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Lemon Layer Cake | 4 layers of vanilla cake filled with lemon curd and topped with a lemony Swiss meringue

Lemon Layer Cake

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This Lemon Layer Cake, with 4 vanilla layers topped with luscious lemon curd, and  Swiss meringue buttercream, was the perfect birthday dessert for a lemon dessert lover!

One of my dear friends begged me (well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration!) to bake a cake for her mom’s 90th birthday. The family matriarch wasn’t a huge chocolate fan, so we decided to celebrate her big day with spectacular a Lemon Cake.

Overhead view of Lemon Layer Cake on a glass cake stand topped with berries and lemon peel

Lemon Layer Cake

Gini was making dinner for her mom and siblings, who were traveling home from around the country for their mom’s birthday. Without spouses, there would be 12 in attendance. 11 children. Yes, this mother of 11 deserved a party and she wanted a lemon dessert! Gini is a wonderful cook and baker, but she had enough on her plate trying to plan the meal.

Lemon Layer Cake on a glass cake stand with lemon halves

How to Make a Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd

I was delighted to help celebrate this monumental birthday!

  • I baked up a recipe for a two-layer vanilla cake, then sliced each cake in half horizontally to create 4 layers.
  • Next I made enough lemon curd to top three of those layers. Made with fresh lemon juice, the tart curd contrasted deliciously with the sweet cake and frosting.
  • A billowy Swiss meringue was whipped up with a touch of lemon to ice the cake. This lemon layer cake was a beauty!
Lemon Layer Cake layers stocked and unfrosted

Layers of cake and luscious lemon curd.

Interior of Lemon Layer Cake

Gini’s snap of the half devoured lemon layer cake! It was a hit!

Lemon Layer Cake

Lemon Layer Cake

A luscious four layer cake filled with lemon curd and topped with a Swiss meringue.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Yield 10-12 servings


Lemon Curd:

  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (I used Knox brand)
  • 1 1⁄2 cups sugar
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 egg yolks, (reserve egg whites for cake)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter cubes and frozen


  • 2 1⁄4 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 6 egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3⁄4 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, but still cool

Swiss Meringue Frosting

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup


  1. Filling: Measure 1 tablespoon lemon juice into a small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over the top.
  2. Heat remaining lemon juice, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot, but not boiling.
  3. Whisk eggs and yolks in a large non-reactive bowl.
  4. Whisking constantly, slowly pour hot lemon-sugar mixture into eggs, then return mixture to saucepan.
  5. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture reaches 170°, about 4-6 minutes.
  6. Immediately remove from heat and stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Stir in frozen butter until incorporated.
  7. Pour filling through a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl.
  8. Cover surface with plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm enough to spread, about 4 hours.
  9. Cake: Preheat oven to 350°.
  10. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper.
  11. In a medium bowl, whisk together whites and vanilla.
  12. In a mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; mix at slow speed.
  13. Add butter one piece at a time, continue to beat until mixture resembles moist crumbs and no visible butter chunks.
  14. Add all but 1 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed until mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  15. With mixer running, add remaining 1/2 cup milk mixture, beat 1 minute more.
  16. Divide batter evenly between cake pans.
  17. Bake 23-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean.
  18. Cool cakes in pan 10 minutes then remove from pan onto greased wire rack, remove parchment paper, invert again and cool completely.
  19. Icing: Combine all ingredients in a mixer bowl or heatproof bowl.
  20. Set over medium saucepan filled with 1-inch of simmering water.
  21. Cook stirring constantly until mixture reaches 160°, 5-10 minutes.
  22. Transfer mixture to mixer bowl (if needed) and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes.
  23. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to beat until mixture has cooled to room temperature and stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes longer.
  24. Assembly: Cut each layer in half horizontally.
  25. Spread 1 cup of lemon filling evenly on each cake, leaving a 1/2-inch border around cake.
  26. Place top layer on cakes, smooth out any filling that may have leaked from the layers.
  27. Refrigerate while you make the icing.
  28. Spread icing on cake.


