lemon layer cake

I know people are prone to wild disagreements over Food Network personality Paula Deen. Sure, some gush that she is a “hot-damn pistol” and exactly like their “favorite aunt, who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her” even at the expense of their readership and others think she’s just hated on because she’s a successful woman, most people cast a far less sympathetic glance in her direction, if not for her Big Pork connections, then for her Fried Butter Balls, seen as her obvious attempt to “kill us all.”

batterseparating eggsseparating eggszesting lemons

Much like my take on the ever-raging Rachael Ray hate-athon, I really can’t imagine why– offensive labor practices aside–people feel the need to be so all-caps in their condemnations. Call me vanilla, but fact is, in the very first show of hers that I saw, she was teaching her newlywed son some recipes she thought everyone should know how to make, and I instantly longed for a big ol’ Southern grandma to teach me to make a towering lemon cake. [And heck, it’s not like she filled it with corn nuts.] I finally found my excuse to tackle this cake for the birthday of these guys I have known for (groan) 13 years, replete with the nicknames my friend Jocelyn has given them on her blog, of which I will only comment that they are well-deserved.

Deen uses the 1-2-3-4 cake recipe for hers, something I have knocked around a bit on this site because it baffles me that so many bakeries use it as a business model, but it doesn’t mean it is not a great recipe for any baking repertoire: good flavor, fluffy, light, no wonky ingredients and nearly one-bowl. Three layers of this cake are filled and coated with lemon fresh lemon curd, and this whole thing is swaddled in shiny, fluffy swirls of Seven-Minute Frosting, which tastes like marshmallows and is incidentally, fat free.

whisking lemon curdseven minute frostingseven minute frostingdrippy lemon curd

Sadly, Paula Deen’s recipes came up a little short on instruction. I appreciate simplification, but find the Joy of Cooking versions of these recipes to have that eensy bit of extra information that keeps me from freaking out, like I did after whisking the lemon curd until my arm fell off only to realize that according to the more detailed recipe, it actually thickens upon cooling. How about that and can you please re-attach my arm now? The Joy of Cooking also included a temperature-check on the frosting, which I preferred the precision of; though I am sure I still only cooked it for only 7 minutes, the extra detail soothed my anxieties better than wine.

Fine, I’m lying. I mean, it’s a real thick line between being nice to a Food Network host and being nice to my liver, and I strive for balance, okay? And cake, mostly cake.

still frostingshells or somethingnicknamesfour layers

One year ago: Key Lime Tartlets

1-2-3-4 Cake
Adapted from several sources: this cake is a classic

This cake gets its name from its proportion of ingredients: 1 cup butter and milk, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups of flour and 4 eggs, and from cupcakes to layers cakes, as a basic, white cake, it does not fail.

Yield: 3 9-inch layers (for the purpose of this cake) or 24 cupcakes (good to know, eh?)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups sifted self-rising flour*
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4-inches above counter, then dropping flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (start checking at 15 minutes if you are making cupcakes).

* Self-rising flour has both salt and baking powder in it, but you can make your own at home with the following formula: 1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour, minus 2 teaspoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Lemon Curd
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

From the Joy of Cooking: This makes a sensation filling for sponge rolls or an Angel Food Cake. You can also marble it into a cheesecake.

8 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3 lemons, zest grated and juiced
Place the ingredients in the double boiler over boiling water. Don’t let top pan touch the water. Cook and stir until mixture begins to gel or thicken ever-so-slightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate it to thicken.

This keeps, refrigerated, for about 1 week.

Seven-Minute Frosting
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

5 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs whites at room temperature
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts or shredded sweetened dried coconut (optional)

Whisk first five ingredients together in a large, stainless-steel bowl. Set the bowl in a wide, deep skillet filled with about 1 inch of simmering water. Make sure the water level is at least as high as the depth of the egg whites in the bowl. Beat the whites on low speed until the mixture reaches 140 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Do not stop beating while the bowl is in the skillet, or the egg whites will be overcooked. If you cannot hold the thermometer stem in the egg whites while continuing to beat, remove the bowl from the skillet just to read the thermometer, then return the bowl to the skillet, or yell “[Insert your husband/wife/sig-other’s name here]!! Halp! Can you check the temperature of this for me!!!” It might or might not work.

Beat on high speed for exactly five minutes. Remove the bowl from the skillet and add vanilla, beating on high speed for two to three more minutes to cool. Stir in coconut or nuts, if you are using them.

Use this frosting the day it is made.

Lemon Layer Cake Assembly: Add 1 tablespoon of filling to the cake pedestal. Run hands along the side of the cake to remove excess crumbs. Place the cake layers on the pedestal, spreading filling between the layers and on top. Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining filling. Frost top and sides of cake with frosting.

Why my cake might look thinner than yours: Or, d’oh! From the looks of Paula Deen’s cake, I assumed it would be too tall for my cake carrier, and made the third layer into cupcakes instead that I’d save for another occasion. Turns out, the cakes might have been just fine (or, I took out too much batter), so I split them into halves, creating a thin four-layer cake instead. Nobody noticed!

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262 comments on lemon layer cake

  1. I saw this episode too and instantly longed to have that cake. Did you like the end result? How was the flavor?
    It looks gorgeous, btw!

    Although I can’t take Rachel Ray, I have to say that Sandra Lee is the worst. Corn nuts in a cake? Ugh.

      1. Hannah

        I wondered the same thing. I sprayed them with cooking spray and then dusted with flower. I think the flower made them crumbly and the cakes stuck to the pans so next time I will just use butter.

  2. That woman and her butter, I tell ya. At least in a dessert the fat content “can” be high – but 3/4 of a stick of butter in something she labels a salad was when I knew she was up to no good.

  3. Sssseven Mmmminute Fffffrostingggggg……Glorious, glossy Seven-Minute Frosting. God, I am so in love. Every year for my birthday, I seriously consider it, but always end up making chocolate something-or-other for the people helping me eat the cake. This year, it’s official: I’m turning 30 and the frosting will be Just What I Want.

  4. Amanda

    This looks amazing you have inspired me to try many of your older posts. My parents fav is your breakfast bread I added peaches my Dad is still praising me I have told him all credit is do to you. I love making cake I will be trying this one really soon thanks again for sharing all these recipes with us.

    1. Molly

      Ugh I can’t believe no one got to the bottom of this in the comments! Deb, I need to know why really gay Dave and creepy Uncle Steve are. I just need to know. Love, a devoted follower.

        1. Molly Livingston

          You’re the best, Deb. I am glad Dave got really gay married, he’s very lucky to have you for a friend! And Steve I hope he’s having a blast being a creepy Uncle wherever he is.

  5. Beautiful cake – seven-minute frosting is so billowy and perfect for b-day cakes. I also used the JOC recipe the first time I made it. My grandmother (a good Southern cook in her own right, but a teeny tiny lady) always made it off the top of her head. I wish I had paid better attention! Hers, like yours looks, was always perfect.

    (Cute cake plate, too. At least I think it’s a cake plate? Anyway. Love the silver.)

  6. christina

    i love coming to your blog for the pictures alone, but always stay to read the recipes! your food pictures always make me want to cook, but mostly just make me hungry!!!! :)

  7. Lemon cured rocks my world, and 1-2-3-4 cake is probably about my cake speed right now, since the last half-dozen cakes I’ve made came out weird. Now, I just need an occasion (sadly, It’s Tuesday night! doesn’t work when you need to lose weight…)

  8. cheri

    Fabulouso- and such a kind of “ironic” cake- with the nicknames and perfect decor and all. I have to direct you to the Cook’s Illustrated version- I’m thinking it’s from the May-ish issue this year- and man do they really perfect their recipes. YAY you!

  9. LIsa A

    Oh the power to have a screen you could lick and taste that cake!!! I have to make it now!! did the ice box cake with the chocolate wafer cookies…that was yummy, but lemon I LOVE!!!! You should have heard my nephew when I asked him if he wanted to see my food porn pictures!! LOL!!!! Thanks for the inspiration and laughs!! you rock! and oh btw…my hubby and I met online while at college!! there is nothing wrong with it, but I know what ya mean by people looking at you funny when you say where ya met!!!

  10. Funny you should mention the slight anxiety about Paul Deen recipes. I have problems with her measurements. For Easter (or Mother’s Day?) I made one of her trifles (in my defense, I offered to make the Pavlovas with mixed berry sauce you featured, but my down home Southern family balked at the idea) and I had fits with the measurements. Sure, she uses a lot of Sandra Lee-style tricks to make a fresh berry trifle easy breezy, but all of the ingredients were nonstandard sizes — boxes of pudding or cans of condensed milk when there is NO WAY POSSIBLE to get that measurement without dividing boxes and cans into fractions and, hell, like I can do math. My mom has suggested that perhaps older, family recipes are based on packaging measurements from when they were first written. I’ve found that with a lot of older family recipes I don’t always understand the notations.

    Ultimately, I winged it on the pudding filling and my family thought it was the greatest thing ever.

    Not that this has anything to do with THIS recipe. Just Paula Deen recipes in general.

