The Best Lemon Cake from Scratch is a homemade yellow cake with a luscious lemon flavor, topped with tangy lemon buttercream frosting.
We are in shut down mode due to Covid-19, so there’s a whole lot of baking going on around here. And mask making too, but that’s another blog post.
When your 14 year old son says, “Mom, can you make a lemon cake?” Then you make a lemon cake.
I wasn’t sure if I had all the needed ingredients but then I discovered my old friend in the fridge – lemon oil. It lasts forever and is perfect for making lemon flavored desserts. Being low on butter, I used shortening for the frosting which turned out great.
I basically made up this recipe according to what I had available in my pantry and refrigerator. I honestly wasn’t sure how it was going to taste. The end result was way better than expected. Luke helped me with the recipe from start to finish and we were both very pleased with our lemon cake. In fact, it was so delicious, we named it the Best Lemon Cake from Scratch!
What makes this cake the best?
Light & airy – This is not a dense cake. It’s soft and delicate.
Not too sweet – The cake itself is not super sweet.
Triple lemon flavor – This cake gets its lovely lemon flavor from 3 sources – lemon zest, lemon oil and lemon juice.
Perfect cake/frosting ratio – The sweet, lemony frosting paired with the light and airy lemon cake is the perfect combo.
Tips on making The Best Lemon Cake from Scratch
Ingredients – Get out all of your ingredients for the cake first, to make sure you have everything you need.
Room Temperature – Make sure all of your ingredients are room temperature. This is important for the success of your cake.
Parchment Paper – Line your cake pans with parchment paper so the cake doesn’t stick. Then spray with cooking spray.
Measure, Measure, Measure – Baking is a science, measuring your ingredients is so important in all cake recipes.
Cool Cakes – It’s so important to completely cool the cake layers BEFORE frosting the cake.
Crumb Coat – Fill the cake layers, then do a very thin layer of frosting on the top and sides to cover up the crumbs.
Chill Cake – Put the crumb coated cake in the refrigerator for an hour so the cake is easier to frost and slice to serve.
Why use Lemon Oil instead of Lemon Extract
Flavor Boost – Lemon oil has a very strong lemon flavor which is just wonderful!
Pure & Natural – Most lemon oils are all natural which is always a bonus. It tastes like real lemon as opposed to lemon extract.
Tastes Great – Adding food grade lemon oil to your dessert recipes is always a good idea if you’re a big fan of lemon flavor.
How to make a Cake Flour Substitute
I love using cake flour in my cakes as it gives them a more delicate crumb than all-purpose flour. But if you don’t have any, don’t worry, you can make your own. Simply mix together 1 3/4 cups of all purpose flour and 1/4 cup of cornstarch to make 2 cups of cake flour. Double this cake flour recipe to make 4 cups so you will have enough for this lemon cake recipe which is 3 cups.
Baking at home with your kids and/or family is so much fun. Staying home to stay well isn’t so terrible. When life gives you lemons, make lemon cake!
Sending love and hugs from my kitchen to yours.
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The Best Lemon Cake from Scratch
For the cake
- 3 cups cake flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup milk room temperature
- 1 teaspoon lemon oil - food grade substitute with 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract if you can't find lemon oil
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 5 drops yellow food coloring
For the frosting
- 1 cup vegetable shortening I used Crisco
- 16 ounces powdered sugar or 4 1/2 cups
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice Note: I used 1 large lemon for this recipe, zest and juice
- 2 tablespoons water
For the cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 3 (9-inch) round pans with parchment paper. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (cake flour, baking powder and salt). Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium until creamy. Add sugar and oil. Beat until combined. With mixer on low, add eggs, one at a time. Beat on medium until incorporated. Turn mixer on low, then alternate adding milk and flour mixture. Once it's mixed together, turn mixer up to medium and beat for one minute. Add lemon oil, lemon zest and food coloring. Stir.
- Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool.
For the frosting
- Beat vegetable shortening on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for 3 minutes until smooth and creamy.
- Add powdered sugar, lemon juice and water with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Fill and frost cooled cake layers.
- Note: If the frosting is too thick, you can add a little more water. Just add one tablespoon at a time, then mix thoroughly until you get the consistency you like.
Wanted to share a photo of my son. When he’s not baking, he loves catching fish. Actually, fishing is his number one favorite pastime right now.
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All text and images © Lise Ode for Mom Loves Baking. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe. Disclaimer: Nutrition information shown is not guaranteed to be accurate. This post may contain affiliate links.