A Spicy Perspective

Best Lemon Buttermilk Cake

The Best Lemon Buttermilk Cake Recipe ever! This simple southern lemon layer cake is soft and moist with a tangy-sweet frosting.

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The Best Lemon Cake Recipe

Ok guys, so here’s my disclaimer… When I share a classic recipe like this, I see no point in adding another recipe to the chasm of the online world, unless I can state with some authority that it is the best I’ve ever made and tasted.

Therefore I’m very excited to share this lemon layer cake with you today.

It’s moist, pillowy, and ultra tangy, just as a perfect lemon cake should be.

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Southern Lemon Cake

When I first moved to the south, I did not realize there is a difference between a southern cake… And all other cakes.

In fact, I might go as far as to say I never truly had a mind-blowing cake until I moved to North Carolina.

For those of you living anywhere else in the country (or world) a southern cake has nothing to do with the style or flavor of cake. Instead, it has everything to do with the overall texture, moistness, and sweetness.

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Good Southern Cakes Are:

  • Delicate in texture. The kind you have to be careful about flipping out of the pan, so they don’t fall apart.
  • Ultra moist. There is nothing “bready” about a southern cake. If you press down on a piece with your fingers, you can almost squeeze out the butter (or oil.)
  • Very sweet. Although I tend to like desserts to be not-too-sweet, I make an exception when it comes to cake. The best cakes I’ve ever eaten have been powerfully sweet.
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So What Makes This The Best Lemon Layer Cake?

I have eaten more than my fair share of cakes in my lifetime, and this one checks off all the boxes, plus some!

  • It is super soft and light with a fine delicate crumb.
  • It is very moist and tender, due to the addition of buttermilk. Plus, the moisture in the frosting protects the cake layers from drying out.
  • It is in fact sugary-sweet. However, the lemon flavor balances the sweetness, so it doesn’t come off too overpowering.

Speaking of the lemon flavor, it is derived from three places… Lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon extract. Therefore it offers both a bright fresh lemon flavor and a deeper underlying lemon essence.

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How To Make The Best Lemon Buttermilk Cake Recipe

Don’t be intimidated by the number of steps in this lemon cake recipe.

You can totally do this!

In fact, in the recipe below I actually added steps, just to make sure you didn’t misunderstand an instruction and make a mistake.

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The key factors in making this the best lemon cake you’ve ever tasted are:

  1. Prep your pans. Make sure to grease your pans and add a circle of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan. This will guarantee the cakes come out in one piece.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar long enough. This is a step rookie bakers often skip. When you beat softened butter and sugar together on high speed, it fluffs the butter for a light airy cake texture and breaks down the sugar crystals. To do this properly, it usually takes a full 3-5 minutes. If you skip this step, your cake will be dense, instead of pillowy.
  3. Measure properly. Think of cooking as art, and baking as science. If you are heavy-handed with your measuring, or don’t add enough of an ingredient, the chemical reaction in your oven will be different than mine. Be exact. And don’t forget to sift, or at least stir, your flour before measuring.
  4. Scrape the bowl. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixing bowl in between steps, so all the ingredients are incorporated evenly.
  5. Don’t disturb the baking cake. Leave it alone guys! Don’t open the oven door fifteen times while it’s baking. I would even suggest you walk lightly through your kitchen while the cake is baking. It needs consistent heat, and no movement to rise properly. If you can be patient you will be thrilled with the results.
  6. Cool completely. Don’t rush the cake frosting. Make sure to give your cake ample time to cool. Even a little warmth will make the frosting slump down the sides as you try to smooth it.
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Watch Our Video & Get the Full (Printable) Best Lemon Buttermilk Cake Recipe Below!

I’ve also included pro frosting tips to make this the easiest and most beautiful cake you’ve ever baked!

Learn How To Make Buttermilk Here.

If you are new to baking, check out our 100 Best Baking Tips Tutorial.

