Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd Filling
This luscious Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd Filling is definitely a special occasion dessert! Lemon desserts are perfect for springtime and Easter as they evoke thoughts of warm sunshine.
This exquisite Lemon Curd Cake is made for lemon lovers! It takes some effort but is worth every minute! If you’ve never made a Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting, this cake will make you a convert. It’s exquisite!
Why You Must Make
- It’s a perfect special occasion cake!
- If you know a lemon lover, this layer cake recipe will be a delicious treat!
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting is the most satiny, luscious frosting. It’s a little extra work, but there will be rave reviews.
- This cake with lemon curd is an adaptation of Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake. I upped the lemon ante by swapping lemon curd for the raspberry preserves Dorie tucked between her layers.
- PRO-Tip: Before you start, make sure your baking powder is fresh. Baking powder is not used as often as baking soda and often expires in the cupboard.
- You can test it by putting ½ teaspoon in a heat-safe bowl and pour in ¼ cup of boiling water. If there’s fizzing and bubbling, it’s fresh!
- You will be slicing each layer in half. Check my tips below as it’s not as daunting as it sounds.
- PRO-Tip: If you want to make your Swiss meringue buttercream ahead of time, note that it won’t be spreadable after it’s chilled. It will get very hard. So either make the frosting right before you plan to ice the cake or allow enough time for it to come to room temperature before you use it.
How to Slice Cake Layers in Half
This is one of those recipes you might want to make in steps. If you haven’t sliced cake layers in half horizontally, it’s a little daunting.
- My PRO-Tip is to place toothpicks around the perimeter of the cake, just below the mid-line, to give you some guidance as you make your cuts.
- I use a long serrated knife and work my way around the edge with shallow cuts before slicing my way through to the center.
- You want to aim for 4 slices of approximately the same thickness, so take your time placing your toothpicks and slicing each cake. But this will still be a wonderful cake no matter how you slice it!
- Note: a savvy reader said he was going to use 4 cake pans to make 4 distinct layers instead of dealing with the slicing. It could work if you decrease the baking time (and even the temp by 25 degrees so it doesn’t get too dark). Let me know if you try his idea!
Tips for Making Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
Swiss meringue buttercream may appear difficult, but if you take the time and follow the instructions, you’ll understand why this velvety frosting is my very favorite and worth the effort!
- Besides the typical American buttercream frosting, there is also Swiss, French, and Italian buttercream. If I’m not going with the usual butter and powdered sugar version that’s popular in the states, I make a Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
- There is much less sugar in a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and all the European buttercreams use eggs.
- This meringue uses egg whites, but don’t worry, they are safe to eat. They are gently heated over simmering water for 3 minutes, long enough to kill any salmonella bacteria. Use your instant-read thermometer, if desired, to make sure the mixture reaches 160º.
- The mixture of sugar and eggs must be whisked constantly during this process so they do not cook, but stay liquid.
- Next, you whip this mixture in your stand mixer until cooled, which will take 10 or more minutes, so be patient. Keep feeling the sides of the bowl as if it’s warm when you add the butter, your frosting will not whip properly.
- Add your butter one tablespoon at a time, using the paddle attachment, and don’t fret if it doesn’t look perfect. You will continue adding the butter then whip the mixture on high for 6-10 minutes until your frosting is fluffy!
There was loads of praise from the party attendees, one of whom even said this lemon birthday cake was the best thing I’ve ever made. I had a captive audience as I explained my horizontal cutting technique to make the thinner layers and the process of making a velvety Swiss meringue buttercream, which by the way, spreads and cuts like a dream! If you have a lemon lover in your life, save this lemon cake recipe for a special occasion!
Frequently Asked Questions
Coconut is a favorite pairing, especially at Easter or any time in the Spring. For flavorings, both vanilla and almond extract are wonderful. Berries like strawberries, raspberries, and cherries can be added to lemon desserts, used as garnishes, or in sauces to serve with them.
One of my favorite tips is to rub some fresh lemon zest into the sugar called for in the recipe. This will help release the essential oils from the peel and infuse it into the sugar. Lemon zest, lemon extract, and/or lemon juice can also be added to the batter for flavor.
One of the types of buttercream frosting, Swiss meringue buttercream is made with egg whites, sugar, and butter forming an ultra, smooth, silky frosting that’s less sweet than American buttercream.
