flavors will carry over into the finished cake. That said, be sure to cook with fresh olive oil (check the expiration date!) that hasn’t been opened in the pantry for too long. Sniff it well before using it: if the oil lacks a fruity or grassy smell or smells a little musty, it is best not to use it for this cake (substitute vegetable oil or canola oil). Additionally, baking with a light olive oil can ensure the balance of flavors in this cake. It is best to reserve olive oils labeled “robust” or with peppery or spicy flavors for savory dishes.

What’s the best way to decorate a lemon cake?

There are so many options to decorate this cake, from simple to chic and new! Chocolate curls are awesome and incredibly easy to make – check out Ree Drummond’s foolproof tutorial and white chocolate sub for semi-sweet. For a quicker white chocolate topping, shave a block of white chocolate with a vegetable peeler or sprinkle white chocolate chips on top of this cake. Edible flowers are another incredibly simple and beautiful garnish. Not necessarily meant to be eaten (although you can!), they add great color and keep your cake safe. If you have pansies, violets, borage or nasturtium in your garden, prune some to decorate your cake.

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Yields:

10 – 12


portions

Preparation time:

0

hours

30

minutes

Total time:

2

hours

45

minutes

For the cake

2 1/2 tsp.

all purpose flour

1


stick of salted butter (1/2 cup), melted and cooled to room temperature

1 3/4 tsp.

Granulated sugar

3


large eggs, room temperature

1 ea.

buttermilk, room temperature

2 tbsp.

lemon zest (from 2 lemons)

1/3 tsp.

fresh lemon juice (2 to 3 lemons)

Nonstick cooking spray with flour

For the lemon buttercream

1 ea.

salted butter, room temperature

4 oz.

cream cheese, room temperature

1 tbsp.

lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

5 1/2 tsp.

icing sugar

3 tbsp.

fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

3 to 4 drops of yellow food coloring, optional

To assemble

White chocolate shavings and/or edible flowers

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  1. For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350º.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Whisk together the butter, olive oil and sugar in a large bowl until combined. Add the eggs and whisk for 1 to 2 minutes, until they whiten. Add vanilla, buttermilk, lemon zest and juice and whisk to combine. Add flour mixture and whisk to combine.
  4. Spray 2 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray with flour. (Otherwise: butter and flour the molds). Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Tap the molds several times each on a tea towel on your work surface to level the surface and remove any air bubbles from the batter.
  5. Bake for 28 to 32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs. Transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then unmold onto a cooling rack to cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.
  6. For the frosting: Add the butter, cream cheese and lemon zest to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar. Beat on low speed until smooth. Increase speed to medium and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Add lemon juice and yellow food coloring, if using. Beat until light and smooth, about 2 minutes longer.
  7. To assemble: Trim cake layers to make tops flat and even, as needed. Place 1 cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1 cup buttercream on top. Top with second layer of cake and spread buttercream over top and sides of cake.
  8. Garnish with white chocolate shavings, lemon slices and/or edible flowers, if desired.

Buttermilk gives this cake extra flavor, but feel free to substitute whole milk if that’s what you have on hand!

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