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More Classic Southern Cakes

Best Buttermilk Cake Recipe #ASpicyPerspective #lemon #cake #easter
Best Lemon Buttermilk Cake Recipe #ASpicyPerspective #lemon #cake #easter
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4.91 from 30 votes
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Best Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
rest time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
The absolute best southern lemon layer cake you will ever try!
Servings: 20 slices

Ingredients

For the Cake –

For the Frosting –

  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened (3 sticks)
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • 5-7 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Cut out 9-inch parchment paper circles, and press down in the bottom of each pan. (Trace the pan for perfect circles.)
  • For the Cake: In the bowl on an electric stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. (Cream: Beat on high approximately 3-5 minutes to break down the sugar crystals.)
  • In a separate bowl, mix the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Once the butter and sugar are well creamed. Scrape the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula. Then turn the mixer on low and beat in the eggs, oil, lemon zest, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and yellow food coloring.
  • Scrape the bowl again. Turn the mixer back on low and alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk until both are well combined. Turn off the mixer.
  • Pour the batter evenly into the two prepared pans. Bake on the middle rack, undisturbed for 30 minutes.
  • If the center of the cakes are puffed up, check the cake by inserting a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, take them out of the oven. If the toothpick has batter on it, bake another 5-10 minutes and recheck.
  • Allow the cakes to cool 10 minutes in the pans. Then carefully flip them out on a cooling rack. Remove the parchment paper and cool completely.
  • For the Frosting: Once the cakes are room temperature, place the butter in a clean stand mixer bowl. Beat until fluffy. Then scrape the bowl and turn on low. Mix in the buttermilk and lemon juice. Then add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, beating to incorporate.
  • After adding 5 cups of powdered sugar, turn the mixer up to beat out any clumps. Check the consistency of the frosting. If it is too loose, add another 1-2 cups of powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
  • To Assemble: Move one cake to a cake stand or platter. Scoop about 2 cups frosting onto the cake. Use a large flat spatula to spread the frosting out evenly.
  • Set the second cake on top of the frosting, being careful to center the cake. Gently press the cake a little to level the top. Then scoop all remaining frosting on top of the cake. Use the spatula to work the frosting over the top and down the sides.
  • Turn the cake stand to smooth out the sides with the flat edge of the spatula. Once you are satisfied with the sides, use the spatula to make swooping marks on the top of the cake. Use a wet paper towel to clean up the cake stand.
  • Cover and keep at room temperature for up to 4 days, or refrigerate for up to a week. When ready to serve, make sure the cake is at room temperature… All classic layer cakes taste best at room temperature!

Video

Notes

Pro Frosting Tips: If you have a tendency to get crumbs in the frosting when you try to frost a cake, you can:
  • Spread a thin “crumb coat” layer of frosting over the cake to catch and seal in the crumbs. Then spread on the final “pretty” layer of frosting on top.
  • Or you can wrap the cakes in separate pieces of plastic and freeze them. Then a few hours later, you can unwrap, level, and frost the cake with a lot of added stability. Just be sure to do this at least 6 hours before serving so the cake layers have time to thaw.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice, Calories: 477kcal, Carbohydrates: 63g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Cholesterol: 86mg, Sodium: 178mg, Potassium: 97mg, Fiber: 0g, Sugar: 50g, Vitamin A: 675IU, Vitamin C: 0.4mg, Calcium: 50mg, Iron: 0.4mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Sommer Collier

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74 comments on “Best Lemon Buttermilk Cake”

  1. I would like to make this cake in a novelty mold pan- is it too delicate to handle a pan that I won’t be able to line with parchment paper? Thanks for your input!

  2. Will this work in a 9 by 13 pan ?? 

  3. This isthe most delicious lemon cake I have ever made! Moist, light and full of flavor, I will never try another lemon cake, this is a keeper!

  4. I can only find low-fat or Bulgarian cultured buttermilk.  Which would be best for me to use in this recipe?

  5. This looks amazing! I want to make this for a gathering the family is having next week. Can this be translated over to cupcakes? Would that change the recipe or baking time at all?

