Lemon Cake From Scratch

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This Lemon Cake From Scratch is perfectly moist, light, and full of lemon-y flavor! Topped with a thin layer of lemon cream cheese frosting, this is a cake that will thrill your family and friends. I promise!

I’m all about the lemon flavors. For more deliciousness, head to my Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting, my Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, or go try the most delicious Lemon Sugar Cookies ever! If you all about strawberry lemonade, I’ve got you covered in the cocktail category with my Strawberry Lemonade Vodka Slushies or my Limoncello Moscow Mules!

Side shot of a plate of lemon cake, cut into pieces.

Welcome to #LemonWeek 2021 hosted by Lynn from Fresh April Flours!  What better way to welcome summer than with over 50 recipes featuring bright and sunny lemons? Come join me and my fellow Lemon Week bloggers as we bring you recipes from appetizers to drinks to entrées and desserts!

Best Lemon Cake

Back in the day, my mom used to make a delicious lemon cake NOT from scratch, using a box cake mix and some glaze on top. I tried to replicate that and ohmygosh, making it from scratch is SO much better. I wish she was here to taste this one!

There are many ways to describe this cake:

  • Moist – Melt in your mouth deliciousness!
  • Light – Has a super light and springy texture, as opposed to the denseness of my Glazed Lemon Bundt Cake.
  • Lemon-y – I used 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice in the cake plus a Tablespoon of zest (and more in the icing)!
  • Topped with a light icing – I used cream cheese to develop a creamy texture and added fresh lemon juice and topped it with zest! Perfection.
A plate of 9 pieces of lemon cake.

Ingredients Used

Most of the ingredients are classic pantry baking staples. Just stock up on lemons! You’ll want to buy a few extra in case you get some that don’t produce as much juice as you’d like. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

For the cake:

  • Butter – Use unsalted butter and let it come to room temperature.
  • Sugar – Granulated sugar is needed here.
  • Eggs – Just two eggs.
  • Milk – I used whole milk to create that richness.
  • Lemons – You’ll need to freshly squeeze enough lemon to get 1/4 cup. Zest it first though because it’s much easier that way!
  • Vanilla – A couple teaspoons of vanilla. We prefer the Watkin’s brand.
  • Flour – I used all-purpose flour. Cake flour would also be great.
  • Baking Soda + Baking Powder – Needed for leavening the cake.
  • Salt – Just 1/2 teaspoon needed.

For the lemon icing:

  • Cream Cheese – Use full-fat cream cheese for a thicker, fuller consistency.
  • Lemon – Again, use freshly squeezed lemon and zest first. You’ll want to sprinkle fresh zest on top (because it’s pretty and adds flavor)!
  • Powdered Sugar – This type of sugar is needed for icing.

How to make a Lemon Cake From Scrach

  1. Prep lemons. Start by rinsing two lemons in cold water. Dry completely. Then zest two lemons to get one tablespoon for the cake and one for the icing. Follow up by juicing the lemons until you get 5.5 Tablespoons of juice. Set aside.
Some freshly squeezed lemons and zest.

2. Make icing. Combine the cream cheese, (1 1/2 tablespoons) fresh lemon juice, and powdered sugar in a bowl. Use a hand mixer to combine. Set it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

A bowl of cream cheese frosting.

3. Make cake batter. Combine the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream together using a hand mixer (or use a standing mixer). Add eggs, milk, fresh lemon juice, and vanilla – and mix again. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients – the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Mix and then pour into the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined.

A bowl of lemon batter.

4. Pour into pan. Prepare an 8×8 pan with parchment paper. Pour batter into pan, and smooth it out evenly to all edges. You can use a slightly bigger pan if desired but baking time will shorten.

A pan of the batter of lemon cake.

5. Bake. Bake the cake in a preheated 350 degree oven, until done in the center (approximately 30-33 minutes). Use a toothpick to test for doneness. If it comes out wet in the center, bake a little longer. It’s normal for it to get slightly browned on top! When done, let the cake sit in the pan for 15 minutes. Then gently remove it (using the parchment paper as handles) to a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely.

A pan of baked lemon cake.

6. Add icing. When cake is cooled completely, add the icing. Spread to all sides of the cake and then add fresh lemon zest. Slice and enjoy!