You May Also Like:
- Outrageous Lemon Lover’s Trifle from Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen
- The Best Lemon Bars Recipe
- Lemon Meringue Pie
- Strawberry Lemon Tart
- More of the Best Dessert Recipes
Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd Filling Recipe
A scrumptious lemon and coconut layer cake adapted from Perfect Party Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
For Lemon Cake:
- 2 ¼ cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
- 4 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract, I use Penzey's brand
For the Buttercream:
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 egg whites
- 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ⅛ teaspoon table salt
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 11-ounce jar of good-quality lemon curd
- 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with non-stick flour and oil baking spray (like Baker's Joy) and line the bottom of each pan with parchment. Spray the top of the parchment as well.
- To make the cake, first whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in another bowl.
- Put the sugar and lemon zest in your mixer bowl and rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar becomes moist and fragrant.
- Add the butter and beat at medium speed until the butter and sugar are very light, about 3 minutes. Mix in the extract, then add one-third of the flour mixture and mix until combined, then half the milk-egg mixture until incorporated, another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the milk-egg mixture, and finally the last of the flour.
- Scrape the bowl as needed and make sure ingredients are incorporated as you alternate. Beat for another 2 minutes.
- Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the middle of the cake spring back after being touched.
- Remove the cakes to cooling racks. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pans. Remove the parchment from the cakes, then let finish cooling with the top sides up.
- To make the buttercream, place the sugar and egg whites in a heat-safe mixer bowl over a pot of simmering water.
- Whisk the mixture continuously until it becomes hot to the touch and the sugar is dissolved, about 3 full minutes.
- Carefully remove the bowl from the heat and beat on high for about 5 minutes, or until the meringue has cooled (I recommend using a stand mixer if you have one).
- Using the paddle attachment mix in the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
- Once all the butter is in, beat in the mixture on high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
- Decrease the speed to medium and gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more. Mix in vanilla. Set aside while preparing the cakes.
- To assemble, slice each layer horizontally in half. I place toothpicks around the perimeter of the cake a little below where I want to slice. This helps guide my serrated knife as I saw through the layers.
- Place one layer, cut side up on your serving dish. Spread it with one-third of the lemon curd, about ⅓ cup.
- Spread about ¼ of the buttercream over the lemon curd, repeat two more times, then top with the final layer of cake with the baked side up.
- Use the rest of the buttercream to frost the top and sides of the cake. Press the coconut over the frosted surfaces.
Make sure you use baking powder, not baking soda. Check to see if it's fresh before using as it often loses potency sitting in your panty. See how in the post.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 343Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 34mgSodium: 326mgCarbohydrates: 62gFiber: 1gSugar: 44gProtein: 5g
80 Comments on “Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd Filling”
I made this for my Mother-in -Law today for Mothers day. I am a seasoned home cook. I have a BS Home Ec Degree. I taught Home Ec! I followed the directions to a T. This is not a good recipe. The cake was hard, DENSE AND THIN, The Icing was sub par. I had my own home made lemon curd. I had to take the cake but what a disappointment.
I’m almost 100% certain your baking powder was not fresh enough. This is a tried and true cake recipe from cookbook author Dorie Greenspan. I’m so sorry it didn’t work out for you as that’s always super frustrating, especially for a special occasion! You probably know to test your baking powder by placing a spoonful into hot water. It should bubble vigorously when still active.
I made the icing the night before and put into the refrigerator. The next morning the icing had turned hard, almost like butter. It was impossible to mix. I ended up reheating it and whipping it with confection sugar. I was usable but definitely compromised. Any idea why it turned hard in the fridge?
Hi, Mary, this buttercream gets hard in the fridge. This is normal. Like butter, it will firm up to the consistency of butter when it’s cold. When you let it come to room temperature, it will soften again. So either make right before you want to frost the cake or give it enough time to come to room temperature before frosting if it’s been chilled. I hope this helps and that your cake was still delicious!
This cake sounds delicious! Can I make it a day ahead?
Yes, you can definitely make it a day ahead of time. Hope you enjoy and happy new year!
What a lucky friend you have, that lemon cake looks absolutely swoon-worthy! It screams spring too. Fortunately we have several lemon-lovers so I’ll have plenty of opportunity to make this sensational cake.
Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, Liz! Lemon desserts are my go-tos for just about every occasion and this cake looks divine! I’ll have to try your lemon bundt cake as well for a lighter treat. 🙂
Really good cake! I needed a recipe to use up my lemon curd. I just bought layer cake pans from pampered chef and this recipe made 4 cakes perfectly with the batter. They are small rounds (about 5″ or maybe 5.5″ across) and each cake was thick enough to slice in half. I ended up making 2 little 4-layer cakes and had enough icing to do both cakes. One for now… one for later! Moist cake, sweet but not too sweet, lemony but not too lemony… Delicious!
Hi, Talya, I love the idea of two little cakes! And I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe. Merry Christmas!!
Mine didn’t rise at all ???? I used baking powder as well.
I’m sorry, Heather. Was your baking powder fresh? It often expires before you can use it all. You can check it by putting 1/2 teaspoon in a heat-safe bowl and add 1/4 cup boiling water. It should fizzle and bubble if still active.
Oooh, SO happy to revisit this! I LOVE LOVE LOVE lemon! And it’s great with coconut. That toothpick tip is gold, BTW. Anyway, lovely dish — thanks.
Lemon desserts are a favorite of mine and this one looks so good! The curd makes it even more delicious.
I love refreshing lemony desserts, and this cake looks and sounds spectacular! I love every single detail in it, from the meringue cream, lemon curd (it’s even more luscious!), and shredded coconut. This shredded coconut reminds us that even though fall has arrived, snowy winter is approaching very fast, too 🙂
Lemon AND lemon curd. You know the way to my heart, Liz.
I made this cake (with homemade lemon curd) for my mom on her 75th birthday. I decorated it with fresh raspberries on top. She LOVED it! Thanks so much for the recipe!
Thanks so much for reporting back, Joani!! And a belated happy birthday to your mom!
I had the same problem getting the cake to rise – I’m thinking that perhaps it was the buttermilk – I used lemon juice to curdle the milk and it perhaps is the wrong chemistry. It’s spongey, but not tall enough to cut into layers. I am going to ice tomorrow and see how it turns out flavor-wise to see if I want to continue to experiment with it.
Oh, I’m sorry to hear this, Stephanie. I’ve used the buttermilk substitute before with success, but haven’t tried with this particular recipe. Double-check that your baking powder is fresh as it often expires on the shelf. Baking soda is much more stable. Drop a spoonful in warm water and it should fizzle a lot. If it doesn’t, it’s gotten old. Hope it still tastes delicious!
My cakes didn’t rise very much either 🙁 They are probably 1 inch tall at most. Not sure where it went wrong since I followed each step and my baking soda is pretty new (though maybe it’s still that?). The batter looked and tasted great!!
Did you use baking soda instead of baking powder? I wasn’t sure if you mistyped, but the recipe calls for baking powder and using the wrong leavener would be the problem. If you did use baking powder, check to see if it is still potent by placing a spoonful in a bowl and pour some boiling water over it. It should bubble like crazy. It does sound like a problem with your leavening agent.
Sorry! Yes that’s a typo. I did use baking powder, not soda. I will test the baking powder, because I’m also pretty sure it has to be that. Thank you for the baking powder test, I didn’t know about that!! 🙂 Like I said, the batter tasted sooooo good 🙂
Fingers crossed for you! Make sure you also do the two long beating times to aerate the batter (I’m sure you probably did!). Good luck!
This looks amazing, but I can’t uae buttermilk in the cake due to a dairy intolerance. Do you think coconut milk or almond milk would do the trick, or is the buttermilk a vital part of the recipe?
Since buttermilk has a bit of acid, I’m afraid that the food chemistry might be out of whack without it. I’d tell you to experiment if it was a simple cake, but I’d hate for it to fail since it’s a more complicated recipe. Wish I could be of more help!
Just finished making the cake. Can I refrigerate it and do frosting/layers and assemble tomorrow?
Hi, Deb, Yes, that should be fine. When the cake is cool, I’d wrap the layers in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Hope you enjoy!!!
Hello, I wanted to make this cake for my daughter’s first birthday. We are having around 30 guests- any ideas how I can change the proportions of the ingredients to suit 30? Thanks! I was going to use 10 inch round trays.
Since the cake layers have to be cut in half horizontally, I think it’s going to be extremely difficult if you bake them in a larger sized pan. They aren’t too thick to begin with. My best recommendation is to make two 9-inch cakes. Hope this helps! My best,