  11. I love seven minute frosting, but I have never seen anyone spread it so perfectly! Mine is usually sort of billowy and more “homemade” (aka messy) looking. How’d you do that?

  12. deb

    Oh, that’s because I *tried* to make it look swooshy and homemade but I’m so tightly wound, and I have no idea how to billow. Or flounce. So I gave up and smoothed it.

  13. Arugula In Iowa

    LyB – I clicked on your link and actually thought for a second that it must be a joke. There are no words for just how ‘wrong’ that is…

  14. Wow, that’s one pretty cake. I had never heard of seven minute icing before but it looks good.

    To LyB in the comment above- I just clicked on that link and… Ew. I totally agree, wrong.

  15. Deb – I’ll teach how flounce the icing. It’s a Southern home ec thing. I adore Paula and she appears very kind on TV. I haven’t made any of her recipes due to the excessive butter content being in direct conflict of Weight Watchers.

    Also, do you use a cake gun to decorate or piping bags?

  16. Caroline in DC

    I want a piece of that cake, now.

    Even though I’m a big advocate of healthy eating, I like Paula Deen, perhaps because she doesn’t take herself too seriously. I think anyone who watches the show realizes she’s a crazy charming Southern lady who puts big globs of cream cheese in EVERYTHING, and it’s pretty damn funny to watch her do that.

  17. Jim

    Paula Deen’s butter balls terrify me, but whatever. I don’t get any of the chef hatred thrown around these days, particularly when they inspire lovely cakes like this one!

  18. Nic

    LyB, that made me throw up a little in my mouth. Half a pound of Velveeta PLUS a cup of butter PLUS a cup of PEANUT BUTTER???

    “Because of the amount of butter in this recipe, pat with paper towel to remove excess oil”

    That should NOT be allowed in recipe directions.

  19. deb

    tokyoastrogirl — It was delicious. And surprisingly, not too sweet. I found the icing far less cloyingly sweet than buttercream, which was nice for a change.

    Luisa — Hooray! Another fan. I think this frosting was just MADE for chocolate cake. Something about the marshmallow/chocolate thing. Omg, a s’mores cake! With crumbled graham crackers in the batter or between the layers! Or ganache. Ack, I am getting ahead of myself again.

    Steamy Kitchen — It does. I swear, I didn’t name them that. But I do concur.

    Abby — The cake plate is the base to my cake carrier. I have just cracked the top for the second time, and am debating ordering (another) replacement or shopping for a new carrier.

    LyB — I have to confess, when I first saw it was like, “hmm.” Because cream cheese, peanut butter… these are all good things in dessert. Then I saw it was Velveeta and I can’t get the image out of my head. Why do I think that the fudge must smell REALLY bad? My stomach turns.

    Jenifer from Houston — I suppose it goes without saying that I have never taken Home Ec because they never offered it where I went to school and I was actually disappointed. P.S. Did you see Superbad? I loved the Home Ec scene and rant. I use a piping bag. I worked at a bakery in high school and got really comfortable using them, or making them out of paper cones.

    Katie — Eeks, I don’t have an exact yield. However, the original Joy of Cooking recipe uses 3 yolks and double the amount of butter, yielding 1 2/3 cups. I’d wager a guess that recipe I made makes the same amount.

  20. I’ve never seen Paula Deen’s show, but from what I’ve read, she sounds hilarious! You gotta love someone with that much joie de vivre.
    Lemon tart is one of my favorite desserts and this lemon cake looks divine!

  21. Cris

    Did anyone see Paula Deen on Oprah yesterday (day before? Something like that)? She was making a cake recipe and accidentally dropped a glass bowl into the stand mixer – batter went everywhere. If you have the guts to laugh after spattering Oprah and her big ol’ diamonds with food, then you’ve got the guts to do anything. Even mix Velveeta with peanut butter, apparently.

  22. Yes, B and I watched Superbad in a movie brew house. It was great movie to have a drink as the scenes unfolded!

    My mom taught me how to ice with a piping bag/cones. I need to get a tip set. And a bigger kitchen. B said he’s going to get me both of those. I am a lucky girl.

  23. Kristin

    What a coincidence. I just saw that episode the other day, and was amazed that Paula Deen made something I might actually want to eat. As far as hating her, I would guess that most people, like me, just think that most of her recipes suck. I mean, Saltine salad (basically, crushed saltines mixed with mayo)? On the same episode with the lemon cake, she made something she called Chicken DIE-van, which was chicken and frozen broccoli mixed with loads of mayo, sour cream and cheddar cheese, then topped with buttered bread crumbs. Health concerns aside, do people really eat that kind of bland 60s crap anymore?

  24. Christine

    Kristin- I actually made her Chicken Divan after watching that episode and it was really good. nothing bland about it. Paula Deen is the self-proclaimed butter queen of the south and i love her for it.
    Sandra Lee on the other hand… ugh.

  25. Erin

    Ohhh…apparently you folks have never been to Wisconsin, land of cheese and home to many MANY incarnations of chocolate cheese. I’ll admit that Paula’s recipe does seem a bit over-the-top (patting to remove oily excess…not good).


    Chocolate cheese is basically American cheese blended with chocolate and it really DOES taste just like a nice rich fudge. Mind you, the folks around here aren’t using Velveeta, of course, they’re using FRESH! LOCAL! American cheese. Nonetheless. It’s really pretty good. I remember the first time I tried it (a student did a presentation on cheese–I love Wisconsin–and brought in many different kinds–I love Wisconsin) I was a bit nervous, but it’s tasty!

  26. Liz

    You know that Kwanzaa cake has a special place in my heart for being the most ridiculous thing ever conceived and produced. The comments on that recipe are priceless. THIS cake, however, looks divine.

  27. annamc

    In eastern N.C. this cake is called Robert E. Lee cake. My mama ordered them for my birthday from Miss Frankie Mae. She sold cakes,pies,fried chicken and all sorts of great southern food right our of her home kitchen. Your post and pictures brought back some great memories.Thanks

  28. Sonia

    This cake looks so yummy I must make it. I do have a question this lemon curd do you think it will hold well for a 2nd tier in a wedding cake?

  29. I found your blog a few weeks ago in my search for feathered wedding cakes and landed on this page. Just had to come back to tell you my daughter baked this cake this morning and it is super, so fluffy and yummy and… and… did not have lemon curd in the fridge but the cake is still soo good.

    I always make my own lemon curd, lucky enough to have a lemon tree in my back yard. I just put all the ingredients in a bowl, beat until well blended and then cook it in the microwave, stirring frequently.

    I love your site. Will come back often.

  30. oops, seems the link to my blog was spelled wrong… if you maybe want to take a look at my lemon curd recipe and microwave method. hope it is working now.

  31. zakia

    i am making this cake now. i totally forgot to use self rising flour. so i just added the b.p at the end. the batter is delicious!!!!

  32. Anna

    I’m baking the cake right now so that i can freeze it and assemble it on Saturday for my birthday party:)
    Do you think making Orange Curd would work? Is it possible to just switch oranges for lemons in the recipe? Or maybe should i adjust other ingredients then?
    hope you can help me.

  33. deb

    There’s no reason that oranges won’t work. You might want to cut back on the sugar by a tablespoon or two, however, as they’re much sweeter than lemons.

  34. Beth

    Hey Deb,
    I just tried this cake and lemon curd tonight for the first time. The cakes are cooling and look great, but the curd fell apart. It clumped up over the heat and the eggs may have scrambled. I whisked like there’s no tomorrow but I couldn’t save it. What can I do differently next time?

    BTW, I also made the tomato, sausage and spinach risotto dish for dinner, which my husbands LOVES.

  35. AnnaK

    Hi Deb,
    I read your recipes all the time. Thanks for sharing all your hard work. I made this cake for a b-day party last night and totally lifted your concept. The cake was sweeter than I expected so I swapped the 7-minute frosting for Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Real Old Fashioned Whipped Cream which has extra butterfat (butter) added back into the cream. This makes it richer and provides stabilization. I also used Martha Stewart’s lemon curd recipe which has more lemon juice and less sugar. Decorated with Lemon zest on top. It was a great combo and a bit hit – thank you! I’m going for the chocolate stout cake today for an event tomorrow.

  36. Trish

    I have bookmarked this page and will eagerly explore the rest of the site as time permits! My husband is the “cook” in the family – he flies by the seat of his pants and it all tastes good. I cannot cook that way; I require actual recipes to guide me, lest I stray into some creepy SemiHo-Made territory. Thus, I am always on the lookout for recipes that are idiot-proof and versatile – and this cake hits the bulls-eye. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  37. Fairuz

    Oh My GOD!

    I just made this cake a while ago… and the 1-2-3-4 cake turned out PERFECT!

    I’m away from home, and my sister doesn’t have an electric mixer here in Jordan, so I had to cream the butter and sugar by hand (as best as I could T_T). I was sure that it wouldn’t turn out right, but OMG it turned out pretty awesome!

    I love you for thissss!!! thank you thank you thank you thank youuuuuuu!!!

