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Lemon Cake Recipe

Welcome to the sunny side of dessert where lemon is the star of this moist cake. Cheery lemon cake is perfect for festive occasions. Top it off with a whipped frosting that's the perfect complement to the lemon cake.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 12
Lemon Cake Recipe

Source: Everyday Food, May 2009


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
  • Whipped Frosting


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-by-2-inch cake pans, tapping out excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest.

  2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined.

  3. Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, 32 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack.

  4. While cakes are baking, bring remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add lemon slices and simmer 25 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lemon slices to a waxed-paper-lined plate. Stir remaining 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice into syrup.

  5. Using a toothpick, poke holes in warm cakes on rack. Brush with lemon syrup. Let cool completely. Prepare frosting, substituting 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice for vanilla extract. Frost cooled cakes and top with candied lemon slices.


To make the recipe Martha prepared with John Barricelli on "The Martha Stewart Show," follow these instructions immediately before frosting the cake: Place one cake, bottom side up, on a cake stand. Tuck strips of parchment paper underneath. Using an offset-spatula or table knife, spread top with lemon curd. Top with remaining cake; continue frosting top and sides as directed.

Cook's Note

When making frosting, substitute 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice for the vanilla extract.

Reviews (50)

  • LHuf 11 Mar, 2015

    Made this cake as recipe directed. Cake came from the oven looking rubbery, but not brown, leaving sides of pan. Toothpick inserted it tested done. I cooled and frosted. Cake looked beautiful with lemons and yellow sugar sprinkled on top of whipped frosting. Had difficulty cutting. Texture looked like a pound cake, but heavy and dense. The taste was good. Several guest tried it. Over half went in trash. Can't blame it on baking skills or oven. 2 other cakes were beautiful and delicious.

  • Elianna Meneses 26 Aug, 2014

    The centigrades for the oven baking most be wrong! My cake is completely burned

  • farialsabrina 7 Aug, 2014

    Loved it. Tried few other recipes and finally found the one I really love. Used it to make cupcakes with cream cheese icing, everyone loved it. Thanks for the tutorial and the recipe.

  • kranapple 14 Apr, 2014

    This cake is moist and dense. I would not use the words "light" or "fluffy" to describe it. However my oven may be to fault for that. I had to cook it at a much lower temp to prevent burning. I will note that all of my ingredients were fresh as I have not baked much in this oven and had nothing on hand.
    I paired it with a lemon cream cheese frosting and it was delicious.

  • meghannewman 24 Mar, 2014

    Great cake! Dense, but moist. Lemon flavor is subtle, so I added lemon extract. You can see the other changes I made here.

  • Danielle Vanessa 14 Mar, 2014

    This is a great pound cake style cake. If you are looking for light and fluffy, this is not the cake. I put probably two to three times the amount of lemon juice that was called for in the recipe and it still didn't have a very strong lemony flavor. If I made this cake again I would probably put twice as much lemon peel and at least twice as much lemon juice. Can't comment on the frosting since I used a different recipe for that.

    Have fun baking!!

  • ropesmy 25 Nov, 2013

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  • Alia Sa 22 Sep, 2013

    Dear Martha, i can't find buttermilk where i live, what can i use instead it?! Thanks

  • Trisha Wilmoth 25 Jul, 2013

    Love this recipe! I added two capfuls of lemon extract to the batter and made a glaze with powder sugar milk and lemon extract. It's soo good! Came out beautiful in a bunt pan.

  • brigitte1981 31 May, 2013

    Hands up anyone who put the whole two cups sugar in the cake!? Oh man. Hope this isn't a fail...

  • kevinbeckham 25 Apr, 2013

    This is a good post. This post give truly quality information.I’m definitely going to look into it.Really very useful tips are provided here.thank you so much.Keep up the good works

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  • RissaRoo 31 Mar, 2013

    The lemon curd was amazing! I made Martha's seven minute frosting and substituted lemon juice for the vanilla. It turned out great. The cake for this recipe was so so. I would use a different cake recipe next time and wouldn't soak the cake in lemon syrup.

  • ilikemesomefood 4 Jan, 2013

    My frosting deflated! What's up with that? Also, I wish I had known about that curd sooner because I just put that meringue in the middle, and that was pretty useless. My advice, the cake was delis but find your own frosting!

  • Whaledrew 15 Jul, 2012

    I just signed up so I could post my review for this recipe.

    I didn't have access to a mixer so instead I used a food processor.

    The only changes I made was I added more lemon zest (oddly enough it was a bit TOO lemony, the cake was delicious but the glaze was a LITTLE strong).

    For the frosting I used icing sugar, vanilla, butter, and a squirt of lemon juice (yum).