    • Hi!
      Not the author of the post, but if you were to make it into cupcakes, it would affect the baking time as the portions are smaller than full cakes, and would take less time to cook through and bake. Other than that, any cake batter can be translated over to cupcakes. It’s just a different mold.
      -Hannah

  6. Absolutely fantastic!! i made this for my brothers birthday and everyone LOVED it!!!

  7. made this recipe today it was FABULOUS…the cake came out fluffy and moist…..the trick was to cream butter and sugar for at least 5 mins…..picture to follow

  8. I used the recipe almost as is..only because I like to try different things. I used lemon extract and instead of vanilla I used lemon concentrate. I also added 1 tbsp of dried basil. I put lemon curd between the two layers and then frosted. I loved how fluffy and lush the batter looked..

  9. How about including weights for ingredients?  That is the only way I bake.  It makes measuring ingredients so so easy and more accurate.

  10. Pingback: Grand-mére’s Lemon Cake

  11. Pingback: Lemon Birthday Cakes: Celebrate With One of These Seven Styles - LemonLuv

  12. Made this cake last night! The cake turned out really well, super moist and lemony.  I used the juice of one lemon instead of lemon extract and added the zest the recipe called for. Used all purpose flour and corn starch for cake flour. My boyfriend stunned me by finding real whole fat buttermilk at the third grocery store he went to. We’re in NYC. Whole fat buttermilk is certainly a unicorn in the northeast. I wasn’t even able to find it online. I was thrilled. Have to work on the icing a bit more. I added more lemon juice to the icing than the recipe called for after test tasting. It seemed like it needed to be more lemony. I added some zest to the icing as well. Have to work on the consistency of the icing. I may use milk or half and half instead of buttermilk for the icing next time, it really affects the flavor of the icing. Overall, really happy with this recipe!! Wish I could share my photos here. 

  13. Hello,
    I’m wanting to make this for my son’s birthday party this weekend. I’m just wondering if there’s a specific reason that you use lemon extract instead of lemon juice?
    Thanks, Danielle.

  14. I have been looking for a really good lemon cake recipe to make for a friend’s birthday. Quick question, have you ever added poppy seed in this? If so, do you need to do anything to the recipe in order to account for it?

  15. Oh my goodness… this cake is so amazing….. my kids are always looking for recipes that they like. Especially desserts. My son suggested a lemon cake. I found this recipe and baked it last night. Today I made the frosting. This cake is so moist, flavorful, and a breeze to make. My children raved  over this dessert! I added cream cheese and some vanilla to the frosting. It was a symphony to my taste buds! MUAH thank you!?

  16. I, would love to make this for a baby shower, but, I was wandering, can I use a margarine that has 80% fat content, instead of butter. Thank you

  17. Can this frosting be smoothed with the viva paper towel and smoother trick? Gonna make the cake for a birthday cake tonight and can do a crusting buttercream if it will not.

  18. I think I am a pretty good baker but this is probably the best cake I have ever baked.  A friend mine requested a lemon cake for her birthday and this was a huge hit with everyone.  I made a few tweaks: I zested all the lemons and used the zest in the frosting and on top as decoration.  I also put a lemon curd layer on both layers destined for the middle.  I let it soak in a bit before frosting.   Did I mention that I love lemon?  I’ll definitely be making this cake again.

  19. Hi can I make this cake in three 8 inch cake pa s and adjust the time?

  20. I’m returning to bake this cake for a family Fourth of July party. The crumb is moist and delicate. It packs a punch of flavor.
    This is the second time I’ve baked it. It was perfect the first and should be again. Simple and delish! Thanks

  21. The lemon butter cake you share is very good. A great dish and suitable for every meal. I really like this dish.

  22. I made this in a pinch for a birthday party in which a lemon cake was requested. Not having any lemons or buttermilk on hand, I replaced the zest with 1/2 T Realemon Juice, and the buttermilk with milk + vinegar. I was not disappointed – huge compliments from all around! The cake was so moist and yummy! Thank you for this recipe – It’s definitely a keeper!!