  38. C.

    Am in the midst of making this cake right now. Figured since I don’t have round pans I’d switch and use a sheet pan. Somehow, I missed the note about it making three layers. Strange things are going on in my oven right now. We’re 45 minutes in and it wobbles like Jello. Sigh. Wish me luck…

  39. Katherine

    Oh my god — this is my family’s classic birthday cake! Though we usually make it with cream cheese frosting. It’s pretty much an amalgam of Joy of Cooking recipes. So delicious and full of memories!

  40. Okay, so I’m the only person who tried this and got a flop? I have tried so many white and yellow cake recipes over the years and they always have a sort of crumbly texture (like corn muffins). I use cake flour (with the required additions to make self rising), room temp ingredients, exact measurements…. all that jazz. My carrot cakes and spice cakes and such are moist and light, but the plain ones drive me to drink.

    Last month I asked a friend what she did to get the right consistency in her birthday cakes and she said she’d never had that problem. Then she served me a slice of her son’s and I thought it was the same way. So maybe I’m just overly picky????

    Does anybody even know what I’m talking about? :)

    The only recipe I’ve had nice and light and perfect was for Mary Engelbreit’s white buttermilk cupcakes, which made fabulous cupcakes but don’t translate well to cakes.

    Three of my four children have birthdays next week and I really want some fabulous tasting (easy) cakes for them.

    I can’t feed them the crap that’s in boxed mixes. I try and my eyes go to the ingredients and I start cursing and embarrassing my family.

    My frosting will make your eyes roll back in your head, but the cakes…….. eh. Help?

  41. cs

    I made the 1-2-3-4 cake yesterday with my niece. I used cake flour since I had it on hand and don’t have a canister for it. Since I live in the pest ridden state of FL, I worry with open boxes. The cake was perfect crumb, moist and tasty. Could have used more vanilla flavor–next time vanilla sugar? The lemon curd was not going to win over a six year old so we didn’t use it. Can the 7 minute frosting be hand wisked? I have a kitchen aid stand mixer but not an electric hand held. I’d like to revisit this cake with the proper filling and frosting.

  42. Nadia

    I made the seven-minute frosting yesterday for a red velvet cake and it was gorgeously satin-y and marshmallow-y. I agree totally that it would work beautifully with chocolate cake and now I’m dying to make this beautiful looking lemony cake too. I didn’t like the red velvet cake at all, btw (used an online recipe). Just too bland and boring, lurid red or not. Just my two cents worth, but in the very bottom set of four photographs (here), I love the look of the frosting in the top left photo and not the more manicured, tidied up appearance of the finished version . . .

  43. Can this cake be made the night before? I have a baby shower tomorrow and I’m going to bake the cake tonight but will if I frost it the night before will it setup and be OK???

  44. Debbie Graham

    I have no idea what went wrong! Cake came out flat and under cooked even though toothpick came out clean.Inverting it on a cooling rake, it fell apart. (Can I say-how depressing!) Date on flour says it’s good till next February! So…trying again, this time with an 8″ pan instead of a 9″, and I am turning up head a pinch-oven may be off. Oh well, I will let you know how it goes. Debbie too.

  45. Deb Graham

    OK, remade cake, turned out great! My son in laws birthday is tomorrow! I’m so sure he and everyone will love it!

  46. brista

    I’ve never seen someone actually hold the egg yolk in their hands when separating it…usually I just swish it back and forth between the two shell halves. Interesting…

  47. Hi — I’ve just made this — your recipe mentions a ‘prepared pan’ but doesn’t tell us what that means. I assumed greased and lined with greased parchment?

  48. Joan

    I am now 54 and have been making 1-2-3-4; 7 minute frosting cakes since I was 16. I was blessed to have an old fashioned southern mother who believed a “good wife” knows the “basics” (don’t laugh I said old fashioned). There are lots of variations that can be derived from this very basic cake. This lemon cake which I’ve made many times is soooo good it makes you wanna “bite yo’ fangas”. There are also lots of other variations. It is truly an old fashioned comfort cake I haven’t looked over your site to see if its there but the same cake with pineapple filling and flaked coconut which sticks easily to the 7 minute frosting is also vvvvvvvveeeeerrrrrrrryyy good. When I make it for family functions and parties I double the recipe and make 3, 12 inch layers — scrumptious but also beautiful!

  49. Paula

    I love reading about your cooking adventures- it does for the food what J Peterman catalogue descriptions do for the clothes!
    I have enthusiastically started this for my son’s16th birthday tomorrow- he always wants a lemon cake. I made the lemon curd. Then I read the cake in detail- where is the lemon in the lemon cake? I’m afraid to go ahead and make the non-lemon cake and have my son disappointed on his one day of the year. Even though all the comments say it is delicious, they don’t say it is lemony!

  50. Lee

    FWIW, I made this in cupcake form and I’m not thrilled… the cake came out fine, with a good crumb and moistness, but the flavor was super plain. I’m sure in conjunction with a rich tangy filling and sweet sweet frosting, that’s exactly what’s needed, but for future adventurers, the base cake here is too plain, in my opinion, to hold up in cupcake form (at least with a thin, not-too-sweet whipped ganache frosting).

    Deb, I don’t comment often, but I love love love your site – I read you before I read my email most days :)

  51. I made a version of this cake and the chocolate cake from your peanut butter chocolate cake post and they were both huge hits at my son’s 4th birthday party last weekend. I also served Martha’s mac and cheese….wow. It was so delicious and so many people asked for the recipe. Thank you…you have a great collection of recipes and your cake baking tips are a great help! I used the freezer trick for the cakes…what a help. I was able to bake the cake a few days ahead and assemble later on. Great idea.

  52. Miranda

    I made this cake this weekend for some friends birthdays and it was a HUGE hit!!! OMG it was SOOOOO good!!! It didn’t look as nice as yours…i always seem to be rushing to finish my cakes…so in this case the lemon curd was still a bit warm and so it melted the cake…but still tasted FANTASTIC!!!! And was easier than i thought it would be. If your thinking of trying this cake DO!!!!

  53. This cake is incredibly LEMONY! Thanks to the curd (which is divine straight from the spoon). And the cake light and airy. With the meringue frosting the whole thing was a delight. Served it at a dinner party and everyone adored it. BTW have just started my own food blog and have been incredibly inspired by yours. Have tried a few of your recipes now and they have all been good. Well done!

  54. Yen

    i made this cake tonight and it was not up to par with what i expected it to be. cake altough the cake base turned out fine, i did not expect it to be as fluffy/airy as it came out. the custard was odd tasting and the frosting was alright but had a wierd aftertaste. maybe i am doing something wrong… ):


    Served this tonight for easter dinner and it was a hit! The lemon curd was surprisingly easy and it really made the cake. I am a new convert to 7 minute icing.

    As always, thanks.

  56. Nadia

    Finally made this cake today, with two-thirds of the batter measurement to make a two-layer cake instead of a three-layer one. The sponge is lovely, and THANK YOU for finally giving me the courage to make homemade lemon curd; so easy and what a delicious treat. I rushed the frosting so it wasn’t as successfully satin-y as the first time I made it. All in all, a nice cake, beautiful to look at, but perhaps a bit too sweet for me.

  57. Kathy in St. Louis

    We made a half-batch tonight, and it was a big hit. I know this frosting well, as it’s the one we used for angel food cake when I was growing up, but not until tonight did I know that it could be made with only a whisk and patience. Whew.

  58. Amanda

    So, delicious cake, of course…however, my frosting did quite a bit of sliding down the lemon-curd-sided cake. Not nearly as beautiful as the photos, but salvaged with a little coconut sprinkle. Was my curd too soft, or my frosting too heavy?

    Either way, delish, so I guess I won’t complain.

  59. Uh oh. My curd didn’t thicken, even when I chilled it in the fridge. Does that mean the egg yolks aren’t cooked enough and I’ll give people salmonella? Or can I just add some corn starch?

  60. Dahlia

    I’m a little confused about the assembly instruction: when you say to add 1 Tbsp of filling to cake pedestal-is this a layer of lemon curd that I’m spreading directly onto pedestal? This layer is below bottom cake layer?

  61. Dahlia

    Thanks for your quick response! Just finished assembly and the cake kind of dripped and drooped all over the place, maybe my curd wasn’t hard enough? But everything sure tastes good. Can’t wait to serve it! Bringing it to Shabbos dinner for friends’ anniversary.

  62. Susanne

    I made this cake yesterday, but with lime curd. Since the lemon curds recipe called for 3 lemons but didn’t give the amount of juice that meant, I wasn’t comfortable using it. I ended up going with my more recent copy of Joy of Cooking for the curd recipe. Unfortunately, my curd ended up being very thin.

    Two notes: The cake, while tasty, had a very fine crumb and wasn’t as moist as I like. Secondly, I made the mistake of letting the Seven Minute Frosting sit while I put together the cake and filling. When I came back, little sugary bits had hardened in it. If I was doing it over, I would set up the cake, make the frosting, cool it, and put it right on the cake. I think that would solve the problem.

    Regardless, it was tasty and no one complained!

  63. Nancy

    I made this cake today, and the cake was dry and crumbly. The flavor was just so so. I think this frosting recipe is a mess. It came out runny, and you could taste the sugar granules in it. I think there must have been an error with this recipe?