Adapted from Southern Living


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37 comments on “Lemon Layer Cake”

  1. I will have to pin this for the future.

    Thanks for sharing


    Gourmet Getaways

  2. I’ll bet this was amazing! I wish I had a big piece right now:@)

  3. Liz! Wow! you are the best and a 90th birthday?! so special! this cake is beyond gorgeous! love love love that lemon curd filling and the frosting! so pretty!

  4. This looks like the perfect cake for a 90th birthday (or any birthday).

  5. Such a pretty cake! I want a piece!

  6. I know the family was thrilled with your cake. If there was anyone I would beg to make a cafe for me, it would be you, Liz. I might even get down on my knees, no I take that back. I would definitely get down on my knees!

  7. Great cake for the great occasion! This cake is no doubt super delicious!

  8. I love any dessert with citrus, so I’m a total sucker for this. Looks delicious!

  9. How completely lovely is this cake?! Beautiful!

  10. What a delicious looking cake and a great occasion! This cake undeniably yum!

  11. What a beautiful cake! Gimme!!!

  12. I’ve never heard of Blue Sky Farms but I am in support of any company that aims for humanely raised chickens and eggs!

  13. Such a pretty cake, Liz! That fluffy frosting is beyond dreamy!

  14. This is such a pretty cake…and what a nice way to celebrate 90th birthday…I love the four layers of cake and the lemon curd in between…
    Have a wonderful week ahead Liz 🙂

  15. Lemon always works when chocolate is not an option. Gorgeous cake Liz, as usual with your baking!

  16. WOW! That FROSTING! I just want to face plant right in it – this cake is GORGEOUS!

  17. This is such a beautiful cake, Liz! So sweet of you to make this for your friend’s mom’s birthday. Lemon desserts are my favorite and i can just imagine how amazing this tastes 🙂

  18. Just pinned this beautiful cake to my cake board! So gorgeous, Liz!!

  19. This looks divine! The perfect birthday cake in my book!

  20. What an outstanding cake and how nice of you to do this! However we all know how nice you are! And I bet the birthday “girl” loved it!

  21. What an amazing cake! I can’t imagine anything better for a lemon love like me.

  22. What an elegant cake! Looks like the perfect birthday cake 🙂 Love the lemon curd filling too!

  23. This cake looks gorgeous! A big slice would be just perfect!

  24. Finally, I’m able to post her again!!! I love lmon cake and your looks delicious!!!

  25. Finally I’m able to post here again! I love lemon cake and your looks delicius.

  26. Chocolate is never my first choice either but give me this lemon layer cake anytime! So pretty too!

  27. This cake is simply STUNNING, Liz! I love lemon desserts so much and this one looks like a real winner in my book!

  28. What a great cake, I too would choose lemon over chocolate (I know I am a bit weird!) for a birthday cake as well 🙂

  29. Gorgeous cake, Liz! That meringue is to die for 🙂

  30. I have wanted to make a cake like this for years. It looks gorgeous and it was so nice of you to make it for that lady’s birthday. So will you make one for mine??? 😉

  31. You are just the sweetest person Liz. This is just the prettiest cake ever.

  32. I was just having the “free-range” “Cage-free” conversation with my dad (who is old school and doesn’t really get it when it comes to these labels) the other day. To hear “free roaming, green grass and blue sky” when it comes to hens is so awesome. Kinda like this cake 🙂

  33. Lizzy,
    What a beautiful cake. I would love a piece or two. I don’t know whether I can make it look so pretty.

  34. Nice. And how grand to live to such a ripe old age…. xx

  35. 4 layers of absolute deliciousness and lemon lemon cakes are my favorite. I can’t even tell you the last time I have had a a meringue topping, it is probably because cannot find proper eggs here in Hong Kong that I can trust. Pinning for later!

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