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Lemon Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Prep Time:

20 mins.

Cook Time:

35 mins.


1 (8-inch) round cake with 3 layers

Light, bright and full of lemony flavor, this simple cake is perfect for any occasion from casual to fancy. Finish it with a light buttercream frosting, or as an alternative, simply top it with freshly whipped cream.


  • 3 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Swans Down® Cake Flour, sift before measuring
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2 to 3 lemons)
    Lemon Syrup
  • Zest of 2 lemons (long strips, minimal white pith)
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar + extra for coating lemon zest garnish
    Buttercream Frosting
  • 4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sift before measuring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (or milk)
  • 2 cups lemon curd


  1. Make Cake: Preheat oven to 350℉. Grease 3 (8-inch) round cake pans and line with parchment. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside. Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla extract and continue beating until combined. Add buttermilk, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix until incorporated (it may look broken). Add flour mixture and mix until fully combined and smooth.
  2. Divide batter evenly among prepared cake pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
  3. Make Lemon Syrup: To remove bitterness from lemon peel, place lemon zest and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and strain; discard water and reserve lemon zest. In same saucepan, place sugar, remaining 1/2 cup water and lemon zest. Simmer until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool at room temperature. When the syrup is cooled, remove the lemon zest with a strainer or slotted spoon, place it on some paper towel to drain and set it aside to use for garnishing the cake.
  4. Make Buttercream Frosting: In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment), beat butter and confectioners’ sugar together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract and heavy cream and mix until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. Assemble Cake: Evenly brush all cake layers with Lemon Syrup. Top the bottom and middle cake layers with a layer of Buttercream Frosting followed by a layer of lemon curd. Assemble the layers and frost the cake with remaining Buttercream Frosting. Coat the reserved lemon zest with some sugar and arrange it on top of the cake as a garnish.
  • This cake can also be baked in an 18×13-inch sheet pan (check for doneness at 20 to 25 minutes) or a cupcake pan for 18 to 24 cupcakes (check for doneness at 18 to 20 minutes).
  • The light texture and lemon flavor of the cake also pairs well with a simple topping of freshly whipped cream.