Moist and Zesty Lemon Curd Cake
This Lemon Curd Cake is super moist and has three layers of fluffy lemon cake that are filled with zesty homemade lemon curd and topped with creamy lemon buttercream frosting. It is the perfect blend of tart and sweet from fresh lemon zest and juice. Plus, with the option to add meringue decorations, it’s a showstopper dessert that’s great for any party or occasion!
This lemon curd cake is a perfect dessert for spring and summer. With its light and refreshing lemon flavor, it’s a great option for those warmer months when you want something bright and zesty. The fluffy cake layers are moist and tender, and the lemon curd filling and lemon buttercream frosting adds a burst of tangy sweetness.
Lemon curd is a smooth and creamy filling made from eggs, sugar, butter, and of course, lemon juice! It has a tangy and zesty flavor that perfectly balances the sweetness of the sugar and the richness of the butter. The consistency is almost like a pudding and can be used to fill homemade cakes or cookies, like these lemon curd cookies!
The optional meringue decorations in this recipe make it a showstopper dessert that’s perfect for any special occasion, too. Whether you’re hosting a brunch, a baby shower, or a summer barbecue, this lemon curd cake is the recipe you need!
If you love lemon but want something quicker, check out this 5 star rated and reader favorite lemon pudding bundt cake! Or check out these easy to make lemon cupcakes. You can also frost this cake with a lemon cream cheese frosting!
WHY YOU SHOULD MAKE THIS RECIPE
- It’s a showstopper! Even if you don’t make the meringue decorations!
- Once you try homemade lemon curd, you’ll never want to go back to the jarred stuff.
- This recipe has an alternative frosting that would be as equally impressive and fun to make!
You will need a whole bag of lemons (about 8) for this recipe. 4 lemons will need to be zested. 8 lemons will need to be juiced, but you can juice the lemons that will be zested too.
Use fresh lemons for the lemon zest and juice. This will give your cake and curd a bright and vibrant lemon flavor that can’t be replicated with bottled juice or pre-grated zest. To get the most out of each lemon, use a lemon juicer.
- White Sugar – Provide sweetness to the base of the cake.
- All Purpose Flour – The main dry ingredient that gives structure and texture to the cake and mixes well with the rest of the ingredients.
- Baking Powder & Baking Soda – Both are leavening agents that help the cake rise and become fluffy.
- Kosher Salt – Balances the sweetness and enhances the overall flavor of the cake, and helps activate the leavening agents.
- Lemon Juice & Lemon Zest – Gives a burst of fresh citrus flavor to the cake and complements the lemon curd and buttercream frosting.
- Softened Butter – Adds a moist level of fat to the cake that provides moisture and richness to the cake batter. Learn how to soften butter quickly.
- Buttermilk – Givest the cake a more tender crumb and reacts with the baking powder and soda to help the cake rise.
- Eggs and Egg Whites – Add structure and stability to the cake and help it rise and set properly.
- Lemon Buttercream – This sweet and tangy frosting is easy to make and adds a creamy topping to the layered cake.
For the lemon curd:
- Egg Yolks – The main ingredient of the lemon curd and provide richness and creaminess while holding everything together.
- Granulated Sugar – sweetens the curd and balances out the tartness of the lemon juice.
- Lemon Juice and Zest – This fresh citrus ingredient gives the curd its tangy flavor and helps it thicken.
- Unsalted Butter – Provides creaminess and richness to the curd and helps it thicken. This needs to be used cold to make the curd creamy and not greasy!
For the meringue decorations (optional):
- Egg Whites – Used to make the meringue decorations and provide structure and stability to the meringue. These egg whites are saved from the lemon curd recipe– yay no wasting!
- Cream of Tartar – Added to stabilize the egg whites and help them form stiff peaks when whipped.
- Sugar – Used to sweeten the meringues and give them structure. The sugar also helps the meringue hold its shape and crisp up when baked.
HOW TO MAKE LEMON CURD CAKE FROM SCRATCH
For this cake we use the reverse creaming method– this means that instead of creaming the butter and sugar together first, we are instead adding all the dry ingredients together and then adding the butter after. Doing it this way coats the butter in flour and reduces the structure of gluten from forming which makes the cake more fluffy-yay!
Prepare for baking: Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray 3, 8-9” round cake pans with baking spray or line them with parchment paper. Set aside.
Mix dry ingredients with butter: In the bowl of a hand or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the sugars, all-purpose flour, baking powder, kosher salt, baking soda, and lemon zest. Mix on low speed until combined. Add in the butter and mix for 30 seconds to one minute until the mixture looks sandy.