  64. deb

    Not sure why it came out dry, but the frosting step in which you cook the sugar and egg whites together over heat is to dissolve the sugar (and heat the egg whites to a safe-to-eat temperature). Were yours still gritty after their time on the stove?

  65. kate

    The frosting recipe is the worst. It has the consistency of marshmallow once finished.It does NOT stand up in heat, and does not hold decoration well.
    I like the cake recipe but I found the lemon curd to be a bit too sweet.

    1. deb

      Interesting. I find it to be very easy to pipe with (you can see the shell decorations and the tinted frosting, with words piped, in the photos)! But yes, it tastes like marshmallow. That’s the best part (to those who like it).

  66. allison

    a couple questions —

    1) if i wanted to make this cake a little more lemony, could i use lemon extract in place of the vanilla? or should i maybe keep the recipe as is and just add some lemon zest?
    2) did you double the frosting recipe? the photo of your bowl appears as though you have a voluminous amount, and i just wanted to be sure that you only used the amounts in the recipe — my greatest kitchen fear/annoyance is running out of frosting mid-cake!

    can’t wait to make this for my sister’s birthday (which is tomorrow!..eek!..i sure hope you still check out the comments on old posts!). :)

    1. deb

      allison — Definitely worth trying the lemon extract swap, and to use zest. The frosting gets very billowy; I used the recipe as printed. (I have no interest in steering you all wrong!)

  67. Olivia

    I am planning on making this as a mini cake (3 layers, 6 inches) tomorrow for a friends birthday. Does this cake rise much? About how much should I fill each pan? Should I just halve the recipe or would that just complicate/screw things up? Thanks!

  68. Laura

    I found that the cake overflowed a lot. I altered my all purpose flour to make it self rising and it spilled right over the edge (but I’m above 5,000 feet so I should have altered it–so much for impressing my neighbors while on vacation!) Do you think you could include instructions for high altitudes?

  69. Rachel

    Can this lemon curd be left unrefrigerated? I want to use this recipe (sooo mouthwatering!!) but I need time to decorate it and then serve it the next day. Would the lemon curd go bad if I left it out for a day?

  70. Mara

    Once I have made the cake and frosted it, how long will the frosting keep (on the cake)? I plan to serve the cake one day after I make it and I’m a little nervous that the frosting won’t keep/will become runny/become gritty/etc. Thougths?

  71. Eliza

    I made the 1-2-3-4 cake to fit into my 6 year old’s giant cupcake mold (a holiday gift). It doesnt quite make enough cake for it, but it was close enough. Either way, a delicious cake and sooo simple!

  72. LJ

    Hi Deb,

    I made this icing for my sister’s cake and it tasted very good and the textured turned out to be what I expected. My problem was that the icing seemed to run after some time. It started spreading out at the sides but the texture wasn’t even runny. After I made the icing I immediately put it on the cake that just came out of the refrigerator. There was no time to refrigerate after putting all the components together. I was wondering if you could help me figure it out. Thanks!

  73. Melissa

    A 3+ year old typo in the frosting section: “beating on high spped” –> speed

    Making this for my husband’s birthday tomorrow. I’ve made the frosting before and agree it was not billowy. Will hope for my billow tomorrow. Thanks for keeping the blog so amazing all the time.

  74. Jessica

    I’m confused about these two sentences in the 7 minute frosting:

    “Set the bowl in a wide, deep skillet filled with about 1 inch of simmering water. Make sure the water level is at least as high as the depth of the egg whites in the bowl”

    so… this isn’t a double boiler concoction… but the bowl is actually touching the bottom of the skillet and the 1″ of water (after the bowl has been placed in) should be as high as the depth of the egg whites inside the bowl?

  75. Jean

    Hi Deb!
    The directions say to use the frosting the same day that you make it but can I make the cake on Friday and serve the next day or would the frosting get hard overnight?

  76. Samantha

    I made this cake for a dinner my friend was throwing. This weekend, she is throwing another dinner; instead of asking what I would like to make (for dessert since that’s what I always make) she told me “you’re going to make that lemon cake”. When I protested citing the plethora of other cakes I could make, all from this blog by the way, she immediately shushed me and demanded lemon layers. She even announced in the evite “Sam will be making the famous lemon layer cake!”. I really wanted to make the chocolate peanut butter cake… alas – another day.

  77. Katie

    Thank you for the inspiration! I just made this cake, but cheated a bit. I made a boxed vanilla cake, with milk instead of water. Added the zest of 2 lemons to the batter. I did 4 8″ rounds from the batter and after I leveled them off by slicing the tops of the cakes off I drizzled with lemon simple syrup (I love lemon!) and then layered the lemon curd in. Then, I used the remainder simple syrup and mixed it with a buttercream frosting (adding a smidge of yellow food coloring to give it that lemony look).

    Served it up with fresh raspberries. YUM!

  78. Deidre

    I made this last night, and it was a big hit! I swooshed the icing everywhere so that it almost looked like a baked Alaska. Then I fanned out sliced strawberries on the cake stand around the base of the cake and garnished the top of the cake with a few as well. This was a delicious contrast to the last cake I made: the chocolate-peanut butter cake. Yum!

  79. Kate

    This cake looks amazing – perfect for a friend’s birthday who I’ve been asked to make the cake for. I’m not a huge fan of marshmallow icing, would it still taste good with a cream cheese icing?

  80. Maria

    Deb how do you recommend frosting this for cupcakes? I plan on doing a 2-layer cake with cupcakes for the overflow at a family function this weekend. Do you frost a layer of lemon curd first, then the frosting? Or have you tried piping the curd into the cupcakes…?

  81. Suzy

    So… how impossible is it to whip this frosting by hand? I really need this to be my bday cake, I’m sure you understand, but I have never needed an electric hand mixer in my life and I really hope I don’t have to start now. If it is entirely necessary, what brand would you recommend??

  82. Hi Deb…The LEmon cake was Amazing…love the 1,2,3,4 Cake Recipe the easiest & best vanilla cake ^.^. I have problem with the 7-Min Frosting though, it didn’t work at all…mayb coz I didn’t use the Cream of Tartar (substitute it with butter)…they don’t sell it here in China. Can I substitute it with other things?

  83. Jillicious

    Hi Deb, this is along the lines of the cupcake question by Maria. I want to inject the cupcakes with the curd. When you say you’d scoop out a little, how would you recommend doing it without making a big hole?

  84. Katie

    I made this for my dad’s birthday yesterday and it was a hit!! The best part was the frosting – it was so glossy and beautiful, and it tasted like marshmallows. I’m not sure if it was just me (probably just me) or a common problem, but just in case a warning to people without kitchen aid/stand mixers: it was a struggle to cream the butter/sugar (maybe I didn’t have the butter soft enough?), and the largest bowl we had in the house was NOT big enough to hold all of the ingredients as I added them bit by bit…it ended with me/the kitchen covered in batter, but the end result was great so I guess it was worth it!

  85. Jillicious

    I didn’t read your earlier detail about your arm almost falling off from whisking the lemon curd and I started freaking out that mine was never going to thicken! ha.

  86. Jillicious

    The lemon curd turned out great! And I made the cupcakes with the 1-2-3-4 cake recipe but with a portion of sugar being lavender sugar and iced them with lavender buttercream frosting. They were divine! :)

  87. I really want to make this cake for my birthday but I’m having problems finding light corn syrup for the 7 minute frosting (I’m in Scandinavia). Could I substitute it with golden syrup? Or should I just throw in the towel and start looking for a different frosting recipe?

  88. Jill

    This cake turned into a delicious mess. For some reason the frosting didn’t want to cooperate with the filling and created an ugly “melting” effect. Still totally delicious, though.

  89. Meredith

    Can I make this 1 day ahead and if so does it need to be refrigerated? Or is it easier to make the cake and lemon curd the day before then put it together the day of and make the frosting, etc.

    1. deb

      It can be made in advance or in separate parts. Frostings like this tend to crust slightly, though nobody complains, but that might put you to doing it on the day you need it.

  90. Erin

    I love this cake but the last time I made it I wanted it to be a little more lemony so I added the zest and juice of one lemon to the seven minute frosting at the very end. Came out great.

  91. I just made the seven minute frosting for a ‘hello kitty’ cake and it was perfect. Incredible even, so light and easy to form. Definitely recommend. Oh, and I’m in Australia and couldn’t find corn syrup ANYWHERE so just left it out and it was still perfect!

  92. Jessica

    Deb…I am going to make these as cupcakes for my 30th birthday…how long did you cook the cupcakes for? Keep in mind that I’m in Utah, land of high altitude. These are perfect for my “30 Rocks!” birthday party based on the 30 Rock show whose star is named Liz Lemon!

  93. I made the 7-minute frosting with Agave syrup instead of light corn syrup (that wasn’t available around my area at that time) and it worked wonderfully. The cake was all and everything that I wanted for my birthday. Thank you Deb!

  94. Rebecca

    I love this cake! The lemon curd is perfect for a filling in a yellow cake. My only difficulty with the cake was when I tried to frost over the lemon curd, the frosting and the curd completely mixed together. Still tasted great, just wasn’t as pretty as yours. Perhaps I cooked the frosting a bit much and it was stickier than it should have been… or is there a frosting trick to keeping the two toppings separate?

