Lemon Cake with Zesty Buttercream Frosting

Lemon Cake with Zesty Buttercream Frosting

Baking is generally not my thing, but this Lemon Cake with Buttercream Frosting may just be enough to change my mind.

The whole baking thing is just too much of a science. Too much measuring. Too much precision. And too often, I feel like boxed desserts taste better than any of my homemade versions… but maybe that’s just because I’ve never found the right recipe.

Sometimes duty calls though: birthdays roll around and I do what I must. I’m a diehard chocolate fan surrounded by lemon-lovers, so I find myself in search of lemon-y desserts more often than I would like!

This is the cake that I made for my Mom’s birthday in August, and it turned out so beautifully that I had to document it and share. And also so that I have the perfect recipe to turn to next time!

Lemon Cake

The recipe here is based on a Classic Vanilla cake that The Cake Boss made on Rachel Ray’s show years ago…taken in a lemony direction two ways.
1. A quick massage of lemon zest into the sugar.
2. Swap some of the vanilla extract for freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Voila, Lemon Birthday Cake!

The recipe is super simple, easy to follow and quick.

I baked these at night and let them cool completely. Then I wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container for 36 hours before frosting and topping with sprinkles and a little zest for an extra punch of bright lemony sunshine!

Lemon Cake

Lemon Cake with Lemon Zest Buttercream Frosting
Makes 2 9-inch rounds
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for flouring the cake pans
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup almond milk
Lemon Zest Buttercream Frosting
  • Enough for filling and frosting a 2-layer 9-inch cake
  • 3 3/4 cups 1 box powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 lemon zested
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease 2 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray. Add 1 tablespoon of flour and shake around the pan to coat.

  2. Make Lemon-Sugar: Put the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Zest the whole lemon into the sugar and rub together briefly with your fingers to release some of the lemon oils from the peel into the sugar.

  3. Add flour, vegetable oil, baking powder, vanilla and salt to the lemon-sugar in the bowl. Cut the zested lemon in half and juice just one half into the bowl as well. With an electric mixer, blend on slow just until the ingredients are blended together, a few seconds, then raise the speed to low-medium and continue to mix until smooth.

  4. Add 1 egg at a time. After all eggs are added, scrape the bowl from the bottom with a rubber spatula to integrate ingredients, and return the mixer to low-medium speed for an additional minute.

  5. Add the milk to the batter and mix for another 2 minutes until super smooth.

  6. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.

  7. Bake until the cake begins to pull from the sides of the pan and is springy to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes.

  8. Let cakes cool for at least 40 minutes before removing from the pan. Run a butter knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides and flip upside down on a cooling rack.

  9. Frost and decorate immediately or wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap and store for up to 2 days in an airtight container at room temperature before icing.

To Frost:
  1. In a large bowl, add the powdered sugar and almond milk. Mix until smooth with an electric hand blender. Stir in 1/2 of the lemon zest. Frost the top of one cake layer and sprinkle some additional zest. Top with 2nd cake layer and cover top and sides with remainder of frosting. Add the reminder of the lemon zest and add sprinkles!

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