Rating: 3.54 stars
1804 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 369
  • 4 star values: 593
  • 3 star values: 550
  • 2 star values: 233
  • 1 star values: 59

This cheery lemon cake is perfect for festive occasions. Top it off with our Whipped Frosting that's the perfect light and fluffy complement to this moist cake.

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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Cook's Notes

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

Cook's Notes

A few changes to our basic vanilla cake recipe turn it into this sunny lemon version. Reserve the egg whites left over from the cake for the frosting.

Variations

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.

Reviews (59)

1804 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 369
  • 4 star values: 593
  • 3 star values: 550
  • 2 star values: 233
  • 1 star values: 59
Rating: 4.0 stars
05/25/2020
I made this cake in it turned out exactly like the recipe. I live in Denver, so I am baking at high altitude. Just like the baker said, the cake doesn’t rise much, but when it was finished baking, it was perfectly level across the top. The lemon curd turned out beautifully and was completely sat after chilling for three hours. The meringue topping worked out perfectly too. I cooked it first over a double boiler and while it did take a while to whip, it got completely stiff. I had no problems. My only complaint is that I thought the cake was a little dry. But… I also didn’t use all of the sugar syrup. That would have helped.
Rating: 4.0 stars
04/01/2020
I have a question . . . in the video John says that there are 8 egg whites in preparing the Whipped Frosting. In the recipe, it calls for 3 large eggs. Which is it? I am looking forward to making this cake. Lorraine
Rating: 5 stars
03/05/2019
I see some reviewers are saying their cakes are burnt or dense, there are a few things to keep in mind here... 1)the type of pan you're using- dark or nonstick pans vs. Shiny aluminum pans. Shiny pans should be used about 25° lower temp 2) check your levener- how old is your baking powder? It seems to me that most of the problems people are having appear to be operator error. If you've never baked, THIS IS NOT A BEGGINER BAKER RECIPE. As another reviewer mentioned, when grating your lemon peel only use the outermost layer of peel, keep the pith out or you will have a bitter cake!
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Rating: 5 stars
12/23/2017
The first time I made this it came out perfect and I made it as directed. The second time my frosting broke down after I put it on. I think I didn't whip the whites to be firm enough. Today I'm about to try it as a lime cake. On another note, John Barricelli is a superstar - really kind and personable and his pastries are like magic (try the monkey bread or chocolate almond croissants).
Rating: Unrated
09/08/2017
My sponge fell apart after I brushed on the syrup. When I transferred one of the sponges to the top, it fell apart! I noticed Martha had brushed all the syrup onto the sponges in the segment, so I did the same and it made my sponges too soggy. Why did it work in the segment- doesn't anyone know? I used 8x2 cake pans and they rose quite a bit in the oven. Btw, other than being ugly, it tastes amazing. I used Ina Garden's lemon curd recipe for the center. Appreciate any advise!
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Rating: 5 stars
05/15/2017
This is by far the best lemon cake I've ever tasted! I made one on a Tuesday and it was gone on Wednesday (only 4 in our household) and I HAD to make another one! NEVER has a cake gone so quickly and been requested for another so rapidly! If you follow the directions precisely you will not be disappointed. I've made this cake so many times now, and it comes out perfectly every single time! When invited to a get-together and I ask "what do you want me to bring?", they always say bring the lemon cake please!
Rating: Unrated
05/07/2017
I haven't even made this cake yet, but can tell by the comments on here that it is a beautiful cake, BUT THAT IS ONLY IF YOU LIKE 'LEMON ' CAKES! I MUST say that the negative comments must come from those who 'think' that they are following a recipe and simply don't know the rules for 'baking'!!! Such as one who claimed the cake was dry, tasteless ,and too dense. Plus, it left a bad taste ??? In their mouths and it was thrown in trash. I would suggest that any cake can make those claims if one does not know the secrets of taking a cake out of the oven at the precise moment. Even 1 minute can make a huge difference in the texture of any cake. Also, with a 'lemon' recipe using grated lemon, knowing HOW to grate lemon peel can be bitter by even a small bit of grating too deeply past the out peeling., etc. Suggestion: practice makes perfect.
Rating: 5 stars
04/29/2017
So many seemed to have a problem making this cake. I followed the recipe exactly and it came out amazing - a moist, tender lemonly crumb
Rating: 5 stars
03/26/2017
Loved this cake! I made it for a party and it was a big hit, with lemon buttercream frosting and sprinkles. What a great recipe! Will be making this again.