  95. LittleDeb

    What I love is that when I want to try something new, like you know, for the first time, on the actual day I need it (why do I that that to myself!?!?) you have never failed me. Today I had to make a birhtday cake, and I chose this, or at least the cake part as I already had lemon curd in my fridge and wanted to add it to the blueberry peach jam for a filling. It was a huge hit! I topped it with whipped cream as the heat was too much to stand near the stove today, but wow, the results were spot on. Thanks!

  96. I desperately want to try this frosting!

    If the cake was frosted immediately, how long (approx) will the frosted cake keep (providing it doesnt all get eaten the day its made that is)?

    Thank you for sharing such wonderful recipes :)

  97. I made this into a 6-inch round 4-layered cake, with lemon curd all in between the layers. Surprisingly my 7-minute frosting held up in Singapore’s crazy, humid and warm weather – though I torched it for a set outer layer. For my lemon cake lover friends, I added the zest of 2 lemons into the base cake and it’s just sweet enough to balance the tart lemon curd.

    The curd would start to thicken after 15 minutes and I made mine really thick so I could get all the 4 layers of cake to sit snugly. While it thickens further when cooling, it’s important to stir it till the right consistency is achieved.

    @Emma: The frosted cake keeps for a few days in the fridge, though the frosting will weep after day two.

  98. Joshua Miller


    I recognize this, my mom made it for every birthday until I left the house (I made it the last half dozen or so years I was there). I love this frosting. If anyone I met knew how to make it I would love them indelibly. Still…we always used a version from better homes and garden cookbook. It’s been updated name wise but the ingredients never changed. Sometimes it was called “Miracle Frosting” and sometimes “7 Minute”.

    …and now I have use for egg whites (learning how to make hollandaise uses a few yolks). Thanks.

  99. mimi

    i keep finding myself browsing the archives ….
    if you were making this again, would you use the 1-2-3-4 cake, or do you think the sky-high vanilla buttermilk cake that you used for the wedding cake would be a better choice for the layers?
    i’m amazed that you were considering this icing for the wedding cake before succeeding with the swiss meringue since you say it should be made day of….you must have nerves of steel and need very little sleep!

  100. Maxia

    I made this cake the other day for a friend’s bday, it was very good, but I stored the leftovers in the refrigerator and it became very hard… Is it normal for this cake? Or maybe I did something wrong? :(

    1. deb

      It will probably soften a bit at room temperature — butter, which there’s lots of in this recipe, is hard when cold, soft at room temperature.

  101. korpo

    so i just made the cake, twice, with both being a failure. the first time, i used your recipe but the cake was sooo salty even before i baked it. after i took it out the oven, it was worse. so i found another recipe at and did that, but the cake burnt and now it looks like dark lemon cake instead of yellow lemon cake. please give me some pointers on how to save as much as i can for my office party and what to do/not do the next time i make this cake. cause i sure need to master this recipe. thanx!!

  102. MARIE

    Lemon Curd Cake has been in my husbands family for years. I actually cook the curd in the microwave. If it gets too thick, thin it with a little more lemon juice. You can never have too much lemon juice! Also, I add a little corn starch which helps it to gel. I freeze my cake layers, (1-2-3-4 cake) and put the curd icing on hot. It helps thaw the layers and seeps in a little to help the cake be very moist. Now, we have never put 7 minute frosting on top. Why would you? It is just wonderful with lemon curd only and so “holiday”. It is always a tradition for us at Christmas.

  103. Farah

    Have you made the Cook’s Country Lemon Layer Cake? It is the same concept, layered with a yummy home-made lemon curd. I’m tempted to make this one just to compare. BTW your site is my go-to for desserts. I made your mom’s apple cake as a quick dessert for friends & was pleasantly surprised with how unexpectedly amazing and EASY it was!

  104. Nicole

    I’m hoping to make a lemon layer cake for my wedding and finding recipes now… how well do you think this cake would stand while tiered? Any tips greatly appreciated! Looks delicious!

  105. LG

    I just made this cake following the recipe the first time (except using Fine Cooking’s lemon curd recipe, which is so easy and comes out perfectly each time). But, today I baked it to make four layers, using 8″ pans instead of 9″. I just wanted to comment in case anyone else was looking to make a four layer cake. The layers baked for 19 minutes in my oven (I had to do two rounds of baking, because I only have three pans.) What a great cake recipe! This time, I filled it with a layer of lemon curd, a layer of orange curd, and a layer of raspberry filling from Deb’s chocolate layer cake. Then, I iced it with chocolate ganache.

  106. Cate

    Delicious recipe!
    I’m a newbie when it comes to cakes from scratch, but I thought the 1 2 3 4 recipe worked splendidly, very moist (I struggle with homemade cakes being too dry), and tasted great. I admit, I cheated and just bought a jar of lemon curd from Trader Joes. The seven minute frosting brought back memories (anyone remember making marshmallow “taffy” between your fingers?) but I don’t think it ever really thickened up like yours seemed to. Sure it worked decently enough over the cake (did slide down a tad) but it was definitely too soft to pipe. Any suggestions of what may have gone wrong? Of course, that hardly made it a failure cake. Family gobbled it up in minutes!
    Frosting technicalities aside, I loved this cake and will definitely make it again!

  107. I bake a ton and have happily and successfully made many of your recipes but this for me was almost a complete flop. The cakes turned out fine although they are nothing special. The lemon curd never thickened and in fact started to show signs of cooked egg in it during the process of making. The frosting was the worst part though. I think your directions should not only say to use it the same day but to frost literally immediately – if you let it sit for even ten minutes which is the maximum that mine sat, you will have a stiff disaster on your hands. I was still able to frost but there was barely enough to cover the cake and it started breaking apart as I was frosting. No idea how you show piping in the cake up top – surely you didn’t use this icing for that as there’s no way it would hold up IMO. Disappointed : (

    1. deb

      pamela — So sorry that the cake didn’t work out. However, the photos in this post, as with all posts on this site, do indeed show me making this exact recipe. It would benefit this site in no way if I were to show photos of a recipe that worked while providing readers with one that didn’t. I have never had a problem with this kind of frosting become too thick; in fact, it’s usually on the soft side — which is why it swirls and shines so beautifully, but is light enough to stick to the sides of any cake. I have an alternative version of this recipe (almost the same, slightly different technique) in this post. I hope you have more luck with it next time.

  108. MM

    very successful cake texture- and appearance-wise, but too sweet for my Australian tastebuds. (i made the cake only, not the lemon curd) the buttery flavour is lovely and so is the lightness so i might experiment with a half-batch and reduce the proportion of sugar to see if it still works. thanks for the recipe, i do enjoy your blog.

  109. Jen

    Made this on Friday for a birthday celebration yesterday. Simply incredible in every way. So light and sweet yet tangy much like a lemon bar. I used a quick whipped cream frosting recipe because I had heavy cream on hand and it was 1,2,3 frosted. It added a nice airy, smooth finish to the cake. Delicious. Thank you!

  110. Jen

    Oh p.s. I made the cake/curd portion exactly as the recipe states. Minus the fact that I grated my ring finger while grating my lemons and it made for a mini crisis (my own fault). For anyone who had a problem with the curd: you really need to beat the curd in the double boiler and the key here is patience. It took my curd about ten minutes to thicken. And I found that you must whisk it with out stopping the entire time, don’t stop. If it hasn’t thickened yet then it is not ready yet. It kinda needs some cheering along. If it isn’t working then you need to up the ante and beat faster. It looks like there are alternatives to making the curd as read in other reviews. This is how I did mine and it worked like a charm. Oh, and since you worked out your arms so much, have an extra slice! ;)

  111. Erin

    I’m having trouble with the lemon curd, so if you have any advise that would be great! Mine is really yellow, so I’m wondering if that is because of all the yolks? The lemon curd I’ve had before is always such a light lemony color, and mine is really egg-yolk yellow. It seems thick enough like in your pictures, but I’m just worried I’ve missed something. I whisked it for over 10-12 minutes over a double-boiler, so I don’t think it is undercooked.

  112. Jen

    Hi Erin,

    Granted, I am not a professional…My guess would be it is the quality of your egg yolks. Mine came out quite yellow when I made mine as well. I used supermarket quality eggs. I think farm fresh eggs might result in a better quality curd. That said, mine tasted amazing so I went with it. Again, just a guess.

    1. deb

      Jess — A normal tube would probably work fine, as long as it holds the right amount. According to this chart, a 9-inch tube holds the same amount as a 10-inch bundt. I think you can torch the frosting without any trouble.

  113. Pallika

    My husband baked this cake with lemon curd (with creamcheese+Mascaporne frosting) for my Birthday, and it turned out fabulous…Thanks so much for all your recipes.

  114. Hi Deb,
    Thanks for everything you’ve helped me with! I’ve never written before but I have urgent question. My fiance and I are making our own wedding cakes, they are going to be inspired by S’mores. We found a great recipe for graham cracker cake and are using a dark chocolate ganache as filling. The marshmallow part is worrying us. It sounds like the 7 minute frosting from this post or the marshmallow one from your Devil Dogs post might be the way to go, but we need to be able to frost these cakes at least the day before if not the day before that… All the recipes I see for this frosting say to serve immediately. Any advice on which one to use or another idea??
    We are making the cakes in less than a week!