Add the wet ingredients: With the mixer on low speed, add fresh lemon juice and buttermilk. Mix again for 30 seconds, moving up from low to medium speed. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Add the two eggs and egg white and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds.
Bake and cool: Pour the batter evenly into the three pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then flip onto a wire rack to cool completely while you make the lemon curd.
Make the lemon curd:
Separate egg whites and yolks: Separate the egg yolks from the whites carefully. Set the whites aside if you want to make the meringues to decorate.
Important! If you get any yellow into the whites, the meringues won’t whip, so you need to be very careful.
Combine: Add the egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, and freshly squeezed lemon juice in a small bowl or measuring cup and whisk to combine.
Cook: Pour it into a heavy-bottomed pan over low- medium heat. Consistently stir the mixture for 10 minutes until it has thickened. You don’t want to rush this part or raise the heat, as it will cook the eggs. The mixture is done when it coats the back of a spoon. If you take your finger and make a line through the curd on the back of the spoon, and it stays in place, it’s done.
Add butter and strain: Take the pan off the heat and immediately add the cold butter. Stir until melted. Strain the curd through a fine mesh strainer to make it smooth.
Chill the lemon curd: Pour the curd into a container and place a piece of plastic directly on top to prevent a film. Then cover and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
Optional meringue decorations:
Prepare for baking: Preheat the oven to 200 F and line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
Mix the meringue: Combine the remaining five egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer like a hand mixer or stand mixer. Whip on medium speed until foamy, then slowly pour in the sugar. Move to high speed and whip for up to 5 minutes for glossy stiff peaks. Do not overmix.
Bake and cool: Bake for 90 minutes, then shut off the oven and leave the meringues in for another hour. Remove from the oven and place in an airtight container if not using right away.
Make the buttercream:
Combine sugar and butter: In the bowl of a hand or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the confectioner’s sugar and butter. Mix on low speed working up to medium as the sugar combines with the butter. It takes about 1-2 minutes.
Add wet ingredients: Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer back to low speed and add the lemon zest, lemon juice, milk, and the pinch of salt if using. Mix on medium for 3 minutes until fluffy.
Assemble the cake:
Prepare the cakes and frosting: Level off the tops of the cake if needed. Fit a piping bag with a large round tip or fill a zip-top bag with the frosting and snip off the end.
Create a dam: Place one layer of cake on a cake board. Pipe a line around the edges of the cake. This is called a dam, it helps keep the lemon curd filling inside the cake without spilling out. It also creates structure and keeps the layers from sliding around.
Add the lemon curd: Fill the inside with lemon curd. Repeat with the second cake layer, then top with the last layer of cake.
Frost and decorate: Frost the cake with the remaining lemon buttercream and decorate immediately with the meringues.
Alternative frosting idea!
Instead of making the lemon buttercream frosting, you can instead make the meringue as if you are going to bake them but instead use the meringue to frost the outside of the cake. Torch it with a kitchen torch and serve!
This cuts down on time and ingredients because you wont need to make the lemon frosting.
TIPS FOR RECIPE SUCCESS
- Be patient when making the lemon curd. It’s important to cook the egg mixture over low heat and constantly stir to prevent the eggs from curdling. It may take up to 10 minutes for the curd to thicken, so don’t rush this step.
- Level off the cake layers before assembling. This will help ensure that the cake is evenly stacked and won’t tilt or slide during assembly. A cake leveler or serrated knife works well for this step.
- Make sure to save the egg whites from the curd to make the meringue decorations. You will need ½ cup (50g) for every egg white that you want to turn into a meringue.
- Decorate the cake with the meringues just before serving. If you add the meringues too far in advance, they may become soft and lose their crispy texture. Also, be sure to store any leftover meringues in an airtight container to prevent them from getting stale.
STORAGE AND FREEZING
Storing: Store in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, or stored in an airtight container to keep it fresh. It will stay fresh for up to four days in the refrigerator. You can also store the leftover lemon curd in a separate container in the fridge for up to a week.
Freezing: This cake can be frozen for up to two months. It’s best to freeze the cake without the lemon curd filling and buttercream frosting. Wrap each individual cake layer tightly in plastic wrap, then place them in a resealable freezer bag or airtight container. To thaw, remove the cake layers from the freezer and let them come to room temperature before assembling and decorating with the lemon curd and frosting.
Freeze the lemon curd separately for up to six months. Store it in an airtight container or freezer bag, making sure to remove as much air as possible before freezing. Thaw the lemon curd in the refrigerator before using it to fill the cake.
