A Zesty Lemon Cake

Original recipes from The Little Epicurean, epicurious, Martha Stewart and Genius Kitchen


Is it ever truly possible to have too much chocolate? Unfortunately, I think it is. After consecutive chocolate cakes leading to an overload of cocoa and candy, I was yearning for a something new.


So, when another office birthday rolled around it was well and truly time to go back to the drawing board for a refreshed cake concept. With a little guidance from the birthday girl herself (who hinted she was citrus-inclined), I eventually landed on a lemon cake.


Still sweet on all accounts, but with a completely different flavour profile, a lemon cake provided the scope to get creative. Wanting to pare back the concept to a single flavour, I sought to add dimension through playing with different textural elements.





To avoid a sickly sweet or lip-puckering sour dessert, balancing these elements was at the heart of its construction.


Seeking to build on the foundations of a moist lemon cake (and after the first recipe ended in a series of unfortunate mishaps), I looked to The Little Epicurian’s Lemon Layer Cake for its promise of a clean lemon flavour and airy texture.


For the filling, I amped the citrus flavour up a notch with a tangy lemon curd by epicurious. Tart and creamy, the curd brought the lemon flavour home. Then to offset the cake and the curd’s sweetness, I added another dimension with Martha Stewart’s perfectly smooth cream cheese frosting flecked with lemon rind.


In a rare decision to favour aesthetics over flavour, I topped the cake with cheat’s candied lemon by Genius Kitchen. While the overwhelming acidity was hardly offset by a generous dose of sugar, the glossy rinds added a visually interesting element to round out an otherwise plain birthday cake.





Lemon Cake:


– 2 ¼ C plain flour

– 1 tsp baking powder

– 1 tsp baking soda

– ½ tsp salt

– ¾ C unsalted butter, softened

– 1 ¼ C sugar

– 3 eggs, room temperature

– 1/3 C sour cream, room temperature

– 2/3 C milk, room temperature

– 5 Tbsp lemon juice

– 1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest



Lemon Curd Filling:


– ½ C lemon juice

– 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

– ½ C sugar

– 3 eggs

– 85 grams unsalted butter, cubed


Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:


– 500 grams cream cheese, room temperature

– 500 grams icing sugar, sifted

– 113 grams unsalted butter, room temperature

– 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

– 4 tsp lemon juice


Oven Candied Lemon Slices:


– 4 lemons, sliced

– ½ C sugar




1. To bake the lemon cake, preheat the oven to 180oC. Grease and line two 22cm round cake tins with baking paper.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

3. Cream ¾ C butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

4. Add 1 ¼ C sugar and beat until smooth.

5. Then, add 3 eggs, one at a time and mix to combine after each addition until completely incorporated.

6. Add sour cream and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as required.

7. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk and beginning and ending with flour.

8. Add lemon zest and juice and mix until well incorporated.

9. Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared tins, level with an offset spatula and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

10. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

11. Meanwhile, to make the curd whisk together ½ C lemon juice, 2 tsp zest, ½ C sugar and 3 eggs in saucepan.

12. Stir in 85 grams butter and cook over low heat, whisking frequently, for 6 minutes or until the curd is thick enough to hold whisk marks and the first bubbles appear on the surface.

13. Transfer curd to a bowl, cover the surface with cling wrap and refrigerate until cold.

14. To make the oven candied lemon slices, preheat the oven to 135oC and line two baking sheets with baking paper.

15. Cut 4 lemons into thin slices and arrange in a single layer on the baking sheets.

16. Sprinkle the lemon slices with ½ C sugar.

17. Bake for 50 minutes or until lemons are dry and covered with a sticky glaze, being careful not to let them burn.

18. Remove from the oven, loosen the lemon slices to prevent sticking and allow to cool completely.

19. Finally, to make the cream cheese frosting, beat cream cheese, 113 grams butter and icing sugar for 5 minutes or until smooth.

20. Beat in the lemon juice and zest until completely incorporated.

21. To assemble, level the lemon cake layers, dollop a spoonful of cream cheese frosting onto a cake board and set one of the levelled cake layers on top. Pipe a ring of cream cheese frosting around the perimeter of the layer to create a border.

22. Spread a thick layer of lemon curd inside the ring of frosting and top with the remaining cake layer.

23. Crumb coat the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting and refrigerate for 25 minutes or until cake has crusted.

24. Add a thick final coat of frosting and smooth with an offset spatula.

25. To decorate, arrange oven candied lemon slices on top of the cake.


Photography by Ben Neale.

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