    1. deb

      Whitney — I’ve done it before and the toasting holds up pretty well. It definitely can’t hurt, however, to make a few tiny cupcakes, torch them, and see for yourselves if you’re happy with how they look the next day before using them for your wedding. Good luck!

  115. Thanks!
    We tried 6 recipes for frosting yesterday and today and this one is the winner.
    Now we’ll see how it holds up for a few days in the fridge and sealed up in room temp. We have 2 experiments going…

  116. Alice

    I think your substitution for using all-purpose flour has the wrong amount of baking powder… My cake was beautiful but tasted metallic, not sweet at all. :(

  117. Bill

    This cake is one I remember from childhood being made by my grandmother’s neighbor. Everyone loved her lemon cake with the lemon curd icing (outside and between layers). The lady that made them is dead and I thought the recipe was lost. Thanks to you, I’m enjoying the cake again for the first time in a number of years! It is as good as I had remembered.. Everyone we have shared it with are asking when my wife is baking another. Be careful of how many you share this cake with.

  118. lindah

    this cake looks so good, i have the ingredients at hand and will start making it as soon as the printer finishes :o)…… the way my ears hurt after listening to Paula say her famous ending phrase “from my kitchen to yourrrrrrrs” O_o

  119. Nanette

    Dear Deb,

    Can you please make one of these and bring it to my house. I am feeling terrible today, and I just know this would somehow make everything better.

    With much thanks,

  120. I am making this cake (and bourbon peach hand pies – in the freezer, so excited) for my best friend’s birthday party this evening. I have this problematic tendency to not look at the whole recipe before I start to make it and I just realized that the actual cake doesn’t have lemon in it. I made the lemon curd already and it turned out beautifully, but I am wondering if it would be better to add lemon to the cake or to the frosting (I am leaning towards the cake) or if there is a lemon cake recipe that might work better in place of this one. OR, if this cake is really lemon-y, maybe it isn’t necessary.

    Sorry for the long comment!


    1. deb

      lizzie — Sorry for the delayed response — busy weekend! You can always add a teaspoon or two of lemon zest to the butter. Beating the butter and sugar with lemon zest will give you a lot of lemon flavor in the final cake, without having to change any other ingredient levels. Hopefully it will help for next time!

  121. Thank you so much!! I added lemon zest to the batter somewhere along the way (memory’s a little foggy – bourbon will do that to ya), and it was delicious.

    PS I love your website. I check it (borderline) obsessively. Whenever searching for dinner ideas or trying to find a specific recipe, I always consult you first. My boyfriend and refer to you as “smitten kitchen lady.” It is the fondest term of endearment, I assure you.

    Thanks again!

  122. Missy Mhlongo

    Hey, this looks sooooo delish. I would like to know how do i scale down a recipe to fit a 6inch cake. I live with a very small family and i love baking but i cant keep baking these 9inch cakes. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help me.

  123. Karen

    Hi – I noticed that there’s no information here about how to prepare the pans (buttered + floured) and what to do once the cake is out of the oven (let it cool 5-10 min in pans, then invert onto cake rack). I had to flip over to Paula Deen’s website and I didn’t want to do that! I like yours so much more :)


  124. Deb, since you’re so fantastic at responding to comments, I was hoping you can help me! I live in Morocco but very much want to make this cake… all of the ingredients are available here, but no one seems to have an electric mixer for the frosting. I’m usually able to work around it, but I’m not sure how to make a tasty frosting with everything beaten by hand! Do you have a suggestion of a substitute frosting? Or do you think its reasonable to beat the egg whites by hand without my arm falling off? I was thinking of a cream cheese frosting with some lemon zest instead, but cream cheese is imported here and insanely expensive. Thanks for any advice!

    1. deb

      Hi Krista — In this case, I think it is very difficult to beat this frosting by hand without bringing misery upon your arms! There’s just so much beating at a very high speed, oof. And this from someone who secretly delights in whipping whipped cream by hand, in hopes that the “exercise” will balance the delicious fatty topping. A cream cheese or simple butter/powdered sugar buttercream might be a better bet.

  125. Brittany

    I made this cake tonight but with a strawberry icing…it turned out OK but the lemon curd I guess was too hot? The top layer slid right off the cake…I got a leaning tower of piza now lol

    1. deb

      Brittany — What kind of strawberry icing? The egg white one here is very light and nicely clings to sides that are wet from curd. A buttery icing would have a harder time. In both cases, though, the curd and cake should definitely be cooled before being used.

  126. Saloni

    PS I am just curious what size eggs you use for baking. I read somewhere on fresh pasta blog that egg yolk size is smaller for grocery eggs versus farm eggs. Can’t wait to make this for mom’s birthday. This is my first layer cake, wish me luck!

  127. Saloni

    I am making this cake right now and the batter seems to be like peanut butter and plopped in the pan instead of pouring is that normal I used fat free milk.

  128. ~M

    Deb, I absolutely love your site and have been a constant reader for a few years now. I’m patiently awaiting my birthday, which is when I am expecting a copy of your new cookbook! Thanks so much for all your work.

    I’m trying to find a new perfect white cake recipe. It seems all of your plain/white/vanilla cakes are actually yellow- do you have a white cake that you love? I hate to admit this, but my white cake recipe starts with a box mix and adds more flour, sugar, sour cream, ect. I would love to get away from the box mix but it’s been such a hugely requested family favorite (especially when I mix homemade Oreos in to make cookies’n’cream cakes…)that I need another great recipe before I can wean everyone off the old cake.

    1. deb

      M — You might want to seek out Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake. It (like most white cakes) benefits from being brushed with a syrup, but it is lovely.

  129. I was scared the entire time I was making this- because it was for my son’s school’s auction and I had never made lemon curd or this frosting before and so didn’t have a sense if things were going right or not. But it all came together in the end. Delicious! The frosting started sliding down off the cake so I refrigerated and kept pulling it out and moving the frosting up and adding more. I thought I might have to abandon it, but it eventually ‘stuck’ and made it through the car ride and two hours sitting in a warm dining hall before it got eaten. Thanks!

  130. Jillian

    Shot in the dark here, but my sister requested this cake (at least I’m pretty sure it was this cake) I made it 2 years ago and she loved it. Problem is I’m terrible at math and I can’t figure out how to edit this recipe into a 10″ 8″ 6″ squares. Is there a handy recipe increaser/decreaser on the internet? Deb doesn’t work with serving sizes here and that’s the only way I know how to crank up and scale down the ingredients without miscalculating and screwing everything up! The wilton measurements taunt me in my dreams.

  131. Caroline

    I love the ease of this cake, though will remember to cut back, way back, on the sugar next time around. I added zest from one lemon to the cake batter and went with a whipped cream frosting instead. The curd alone was plenty sweet to carry it.

    Thanks as always for the fabulous recipe. I made a two layer 8″ cake and a single 6″ cake to satisfy two dinners in one night.

  132. Evelyn

    My mother was a Home Ec teacher and this was the cake she made most of the time. I started making it when I was in my teens. We always used sifted cake flour, never all purpose. She never made lemon curd, but always the 7 minute frosting and we beat it in a double boiler for seven minutes.

    This cake is very versatile. Add 1/2 can of cake spice to the flour, 2 c pecans, 2 c raisins and caramel icing. My grandmother was famous for this cake! Use butter cream with lemon juice and a lot of zest and zest in the cake batter for an easier lemon cake. For easy serving a crowd, cook in a large sheet cake pan and frost with chocolate icing. In the spring when the strawberries are local and fresh use this for serving the strawberries and fresh whipped cream on. The best strawberry shortcake you will ever eat. And in the summer do the same thing with sweetened peaches.
    And you can not beat a fluffy chocolate layer cake with the 7 minute frosting.

    Also, heat blackberries, or blueberries water and sugar on the stove, pour into a pyrex dish and drop 1/4 of this recipe (you can quickly mix up a fourth, easy division) on top and bake until the top is brown. Pour cream on top of each serving.

  133. Claire

    Hi Deb! I made this and my dessert-indifferent husband loved it! Thanks so much for the step-by-steps! I had always been so intimidated by meringue frostings and this was really straightforward and lovely!

  134. Kellie

    Hi Deb! I’m planning on making this cake for my grandmom’s 80th birthday (per your post stating that certain milestones demand homemade cakes). I did my first trial cake and while all of the flavors were perfect, the cake seemed a little dense to me. Disclaimer, I was lazy and didn’t sift my flour, so I will make the cake properly next time. I constructed the cake about six hours prior to serving. Is that too much time for the lemon curd to absorb into the cake? Thanks!

  135. Lizzie

    I made this cake for my dad’s birthday, and I had a few hiccups along the way. My frosting would have taken longer than 7 minutes — I’m sad that I didn’t keep beating, because it would have probably been great, it definitely tasted good, but it slid off of the cake like I see happened to some other people. Also, everything in the cake is really sweet, which is pretty unlike most of the stuff on this site–I would have liked more contrast in sweetness between the filling, cake, and frosting. Overall, it was still good, a little more direction on the frosting and a heads up about the sweetness would have been helpful.

