This 3 layer lemon layer cake is made from scratch with real lemons. Light and delicious made even special with tangy cream cheese buttercream frosting!


(notice all “room temperature items—this is important! Take out of the refrigerator in advance)

  • 3 cups sifted AP flour (sift before measuring)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)-softened to room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups regular sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract -pure
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 heaping tablespoon lemon zest (takes about 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (takes about 2 lemons)

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 block-room temperature)
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3- 9 inch cake pans and line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. You can use Pam for baking.

Sift the flour, then measure 3 cups into a large bowl. Add baking powder, baking soda, and salt, whisk together. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Crape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the eggs on at a time and vanilla extract on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients just until combined. With the mixer still running on low, add the buttermilk, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix just until combined. You made need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be a little thick.

Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 21-26 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake, if it comes out clean, it’s done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cooled before frosting and assembling. The baked cakes are fluffy, but they are not thick, about 1-1.5 inches.


In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat until completely smooth and combined. Add confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more confectioner’s sugar if frosting is too thin, more on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin, more lemon juice if frosting is too thick, or add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I always add a pinch of salt!)


Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface, discard top (or use as crumble over ice cream). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or turntable. Evenly cover the top with about 1 cup of frosting. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with about 1 cup frosting. Top with third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. (Optional: Use homemade whipped cream with a piping tip to decorate the top—more to come on this!)

Refrigerate for at lease 30-45 minutes before slicing, this will help the cake to hold it’s shape. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

(Make ahead—cake can be frozen up to 2-3 months, then thaw in the refrigerator before serving)

(If you want to make the whipped cream decorations on top, here’s the recipe. Use a piping bag with a tip to make the swirls, then top with a small cut lemon)




  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla


Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract on medium-high speed until medium peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. Use immediately or cover tightly and chill in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.