    Next time i'll be making this into cupcakes with an individual lemon garnish :)

    Fantastic recipe, everyone needs to try it.

  • mstrw 5 Jul, 2012

    Finally a moist homemade cake recipe! I did just the cake part, then used Martha's lemon filling recipe and another coconut cream frosting recipe. So delicious. I followed the directions exactly and it came out perfecto.

  • kellyhi 3 Jul, 2012

    Absolutely fantastic recipe! I am a teenager and made this for my mother's birthday party and it was a hit! Instead of making the meringue frosting I made my own lemon frosting with powdered sugar and whipped cream. Overall this recipe tasted phenomenal and I would recommend it to anyone who is wanting a moist and delicious lemon cake!

  • Aditi_ 7 Jun, 2012

    Amazing recipe....! Absolutely bang on!
    Perfect amount of ingredients specified, perfect instructions.... The cake was a through success! Delicious and everybody loved it!...
    ....So all those who are still thinking about whether to trust this recipe or not, stop thinking and start baking...!

  • racbran 9 Apr, 2012

    Absolutely, hands down, the best cake. ever. I changed a couple things: instead of lemon curd, I added raspberry desert sauce in between two layers of frosting and cake. I also used a whipped cream frosting recipe instead of the meringue and it was so refreshing and delicious!

  • bklynbaker 15 Sep, 2011

    Re the cake part, I usually use the MS Versatile Vanilla cake, and this is an adaptation. The recipe is the same minus the vanilla and adding the lemon juice. I made mini cupcakes and they sank in the middle. The flavor was great, but next time I will try removing 1/4 cup of the buttermilk to compensate for the additional liquid added by the lemon juice. I did the frosting as he does in the video - the merengue buttercream with lemon juice and I added 1 tsp lemon extract as well. It was yummy.

  • housefullofmonkeys 9 Aug, 2011

    I want to make this cake every day for the rest of my life! I skipped the whipped frosting and just covered the outside with whipped cream (with a little powdered sugar and vanilla bean paste in it.) Seriously, it was so good, I almost kicked some kids out of the party just so I could eat it all myself! And Martha's right. The leftover lemon curd is so good, it could be dessert all by itself.
    Try this cake TODAY!!

  • Lori598 9 Jul, 2011

    I found the cake to be dry despite the syrup and I did not really enjoy the frosting. A lemon buttercream might have been better. Also, the candied lemons are difficult to cut through and eat as they are so chewy. As far as flavour, it was OK but I've had better.

  • HouTXMom 30 Jun, 2011

    This is a very good butter cake recipe, and IMO not any more labor intensive than any other from-scratch cake. The lemon flavor is wonderful; exactly the right sunny tartness without being too much. I increased the proportions by half to make a 3-layer cake in 9-inch pans, and each layer was a nice height without making the overall cake too tall. After reading reviews, and knowing I needed to make the cake a few hours in advance, I used a lemon buttercream to frost and lemon curd to fill. Yum!

  • mummsey6 24 Jun, 2011

    the cake is great... labor intensive , but worth it. ...
    Do not make the frosting.. if you do.. do not add the water it calls for.. just the lemon juice.. the frosting does not travel well,
    but all in all.. we enjoyed it.:)

  • AScheck 1 Jun, 2011

    I will never make this cake again. I always use MS as my go-to, never fail recipes, but this cake was a huge disappointment. The cake had good lemon flavor, but was very dense and somewhat dry, even with the lemon glaze. The frosting looked beautiful (and tasted pretty good) when I first made it, but it would need to be served IMMEDIATELY. I made the cake at night, and by the morning the frosting was falling apart- a huge mess. Definitely not the beautiful birthday cake I was hoping for.

  • JessicaQG 24 Apr, 2011

    Excellent cake. Great balance of sweet and tart flavors. Wonderful texture and color. It took me all day to get ready to bake this cake, but it was worth it.

  • jaevans 12 Mar, 2011

    Cake is delicious, Frosting is a DISASTER!!! I'm very disappointed with this frosting, and think that I might have to srape it all off and do a buttercream instead: it was watery in the bowl (at the bottom of the bowl) while I was putting it on the cake, and now this morning, after having it in the fridge last night, there are bubbles all over the cake! Not exactly what I want to present for a Baby Shower later today...

  • buddyone 20 Jan, 2011

    Wondering if this would work as an orange cake ? I have a dear friend who loves orange cake, has wonderful memories as her childhood favorite but no recipe. I would love to recreate one for her ~ any suggestions ?

  • HarrisburgCharlie 16 Jan, 2011

    My cake turned out beautiful and delicous even without the lemon curd. Nothing but raves from the family. I'm making again and doing the curd this time. Best cake I've ever made.