A square lemon cake with some of the frosting on top.

Tips For Making Lemon Cake

  • Use fresh lemon. Always use fresh lemons for this cake. The flavor is SO MUCH better than the bottled stuff you find in the grocery stores.
  • Zest first. Make sure you remember to zest your lemons BEFORE you squeeze them for juice. I have linked the tools you’ll need below.
  • Use listed ingredients. Follow the directions in my recipe for the best cake. If you substitute, your final result may not turn out.
  • Bake completely. Make sure you test the cake with a toothpick to be sure it’s done. Under-baking is ok with certain recipes but not this one!
  • Adjust icing as necessary. If you’re icing is appearing to be runny, you can add a little bit more powdered sugar. If it’s too thick to spread easily, you can add a few more drops of lemon. Just make sure you adjust as you see fit. Letting the cake cool completely will also ensure that the icing doesn’t run down the sides.

LET’S EAT CAKE!

A square lemon cake from scratch with lemon zest.

Other Cake Recipes

I don’t make cake as often as I make cookies, but when I do, it’s going to be indulgent. The other thing about cake is that you can take a tiny sliver at a time, and nobody knows that you’ve been snitching. Am I right? 😀

Side shot of a slice of lemon cake.

xoxo ~Sue

Side shot of a plate of lemon cake, cut into pieces.

Lemon Cake From Scratch

This Lemon Cake From Scratch is perfectly moist, light, and full of lemon-y flavor! Topped with a thin layer of lemon cream cheese frosting, this is a cake that will thrill your family and friends. I promise!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cream cheese frosting, lemon cake, lemon cake from scratch
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 9 pieces
Calories: 432kcal
Author: Sue Ringsdorf

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter – at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the icing:

  • 4 oz. cream cheese – softened
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons lemon juice – freshly squeezed
  • 1 ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest

Instructions

  • Prep lemons. Start by rinsing two lemons in cold water. Dry completely. Then zest two lemons to get one tablespoon for the cake and one for the icing. Then squeeze the lemons until you get the right amount of juice (about 5.5 tablespoons for this recipe). Set aside.
  • Make icing. Combine the cream cheese, (1 1/2 tablespoons) fresh lemon juice, and powdered sugar in a bowl. Use a hand mixer to combine. Set it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Make cake batter. Combine the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream together using a hand mixer (or use a standing mixer). Add eggs, milk, fresh lemon juice, and vanilla – and mix again. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients – the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Mix and then pour into the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined.
  • Pour into pan. Prepare an 8×8 pan with parchment paper. Pour batter into pan, and smooth it out evenly to all edges. You can use a slightly bigger pan if desired but baking time will shorten.
  •  Bake. Bake the cake in a preheated 350 degree oven until done in the center, approximately 30-33 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. If it comes out wet in the center, bake a little longer. It’s normal for it to get slightly browned on top! When done, let the cake sit in the pan for 15 minutes. Then gently remove it (using the parchment paper as handles) to a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely.
  • Add icing. When cake is cooled completely, add the icing. Spread to all sides of the cake and then add fresh lemon zest. Slice and enjoy!

Video

Notes

Tips For Making Lemon Cake

  • Use fresh lemon. Always use fresh lemons for this cake. The flavor is SO MUCH better than the bottled stuff you find in the grocery stores.
  • Zest first. Make sure you remember to zest your lemons BEFORE you squeeze them for juice. I have linked the tools you’ll need below.
  • Use listed ingredients. Follow the directions in my recipe for the best cake. If you substitute, your final result may not turn out.
  • Bake completely. Make sure you test the cake with a toothpick to be sure it’s done. Under-baking is ok with certain recipes but not this one!
  • Adjust icing as necessary. If you’re icing is appearing to be runny, you can add a little bit more powdered sugar. If it’s too thick to spread easily, you can add a few more drops of lemon. Just make sure you adjust as you see fit. Letting the cake cool completely will also ensure that the icing doesn’t run down the sides.

Nutrition

Calories: 432kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 84mg | Sodium: 319mg | Potassium: 129mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 44g | Vitamin A: 579IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 2mg

Wednesday #LemonWeek Recipes

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