Rating: Unrated
07/27/2016
Followed the recipe exactly. Cake was awful. Most at the party through it away. Cake was dry, tasteless and way too dense. Candied lemons left a bad taste in your mouth that could not be washed out. Trust me skip this one.
Rating: Unrated
03/11/2015
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.
Rating: Unrated
08/26/2014
The centigrades for the oven baking most be wrong! My cake is completely burned
Rating: Unrated
08/07/2014
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.
Rating: Unrated
04/14/2014
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.
Rating: Unrated
03/24/2014
Great cake! Dense, but moist. Lemon flavor is subtle, so I added lemon extract. You can see the other changes I made here. http://meghannewman.blogspot.com/
Rating: Unrated
03/14/2014
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!!
Rating: Unrated
11/25/2013
Rating: Unrated
09/22/2013
Dear Martha, i can't find buttermilk where i live, what can i use instead it?! Thanks
Rating: Unrated
07/25/2013
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.
Rating: Unrated
05/31/2013
Hands up anyone who put the whole two cups sugar in the cake!? Oh man. Hope this isn't a fail...
Rating: Unrated
04/25/2013
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Rating: 3 stars
03/31/2013
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.
Rating: Unrated
01/04/2013
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!
Rating: Unrated
07/15/2012
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.
Rating: Unrated
07/05/2012
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.
Rating: 5 stars
07/03/2012
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!
Rating: 5 stars
06/07/2012
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...! Cheers!
Rating: 5 stars
04/09/2012
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!
Rating: Unrated
09/15/2011
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.
Rating: 5 stars
08/09/2011
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!!
Rating: 1 stars
07/09/2011
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.
Rating: 5 stars
06/30/2011
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!
Rating: Unrated
06/24/2011
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.:)
Rating: Unrated
06/01/2011
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.
Rating: Unrated
04/24/2011
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.
Rating: Unrated
03/12/2011
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...
Rating: Unrated
01/20/2011
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 ?
Rating: Unrated
01/16/2011
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.
Rating: Unrated
12/30/2010
Absolute driest cake ever. It looked like 2 giant corn bread Frisbees. Don't ruin someone's birthday by making this awful mess.
Rating: Unrated
08/15/2010
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!
Rating: Unrated
08/09/2010
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.
Rating: Unrated
08/07/2010
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).
Rating: Unrated
07/31/2010
So good. The icing was magic and the lemon curd was perfect...no leakage or spillage! Beautifully looking cake and even better tasting
Rating: Unrated
05/14/2010
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?
Rating: Unrated
04/05/2010
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.
Rating: Unrated
04/01/2010
The lemon zest is added in step 1- please see that last line. :)
Rating: Unrated
03/20/2010
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.
Rating: Unrated
03/20/2010
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 -
Rating: Unrated
03/17/2010
Shirleyy, the icing recipe is there. Simply click on "Whipped Frosting" in the ingredients list and a new window will open with the recipe.
Rating: Unrated
03/17/2010
Shirleyy, the icing recipe is there. Simply click on "Whipped Frosting" in the ingredients list and a new window will open with the recipe.
Rating: Unrated
02/26/2010
I made this cake last summer. The cake is light and fluffy and delicious. Thank you.
Rating: Unrated
10/08/2009
I noticed that as well...any ideas?
Rating: Unrated
10/07/2009
Where can i find recipe for the lemon curd and icing that go with this lemon cake?
Rating: Unrated
10/05/2009
Where can I find the recipe for the lemon curd and icing that go with this lemon cake?
Rating: Unrated
10/02/2009
Please is it 3 lg egg whites or 8 as John said on the program. I would like to try this saturday eve. Thanks
Rating: Unrated
10/01/2009
For lemon curd, click on the word lemon curd next to the picture of the cake
Rating: Unrated
09/30/2009
Someone completely forgot to post the "new" recipe for the lemon curd filling! In fact, filling isn't even mentioned here.
Rating: Unrated
09/30/2009
@ 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
Rating: Unrated
09/30/2009
How many egg whites, sugar, water and salt for whipped frosting for lemon cake?
Rating: Unrated
09/30/2009
How many egg whites and sugar to use for lemon Cake? John said 8 how much sugar and water?? Thanks