  • Annainvt 30 Dec, 2010

    Absolute driest cake ever. It looked like 2 giant corn bread Frisbees. Don't ruin someone's birthday by making this awful mess.

  • AT1941 15 Aug, 2010

    I bought "dickinsons" lemon curd, which is sold in a 10 oz glass jar in the jam/jelly section of the grocery store. It is delicious and you never have to worry if it will turn out right. Building a "dam" of buttercream frosting was an excellent tip!

  • aimeejoy 9 Aug, 2010

    I would not make this recipe again. The cake turned out delicious and the lemon syrup is a nice touch, making the cake nice and moist. The curd never set and the top layer slid off the bottom layer and broke in half while in route to a party. I was not happy. Also, the frosting is a meringue and not very tasty.

  • citegirl 7 Aug, 2010

    Delicious!! This cake is more like a lemon pound cake in consistency - very dense, but it lends itself well to lemon curd. I doubled the recipe, cooked in 2 9x12 pans, used a layer of Buttercream topped with the lemon curd, (did not use the lemon drizzle from the recipe) and a layer of fresh raspberries. Nothing but compliments. Frosted with buttercream (make a "dam" of buttercream after you add the second layer by using icing to keep the lemon curd in place, this part is crucial).

  • lisamcinerney 31 Jul, 2010

    So good. The icing was magic and the lemon curd was leakage or spillage! Beautifully looking cake and even better tasting

  • justinlovespastry 14 May, 2010

    The recipe turns out PERFECT! Except for the lemon curd, but you just have to be confident with the icing and keep following the recipe. Except for the lemon curd. Help?

  • MissElliePhD 5 Apr, 2010

    The cake is delicious and it lends itself well to modifications (other than lemon, if you want)... But the suggestions to put lemon curd in between the layers didn't work as well as I had hoped. The layers had to be secured with long skewers to prevent the top layer from sliding off. And the lemon curd absorbed into the cake within a few hours. And the "frosting" is not at all how it looks in the photo. It still tasted good, but overall didn't turn out the way I thought it would.

  • MichouChan 1 Apr, 2010

    The lemon zest is added in step 1- please see that last line. :)

  • sarahgehlman 20 Mar, 2010

    I made this cake exactly according to the recipe and I have to say I was rather disappointed with the Whipped Frosting. I won't be using that recipe again, instead I think I will substitute a standard buttercream. For the lemon syrup, I would recommend slicing them a little thicker than "thinly sliced". Mine tended to lose their shape and fall apart. Other than that it was a beautiful cake. The lemon curd was fantastic. I am going to make it again for Mother's Day.

  • mbolon 20 Mar, 2010

    texture is great but flavor is not very sweet and too pancakey/tangy from the buttermilk - where did i go wrong? also - zest is in the ingredient list but not called in the instructions - where to add? thanks for any help -

  • BeanieLin 17 Mar, 2010

    Shirleyy, the icing recipe is there. Simply click on "Whipped Frosting" in the ingredients list and a new window will open with the recipe.

  • BeanieLin 17 Mar, 2010

    Shirleyy, the icing recipe is there. Simply click on "Whipped Frosting" in the ingredients list and a new window will open with the recipe.

  • foooooood 26 Feb, 2010

    I made this cake last summer. The cake is light and fluffy and delicious. Thank you.

  • BakerJames 8 Oct, 2009

    I noticed that as well...any ideas?

  • ShirleySklar 7 Oct, 2009

    Where can i find recipe for the lemon curd and icing that go with this lemon

  • ShirleySklar 5 Oct, 2009

    Where can I find the recipe for the lemon curd and icing that go with this lemon

  • DeLeaRene 2 Oct, 2009

    Please is it 3 lg egg whites or 8 as John said on the program. I would like to try this saturday eve.

  • greenfrog1antiques 1 Oct, 2009

    For lemon curd, click on the word lemon curd next to the picture of the cake

  • lottietoo 30 Sep, 2009

    Someone completely forgot to post the "new" recipe for the lemon curd filling! In fact, filling isn't even mentioned here.

  • yayamar85 30 Sep, 2009

    @ karen click on the link that says "whipped frosting" below the list of ingredients for the cake. It will tak you to the frosting recipe but here it is
    3 large egg whites
    3/4 cup sugar
    Pinch of salt
    1/3 cup water
    1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • karenchristoffersen 30 Sep, 2009

    How many egg whites, sugar, water and salt for whipped frosting for lemon cake?

  • karenchristoffersen 30 Sep, 2009

    How many egg whites and sugar to use for lemon Cake?
    John said 8 how much sugar and water??

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