This lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting has a soft crumb and is packed with delicious lemon flavor. The cream cheese frosting is sweet and tangy, making it the perfect pairing for the lemon cake!

a photo of a square slice of moist lemon cake topped with lemon cream cheese frosting and a thin slice of fresh lemon on top

Easy Lemon Cake Recipe (From Scratch!)

I absolutely love lemon desserts. Lemon tastes bright and sunshine-y, and I think the slight tang is so delicious in cakes and cupcakes.

So today I’m sharing this lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting. It’s a moist lemon cake made in a 9×13-inch pan that’s frosted with a tangy lemon cream cheese frosting. It’s an easy lemon cake recipe, and it takes much less effort than making lemon cupcakes or a lemon layer cake.

What I loved so much about this homemade lemon cake recipe is that the lemon flavor tastes bright and fresh, without being tart or bitter. It’s deliciously sunny, and flavorful without being overpowering. If you love lemon desserts, this lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting is the perfect recipe for you.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

a photo of size square slices of lemon cake sitting on a serving tray topped with a small slice of fresh lemon

What’s Needed to Make Homemade Lemon Cake?

To make the lemon cake from scratch, you’ll need:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla extract
  • Sour cream
  • Buttermilk
  • Lemon juice and zest

And to make the lemon frosting, you’ll need:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Cream cheese
  • Powdered sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Milk

You can find the measurement for each ingredient in the recipe card at the end of the post.

glass bowl filled with lemon cake frosting

How to Make Lemon Cake with Lemon Frosting

This homemade lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting is a cinch to make! Here are the basic steps to mastering this recipe:

  1. Prep: Preheat the oven and grease a 9×13 pan.
  2. Dry Ingredients: Sift or whisk together all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt).
  3. Rub: In a small bowl, combine the sugar with the lemon zest and rub the sugar and zest together with your fingers. This activates the oils in the zest creating bigger and bolder flavor.
  4. Wet Ingredients: In a large bowl with an electric mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment), beat together the sugar and lemon zest mixture with the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined.
  5. Stir: Turn the mixer to low speed and add the sour cream, lemon juice and buttermilk and mix until combined.
  6. Combine: Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until a few streaks of flour remain.
  7. Bake: Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking dish and bake as directed or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  8. Cool: While the cake bakes, make the lemon cream cheese frosting (see next section). When the cake is done, let it cool completely before adding the frosting.
    • TIP: If you frost a warm cake, the frosting will melt and seep into the cake.
a photo of a several pieces of moist lemon cake topped with a light yellow lemon cream cheese frosting topped with a small wedge of lemon

How to Make Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Beat together the butter and cream cheese until evenly combined.
  2. Turn the mixer down to low and add in the powdered sugar. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. Finally, add in the lemon juice and food coloring and whip until combined.
  4. Frost the cooled cake. Top individual pieces of cake with lemon slices to make them extra pretty.

All of the instructions for making the cake and frosting can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post.

How Do You Thicken Cream Cheese Frosting

Sometimes cream cheese frosting can end up a little runny. There are a few options for thickening it. First, you can add a tablespoon of cornstarch and whip to combine. Second, you can add more powdered sugar. Add it 1/4 cup at a time whipping between each addition until desired consistency. Lastly, if the frosting just seems a little too warm, stick it in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to firm it up a little. Stir it occasionally to cool evenly.

a photo taken over the top of a rectangular white serving tray with six pieces of lemon cake topped with lemon cream cheese frosting

Tips for Making the Best Lemon Cake

  • In lightly flavored cakes such as vanilla or lemon, I like to use real butter rather than a butter substitute because it adds more flavor. I wouldn’t recommend substituting the butter with anything.
  • You might be tempted to use cake flour in place of the all purpose flour but I wouldn’t recommend it. For this recipe, all purpose flour works better.
  • Also, make sure to use fresh lemon juice in the frosting and cake. Lemon juice from the bottle or lemon extract is too tart and doesn’t produce the best results.
  • Be careful not to over mix your cake batter or else your homemade lemon cake can end up dense. Having all the ingredients at room temperature before getting started helps with this.
  • Likewise, using room temperature cream cheese and butter will ensure a smooth and creamy texture in the frosting.
  • Place the baked cake in the fridge or freezer so that it is more firm for easier frosting.

Can I Cut This Recipe in Half?

You probably can! You’d need to halve the ingredients and bake the lemon cake in an 8×8 or 9×9-inch pan. The baking time may be slightly reduced, but I can’t say for certain.

How to Store Lemon Cake with Lemon Frosting

Because the lemon cake frosting contains dairy, I recommend storing this cake in the fridge. Wrap it in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out! It will keep for up to 5 days.

You can also freeze this cake. Place it in the freezer for an hour or two until it is frozen and then wrap it in plastic wrap and then foil. It will keep for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

a photo of a square piece of lemon cake topped with a light yellow creamy cheese frosting

This lemon cake is perfectly moist and tender and made completely from scratch. It is topped with a smooth lemon cream cheese frosting that is sweet and tangy. This cake is perfect for any occasion!

More LEMON DESSERT RECIPES:

Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

4.03 from 74 votes
Servings: 18
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Cooling Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Description

This lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting has a soft crumb and is packed with delicious lemon flavor. The cream cheese frosting is sweet and tangy, making it the perfect pairing for the lemon cake!

Ingredients 

Lemon Cake

  • 2 3/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 3/4 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Lemon Zest, freshly grated
  • 1 Cup Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 Eggs, large
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Sour Cream, at room temperature
  • 1/3 Cup Lemon Juice, fresh
  • 1/2 Cup Buttermilk, (or regular milk)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature
  • 8 Ounces Cream Cheese, brick-style, softened to room temperature
  • 3 Cups Powdered Sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice, fresh
  • 2 Drops Yellow Food Coloring

Instructions

Make the Lemon Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
    2 3/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder, 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda, 3/4 teaspoon Salt
  • Mix the sugar and lemon zest in a bowl using your fingers to thoroughly rub the two together. This releases the oils of the zest for a more flavorful lemon cake.
    1 3/4 Cups Granulated Sugar, 3 Tablespoons Lemon Zest
  • In a standing mixer, or large bowl with a hand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
    1 Cup Unsalted Butter
  • Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
    4 Eggs, 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • Turn the mixer down to low speed and carefully beat in the sour cream, lemon juice and buttermilk. Followed by the flour.
    1/2 Cup Sour Cream, 1/3 Cup Lemon Juice, 1/2 Cup Buttermilk
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 27-33 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool fully before frosting.

Make the Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese until evenly mixed together.
    1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, 8 Ounces Cream Cheese
  • Slowly beat in the powdered sugar, turning off the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
    3 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • Beat in the lemon juice and food coloring.
    2 Drops Yellow Food Coloring, 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • Frost the cooled cake using a flat edge knife.

Notes

  • For easier frosting, you can also chill the cake in the fridge or freezer prior to frosting. 
Cake can be stored in the pantry for 2 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 435kcalCarbohydrates: 56gProtein: 5gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 94mgSodium: 193mgPotassium: 136mgFiber: 1gSugar: 40gVitamin A: 746IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 65mgIron: 1mg
Author: Fiona
Course: Easy Cake Recipes For Beginners, Over 100 Easter Recipes for Spring
Cuisine: American

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This lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting has a soft cake crumb and delicious lemon flavor. The cream cheese frosting is smooth & creamy for the perfect pairing.
slice of lemon cake topped with lemon frosting on white plate
slice of homemade lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting on white plate

 

a photo of size square slices of lemon cake sitting on a serving tray topped with a small slice of fresh lemon