  136. ahu

    Deb – I wanted to thank you for this recipe – I used it to make my very first layer cake – something I was terrified of before. After spending some time reading your entries (including your layer cake tips post) the cake came out amazing! Already planning my next one :)

  137. Penelope

    I kind of doubt that anyone reading the comments will make it all the way through 201 comments to get to mine, but I’m leaving it here anyway.

    I made this cake yesterday for my fiance’s birthday. It turned out beautifully! My opinion, having once been a baker/pastry chef (self-taught) who made a lot of lemon curd, is that “ever-so slightly” thick might confuse novices. I believe that you want it to be about as thick as pudding begins to get before you take it off the stove. For more contrast between sweet and tart, added an additional lemon’s zest, but not its juice. I also added 2 tsps. lemon extract to the cake for a very subtle flavor and 1 tsp. of lemon extract to the frosting. With the frosting, when I took it off the stove, I got it to a medium-firm peak stage before using it and it was perfect. Today this cake tastes even better. What really makes it perfect is the addition of fresh organic blueberries as garnish. I studded the cake with blueberries around the bottom edge and a few on the top and it was fantastic.

    Thank you, Deb!

  138. Sabrina

    Hi, Deb,
    Can I freeze the cake layers and then assemble the cake with the lemon curd and frosting later? Are there any tricks to freezing a cake?
    Thanks so much!

  139. Susan Vandermeer

    I am sitting here enjoying reading a recipe posting from 7 years ago and considering making the lemon curd for sure when I skip to the end of the comments and read Penelope’s awesome posting Aug 12, 2014! I am now for sure making this and very soon! I love the interaction on your blog Deb, so yes, thank you!!

  140. Being a southern girl and strongly influenced my wonderful grandmother´s cooking skills…..she was the best….. this recipe really hit home! One reason I always enjoyed Paula Deen. Many of us GRITS learned to cook and bake in the same way-
    Seven Minute Frosting has almost become a lost art and I for one am so happy to see it´s revival ! This was always my favorite, 2nd only to the White Cake generously slathered with Seven Minute Frosting and covered, I do mean covered with wonderful Angle Flake Coconut !

  141. Rebekah

    The cake was nice but I didn’t love the frosting with this cake. I felt it would have been better with a richer buttercream frosting.

  142. Vincenza

    Do you have any suggestions for a different frosting recipe? I’d love to make this cake, but I don’t have the necessary equipment to make the frosting. Would a standard buttercream do?

  143. Alex

    I was wondering what you thought about using the pink lady cake in this recipe instead of the vanilla cake? Would the Flavors compete too much?

    1. deb

      Alex — I don’t think strawberry and lemon are bad flavors together at all. I’m not sure if the strawberry flavor might get lost, just a little, as it’s more subtle in that one and lemon curd is a pretty loud flavor.

  144. Alex

    Thanks a lot, I will give it a try. If the lemon overpowers the strawberry it will still be a lemon cake and you can’t go wrong with that.

  145. Alex

    I am attempting your 7-yolk pasta tonight and I am trying to figure out what I am going to do with all of the extra egg whites. I plan on making this cake next weekend. Would the egg whites still be good in the fridge or if I freeze them will the icing still turn out ok?

  146. Ok, I can’t believe the response of my family to this cake. I have never made a comment before for a recipe but I will say that every part of this recipe was delicious. The only problem was that the cake didn’t release perfectly from the 3 cake pans, so maybe a suggestion that we need to butter and flour bottom of pans. I used it for a birthday cake and everyone wants it again. YAY! Thank you so, so much. I am such a fan.

  147. Planning on making this for my brother’s birthday tomorrow, but I will have to transport it (on the train), so I’m thinking about making the cake today and keeping it in the fridge til tomorrow. Would that work with this frosting? Or should I make the cake and curd ahead of time and then make the frosting and assemble it tomorrow before I go?

  148. Anais

    Hi Deb,

    what a wonderful cake. I went ahead and tried it for my husbands birthday. Everything went well except when it came to actually putting the frosting on the cake. Everything melted right off and it was just a hot mess :-( The filling and cake were both cold. Was the frosting too warm?


  149. Sara

    My first SK cake failure! Human error of course, but I do think the lemon curd instructions were too vague. After googling “runny lemon curd”, I found advice that stressed the curd should be brought to 170 degrees and then boiled a while longer in order to thicken properly. Apparently, my interpretation of slightly thickened is not correct :). The same column also indicated that “three lemons” might not be exact enough. My husband bought pretty large lemons so I think my ratios must have been off. And finally, I don’t have a hand mixer and assumed I could hand whip the frosting. Nope – it was awful. Kudos to the commenter above who hand whisked successfully – mine ended up a grainy lump. But! SK will always be my go to blog, especially cakes! Made your meatballs for dinner earlier this week and LOVED them!

  150. myra

    Ok, if you happen to see this–I want to make this for my husband’s bday this wednesday and am wondering if the curd is really sweet. I have meyer lemons as well. I’m hesitant about the lemon curd–I’ve never made it before and other recipes seem to use less eggs and whole eggs as well. And I want to use whipping cream/marscapone instead of the 7 min. frosting.

  151. myra

    I made the lemon curd and wanted to know if there are any cons if I cooked until it was thick. It doesn’t look like it will be enough for all the layers. Is it because it isn’t runny?

  152. Anna

    Hi Deb,

    I’m a long time fan of yours, have the cookbook and I use it all the time. Thanks for the great recipes. Here’s my question: I want to make this cake for my friend’s 30th birthday this weekend. We are doing a destination celebration, meaning we are staying in the country about 3 hours away for the weekend. The seven-minute frosting says it must be used that day. We wouldn’t actually celebrate and have cake until Saturday night but I wanted to make the cake Friday, or at least bring the pieces and assemble there. Would you suggest assembling the whole cake Friday before we travel and arriving with the cake ready but having to sit for a day – or – would you say assemble at the location and risk making the frosting on friday and letting it sit a night? Or is there another more stable frosting I could use for this cake that would travel better?
    Thank you so much! Looking forward to eating this cake!

  153. Leslie


    I made this. And I didn’t change or edit anything. And so far everything tastes great, but it melted. Like everywhere. The cake came out totally as expected. But the curd never got to anything thicker than syrupy after it cooled. And my frosting got nowhere near as billowed. It looks more like marshmallow cream and completely doesn’t hold any shape. Where did I possibly go wrong?

    1. Diane

      I had the same problem with the lemon curd. Tastes great, but isn’t thick enough to stay in the cake! I just turned the cake into something resembling eton mess and it still tastes amazing!

    2. I also struggled with this recipe. The cakes stuck to the pans and crumbled apart once cooled. The curd never really gelled well, and the icing became pasty instead of billowy. It was an epic fail unfortunately.

      1. Kate

        I had the same problem. I ended up putting it into a bowl like a trifle. If it just LOOKED bad I wouldn’t be upset, but that icing is also wayyyyy too sweet for this recipe! A cream cheese frosting on this would have been delicious. I just wish I hadn’t tried to frost this and had trusted my instincts and made a separate frosting recipe before I ruined it :(

      2. Abby

        Same issues for me! I made it today for mother’s day and my cakes fell apart. I oiled the pans very well and they still totally stuck, next time I will use parchment. I was able to frankenstein together two of the cakes, but one was stuck beyond repair. The frosting is too sweet for me and I don’t like the texture. Would do this with a simple buttercream next time.

    3. Jen

      Made this today. Cake and cued turned out good. Icing did not really whip up. Barely enough to skim cover the cake, very dry and really just tastes like powdered sugar and feels gritty. Any suggestions on how tp get the icing right? Or an easier alternative?

  154. Kate

    Hi Deb – I’ve been on a huge grapefruit kick lately… I’ve made your yogurt cake twice and am looking for new options! Do you think I could swap the lemon curd for grapefruit curd in this recipe?

  155. Katie

    I’m making your wedding cake, but want to do lemon curd instead of mango curd. Will this stuff be sturdy/thick enough for a large multi-layer cake??

    1. deb

      Curds are in general on the thin side for wedding cakes, are prone to absorb. You have a couple options: you can put a little buttercream between the layers too or you can set some of the curd with gelatin, just a little. Enough to make it firmer but not actual jelly/jell-O.

  156. Romina Wright

    Do you take the cake out right away? Do you turn the oven off leave it in then take out?
    Sometime i notice the cake looks wonderfull in the oven. Then you take it out and it kinda flattens. Any input would be appreciated

    1. deb

      I always take this kind of cake out when it’s done. It’s not abnormal for a dome to flatten out as the cake cools but it shouldn’t sink or become concave or there is a problem somewhere. Doesn’t mean it cannot be eaten, though, or that anyone besides the person who baked it would be bothered by it.

  157. Jennifer

    This was SOOOOO good! It’s definitely a celebration cake but totally worth the time and effort. It’s definitely the best cake I’ve ever made and one of the best I’ve ever eaten.