  23. How is this with a lemon glaze added to warm cake instead of frosting?

  24. wow looking delicious cake here thanks for sharing

  25. I have made various cakes from your website and loved them, however all of my cakes always fall in the middle. Any tips as to what I could be doing wrong? 

    • Hi Shay,

      Unfortunately, LOTS of things can cause a cake to fall… Overbeating the batter, opening and closing the oven door, an oven that runs too hot, mismeasuring the flour, stale leavening agents. It’s hard to know exactly what is happening.

      I would start by buying a hanging oven thermostat to make sure your oven temperature is accurate. Then replace your baking soda and baking powder.

  26. I can’t find full-fat buttermilk anywhere! Will it make a big difference if I use low-fat buttermilk? Thanks.

    • Hi Katie,

      It will make a little difference. However, you can make full-fat buttermilk by adding a little lemon juice or vinegar to half & half or whole milk and letting it curdle a bit.

      • How do you turn low fat buttermilk into whole fat buttermilk? I can’t find whole fat buttermilk anywhere. Please respond….I would like to make this for my sister’s birthday in a couple of days.

        Thanks!

  27. I followed the recipe and it turned out so dry.. what could have I dont wrong?

    • Hi Jennifer,

      So sorry about that! It sounds like you might have baked it too long. If not, your oven thermometer might be off. If would be a good idea to place a hanging thermometer in your oven to check its accuracy… Especially for baking.

  28. This is the perfect lemon cake! One of my favorite desserts.

    • Hello from N. Z. My son specificly asked for a lemon cake for his b’day and I can’t wait to make him this one! I would prefer to leave out the lemon extract and add more zest. Would this be a good idea and if so how much more zest/juice would you recommend? I’m also wanting to make it in a square 24′ ×24′ baking pan ( to get a soccor field shape) Would this work?
      Thanks heaps for any advice.

      • My apologies I did mean 9′ × 9′ – haha. 24 inches would have been one humungous cake lol

      • Hi Tamryn,

        Yes, you can use two square 9X9 inch pans or one 9X13. You might need to adjust the baking time just a tad… In one pan it might take a little longer.

        As for swapping out the lemon extract, I would use just 1 teaspoon lemon juice to compensate for the liquid, and the zest of 3 lemons.

      • I would make it as is but without the lemon extract….I did this and the ze
        st of one lemon was tasty! Not weak!

  29. I would love a slice of this incredible cake!! YUM!!

  30. best lemon dessert! I’m craving it already!

  31. Adding buttermilk is such a brilliant idea! It’s so moist and delicious!

  32. Hi

    I have a quick question …

    can you make this cake in a 9 by 13 pan instead of 2 9 inch pans ??? thanks .

  33. This cake is perfectly moist and tastes like spring! So, sooooo good!

  34. Instead of buying more lemon buttermilk Cake from outside, It’s time to make it my own.

    This recipe looks just perfect for a kitty Party or brunch.

  35. I attempted this cake, which sounds great, and I love lemon cake. I wasn’t able to get the butter and sugar to cream to light and fluffy. Is the ratio of 2 cups of sugar to 10 tbsp of butter correct? Just became a very grainy, buttery blob. Help!!

  36. This is a delicious lemon cake! Love this lemon dessert!!

  37. I love lemon desserts! And this one is really amazing!

  38. This looks so delicious! My husband loves lemon and he’d be thrilled if I made this for him.

  39. This cake was amazing!!! The buttermilk kept the texture so moist and the lemon popped!

  40. I made this for my mother in law’s birthday party. She was SO impressed. Thanks for such a great recipe.

  41. The buttermilk made this cake so delicious! Love it!

  42. I always love a cake that uses buttermilk—always makes for a moist and tender cake! This lemon cake looks perfect!

  43. This cake looks so elegant and delicious. I bet that icing is the best ever.

  44. This looks and sounds delectable! I am going to make it this weekend. I love to eat cake for breakfast. That is okay isn’t it?