Lemon Cake

Prep Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
45 mins

Martha loves lemons, and her all-time favorite way to use them is in desserts—like this moist lemon cake recipe that features the citrus in every element. A yellow layer cake with lemon zest and juice in the batter is baked, then brushed with a simple lemon syrup, and sandwiched together with either whipped frosting or lemon curd. Top it with our Whipped Frosting and candied lemon slices—and enjoy!


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans

  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks

  • ¼ 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.

    lemon cake
    Julia Hartbeck

Cook's Notes

Reserve the egg whites left over from the cake for the frosting. And when making the frosting, substitute 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice for the vanilla extract.

Cook's Notes

This lemon cake is a variation on our basic vanilla cake.


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.

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