    I used less sugar in the curd and it was great…I think the full 1 1/2 cups would’ve been a bit too sweet for me. I’d never made 7-minute frosting and it was fantastic. It’s a pretty and fluffy and just the right amount of sweet. It will be my go-to frosting from now on. Thanks for the recipe!

  158. brooklynjen

    I love the flavor combination but had some trouble with the cake – mine stuck (despite buttering & flouring the pan thoroughly), and once I got the layers out it was crumbly and fussy to work with, and somewhat dry. If I made it again I’d line the pans with parchment paper, but I think I’d just use a different white cake recipe as the base. After reading comments I reduced the sugar in the curd by 1/2 cup and cooked it for 15 minutes, and it thickened perfectly and was a good tart contrast with the sweet cake and icing. For the icing I used an Italian meringue-based icing recipe that uses hot sugar syrup poured into the beaten egg whites to cook them, rather than worrying about a hand beater and double boiler. Here’s the one I used but there are lots out there.

    1. CJ

      DId you use the meringue itself as a frosting, or did you use an italian meringue buttercream? I ask because I love the lemon-meringue combo and I was thinking it might be interesting to just have meringue as the ‘frosting’ for the cake. Is that crazy?

  159. My son requested a lemon cake for his birthday. I was going to make this cake, but I also have your new book and was wondering if the vanilla cake base from that book would be an okay base for the lemon curd and the frosting? Seeing as you have such a great cake section in your new book, would alter what you did here at all having tried and perfected the other cake recipes?
    Along those same lines I want to make this into a sheet cake that I will slice in half horizontally to add the curd to the middle of. Will I need to double this recipe to make a 9×13 inch sheet cake thick enough to slice through?

    1. deb

      I’d probably use the golden vanilla cake. It’s written for an 8×8 or 9-inch round so you can double it for a 9×13, but it makes a thin layer. It’s best at 2 layers, or 3 for more of a celebration cake.

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  161. Ralph Almodovar

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  162. Susanne

    This sounds like a great upgrade from the boxed-cake-mix lemon cake my son wants for his birthday. Do you think I could flavor the cake batter with lemon zest and/or lemon juice?

    p.s. just got your book for Christmas – so excited!!!

  163. Margaret Spencer

    This was a pretty disappointing recipe for me.

    The directions, while probably more instructive than Paula Deen’s, were still subpar, in my opinion.

    “Add to prepared pans”
    ok so… I make cakes a few times a year. I would have preferred a detail about HOW to prepare the pans.
    The cake was very dense, and I also would have liked instructions that there will be a tiny thin layer in your pan, You don’t need to be worried about how thin it is, because it’s a multi layer cake, etc. I couldn’t believe that this thick batter was supposed to go between 3 pans! so I made it with two. I evened it out, slammed it on the counter a few times as instructed, and it still had a dome, which affected the overall presentation of the cake.
    Which leads me to the presentation and assembly. THIN LAYER OF CURD. I am all about flavors, i wanted the copious amount of curd I had made to shine. That made the layers slide all over. Don’t do that.
    That 7 minute frosting is a damn bitch. So I used the very similar frosting from the sweet potato cake recipe which literally is comparable so there, I did it. And it was awesome.
    But still hard to assemble. The presentation sucked, and the cake was so dense, it needed something different.
    So, the curd was great, the 7 minute frosting was great. The cake sucked, use a different recipe if you’re going to make a layer cake, please know that it will be super thin, butter and flour your pans, and yours will turn out better.

  164. Liz

    Does the lemon curd work as a crumb coat? I feel like I’ve been told that frosting will slide off if you try to put it on top of lemon curd? Any advice or secrets on this front?

    Currently in the middle of baking this for my boyfriend’s birthday – the batter is delicious! I’ve just never used curd as a filling / layer beneath frosting so I hope it doesn’t fail me.

  165. Kate Abram

    Followed the cake recipe to a T, but unfortunately it came out quite dry! The texture was light and springy, and the cakes looked lovely, rose fully, smelled great, came right out of their pans, etc.! The perfect cake, until it came time to eat. Still tasted nice with the curd and frosting to add some much-needed moisture, but the cake itself just wasn’t it. I’d love for this recipe to get a Smitten Kitchen “re-visit,” as usually this is my go-to site for cakes! If we’re dreaming big, it would be nice to see if some lemon flavor could go into the cake itself as well.

  166. Gretchen

    It’s my daughter’s favorite birthday cake. At the lemon curd application stage, I found that the layers kept wanting to slide. I spent half my time icing, and half, straightening. It was a lot better than last year’s, which went into a major slump. I wouldn’t let my family photograph it, but it tasted like heaven. Very lemony heaven. Any suggestions for keeping the layers from emigrating would be most welcome. I was thinking of skewering around the edges to hold things in place until they set a bit more, at perhaps, three places, and then, hiding the holes with icing. In any case, many thanks for a wonderful recipe!

  167. Michael

    I am no novice baker. I tried making this twice. The first time, I followed the instructions as closely as possible. The second time, I made some of my own improvements.

    The first time, the lemon curd and frosting were so runny that it was pointless to attempt anything other than pouring them over the top of the cake like a glaze. It was extremely messy and disappointing. I did try some anyway, and the flavor was great! The cakes had a nice crumb, moistness, and flavor… but like I mentioned, assembly was a disaster and there’s no way to keep all of the filling and frosting from falling off the cake, so I trashed it.

    I did some research and found a few things before attempting again:
    -Eggs don’t really start to gel at 140F. That’s just the temperature they reach when they can be considered pasteurized. For the curd it would produce more usable results to cook them to 170~180F in the double boiler/water bath.

    -The technique for the frosting appears to be a modified version of a Swiss meringue, which I have made before, and I have seen a pretty wide range of temperatures from 120F to 190F, but I have always found 170F to work best for me. Still, I have never seen corn syrup in a Swiss meringue, and since the cooking temperature seemed low, I hoped keeping it in a second time would be fine as long as it reached 170F next time.

    I incorporated this information into my second attempt, and to my surprised, the filling and frosting were still much runnier than expected. I cooked the curd for a LONG time, close to an hour, whisking the whole time, and it wasn’t thickening, so I finally added some corn starch and hoped for the best when it cooled. The frosting reached only very soft peaks, but no further than that. My suspicion is that the corn syrup keeps the meringue softer, maybe for the intention of making it more difficult to overbeat, but I don’t have enough experience working with different proportions of granulated sugar and corn syrup to be absolutely sure.

    Still, feeling optimistic, I attempted to assemble the cake again after everything cooled. It was an only slightly less messy disaster than last time. The curd still wasn’t nearly thick enough to prevent the cakes from sliding around, and coating the entire cake with curd prevents the frosting from sticking at all! Maybe freezing the curd-coated cake would allow the frosting to stick, but trying to spread it at room temperature just slides globs of frosting around while curd begins to mix into it.

    I didn’t even try a bite this time since I was so incredibly frustrated.

    After one more final research session, I came to the conclusion that the ingredients you’ve listed for the lemon curd aren’t anywhere near precise enough to produce consistent results. Specifically, the lemon juice needs to be measured, not just from 3 lemons, because apparently my lemons are way juicier than yours and thus prevented the curd from ever getting thick enough to use. As for the frosting, if I ever do try this recipe again, I’ll omit the corn syrup and hope for the best.

    Hugely disappointing experience. I love most of your recipes, and while this one is clearly much older than most of the others I’ve tried, I still feel like it could be updated or have a note made so that more people don’t waste 5 sticks of butter and 2 dozen eggs like I did.

    1. Julie

      Just want to sympathize, Michael. I’ve been there so many times with recipes, even some of Deb’s which normally go great for me. It’s so frustrating, and even more so when we trust the source!
      I’ve made this cake but not the curd or the frosting, so I can’t comment on those. Americas Test Kitchen has a recipe for a Lemon Layer Cake that seems similar to this. I can vouch that THAT curd recipe works as a filling – nice and thick. (I haven’t made their version of 7 minute frosting.) Also, when I assembled it, I did a little bit (3/4 inch?) of a buttercream lining so that the layers would adhere to each other with that instead of just depending on the lemon curd, so that might have helped too. Anyway, if you want to try another lemon layer cake in the future, maybe go for that one if you can find it.

  168. BW

    I made this for a birthday last weekend. We loved it.
    I did a half-batch in 2 6-inch pans and then cut each in half for 4 layers.
    I ended up using cut down wooden shish kabob skewers as dowels to make sure it stayed stable and straight. I wanted to use buttercream frosting, which did not want to stick to the lemon curd so I 1. put it in the freezer for a bit and 2. I ended up piping on all of the frosting using vertical stripes on the sides. In the end it worked fine though initially I was a bit panicked because I foolishly thought I could just switch frosting willy-nilly, and nope, buttercream will not spread nicely over lemon curd.

  169. Nadia

    I’ve made the frosting in this recipe twice several years apart and I forgot the second time round tat while the texture is lovely, it’s just absurdly sweet. Is the corn syrup essential to the success of the whole thing or can I ditch it? Can I reduce the sugar itself? I just never know how playing around with certain ingredients could upset the chemistry of the thing. Maybe the only way to find out is to try.