Meringue decorations should not be frozen, as they may become soft and lose their crisp texture. It’s best to make the meringues just before serving the cake.
Cake decorating tutorials
Love to decorate cakes? I have some fun posts for you to check out that will teach you how, straight from my 12+years of professional cake decorating!
- How to back and stack a two tier cake
- How to make your cakes look more professional
- How to decorate a cake with flowers
- Why do cakes sink in the middle
Moist and Zesty Lemon Curd Cake
For the cake:
- 2 cups (473.18 ml) white sugar, (400g)
- 3.5 cups (828.06 ml) all purpose flour, (515 g)
- 2 tsp (2 tsp) baking powder
- 1 tsp (1 tsp) kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp (0.5 tsp) baking soda
- 1 tbsp (1 tbsp) lemon zest, from 1 large lemon
- 1 cup (236.59 ml) butter, 227g softened
- ¼ cup (59.15 ml) fresh lemon juice, from 2 large lemons
- 1 cup (236.59 ml) buttermilk
- 2 (2) eggs, large
- 1 (1) egg white
For the lemon curd:
- 5 (5) egg yolks, separated carefully
- 3/4 cup (177.44 ml) granulated sugar, 150g
- zest from one lemon
- 1/2 cup (118.29 ml) lemon juice, from 4 large lemons
- 6 tbsp (6 tbsp) unsalted butter, cold
For the meringue decorations (optional):
- 5 (5) egg whites, ( saved from the lemon curd)
- ⅛ tsp (0.13 tsp) cream of tartar
- 1 ¼ cup (295.74 ml) sugar, (250 g) – you need 50 grams of sugar (½ cup) per egg white for the meringues.
- 3 1/2 cups (828.06 ml) confectioners sugar
- 1 cup (236.59 ml) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tsp (2 tsp) lemon zest
- 2 tsp (2 tsp) fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp (1 tbsp) milk
- pinch (pinch) kosher, salt optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray 3, 8-9” round cake pans with baking spray or line with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a hand or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add the 2 cup sugars, 3.5 cups all purpose flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1 tbsp lemon zest.
- Mix on low speed until combined. Add in the 1 cup butter and mix for 30 seconds to one minute until the mixture looks sandy.
- With the mixer on low speed add ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, and 1 cup buttermilk. Mix again for 30 seconds moving up from low to medium speed. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides.
- Add the 2 eggs and egg white and mix on medium for 30 seconds.
- Pour the batter evenly into the 3 pans and bake for 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then flip onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the lemon curd.
- Separate the egg yolks from the whites carefully. Set the whites aside if you want to make the meringues to decorate. If you get any yellow into the whites the meringues wont whip so you need to be very careful.
- Combine the 5 egg yolks, 3/4 cup sugar, lemon zest, and 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice in a small bowl or measuring cup and whisk to combine.
- Pour it into a heavy bottomed pan over low- medium heat. Consistently stir the mixture for 10 minutes until it has thickened. You don't want to rush this part or raise the heat as it will cook the eggs.
- The mixture is done when it coats the back of a spoon. If you take your finger and make a line through the curd on the back of the spoon and it stays in place, it’s done.
- Take the pan off the heat and immediately add the 6 tbsp cold butter. Stir until melted.
- Strain the curd through a fine mesh strainer to make it smooth.
- Pour the curd into a container and place a piece of plastic directly on top to prevent a film. Then cover and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
Optional meringue decorations
- Preheat the oven to 200 F and line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
- Add the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe meringues on the parchment paper. They can be close together as they won’t rise. Bake for 90 minutes, then shut off the oven and leave the meringues in for another hour. Remove from the oven and place in an airtight container if not using right away.
Make the lemon buttercream.
- In the bowl of a hand or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar and 1 cup softened butter. Mix on low speed working up to medium as the sugar combines with the butter. About 1-2 minutes.
- Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer back to low speed and add the 2 tsp lemon zest, 2 tsp of lemon juice, 1 tbsp milk, and the pinch of salt if using. Mix on medium for 3 minutes until fluffy.
- Level off the tops of the cake if needed. Fit a piping bag with a large round tip or fill a zip top bag with the frosting and snip off the end.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake board. Pipe a line around the edges of the cake. This is called a dam, it helps keep the lemon curd filling inside the cake without spilling out. Fill the inside with lemon curd.
- Repeat with the second cake layer, then top with the last layer of cake.
- Frost the cake with the remaining lemon buttercream and decorate immediately with the meringues.