The Best Lemon Birthday Cake - Photos and Step-By-Step Recipe Guide

What better way to celebrate a birthday than with a delicious lemon buttercream birthday cake? This recipe is for a cake made from scratch, but the cake is quite easy to make and the entire prep and baking process takes only about an hour. The ingredients are simple; you don't have to go out and buy anything special or expensive - but the taste is divine and the texture PERFECT - spongy with just the right crust mixed with rich, creamy, zesty frosting.

To be rather specific before we get started: This is a simple yellow cake with even simpler buttercream icing. Instead of the typical addition of cream or milk, the icing has been infused with lemon zest and lemon juice, giving it a wonderful, fresh zing that brings out the fluffy, warm vanilla of the cake.

Making the Icing

Roll the lemon along the counter before zesting and juicing to get the juices running
Roll the lemon along the counter before zesting and juicing to get the juices running
Zesting the lemon
Zesting the lemon
You don't need a juicer to get lemon juice - just squeeze it cut side up so that the seeds don't drop into the icing
You don't need a juicer to get lemon juice - just squeeze it cut side up so that the seeds don't drop into the icing
The finished icing - YUM!
The finished icing - YUM!

For the Cake

Ingredients

  • 240 grams of flour (2 cups; all-purpose is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) butter
  • 200 grams of granulated sugar (1 cup)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6 fluid ounces (3/4 cups) milk (I used 2%)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350┬░ F
  2. Combine flour, baking, powder, and salt
  3. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar
  4. Add eggs to the butter and sugar mixture; adding one at a time
  5. Add vanilla to the egg-butter-sugar mixture
  6. Alternately add milk and flour mixture to the egg-butter-sugar-vanilla mixture
  7. Butter and flour two nine inch baking pans
  8. Divide the cake batter between those two pans
  9. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top of your cakes are golden and a knife or toothpick emerges without residue
  10. After the pans have cooled, remove the cakes to a wire rack; do not ice until room tempeature

For the Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients

  • 300 grams (3 cups) confectioner's (powdered) sugar
  • 1 cup butter (two sticks)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of one lemon

Method

  1. Cream butter with a mixer
  2. Slowly add the powdered sugar
  3. Add the vanilla
  4. Roll the lemon along the counter, under your hand, applying light pressure (this supposedly gets the juices going)
  5. Zest your lemon, and add the zest to your icing mixture
  6. Cut the lemon in half and hold one half over your mixing bowl; squeeze the juices into the bowl, making sure to keep the open end up so that no seeds fall in
  7. Mix and check the consistency of your icing; if you want it to be a bit less stiff, add the juice from the other half of your lemon
  8. Ice the cake, one layer at a time
  9. Add candles and enjoy!

A Note About Cake Storage

DO NOT refrigerate sponge cakes. Mousses and cheesecakes may require refrigeration, but any kind of refrigeration for sponge cakes dries them out. Cakes should be enjoyed the day of baking or the day after; if you want to keep them fresh, keep them at room temperature in a sealed container so they do not dry out in the open air. If you want to keep a sponge cake for much later, freeze it. Refrigeration is a major no-no, and if you see any cake shop that refrigerates sponge cakes, WALK AWAY - it's a sign that they're not baking the cakes fresh every day, and that the cakes they do sell will be dry. Yuck!

Final Notes

Fun Facts About the Cake:

Three is a lucky number, and this cake is full of them! Three teaspoons of vanilla, three sticks of butter, three cups of confectioner's sugar, three eggs... All those threes make it the perfect cake to wish someone their luckiest year yet!

This cake has been tested by HubPages staff members (other than myself) and has been reviewed quite favorably!

I originally developed this recipe based on a composite of other cake and icing recipes and some improvisation for my granny - Jacky Smith. She's the coolest!

Ever wonder why this cake is so delicious? That's an easy answer - it is made with simple, natural ingredients, and contains THREE STICKS OF BUTTER!

This cake goes great with coffee - especially black.  The dark bitterness of coffee goes wonderfully with the fluffy vanilla cake and rich, creamy, lemony icing.


Enjoy!
Enjoy!

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Comments 20 comments

Deerwhisperer 5 years ago

Sounds yummy! But how do you takesuch marvelous pictures?


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thank you, Deerwhisperer! I have a really nice DSLR, but believe it or not, most of those pictures are taken with my iPhone 4 ^_^

Cameras are getting better and better!


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 5 years ago from Southern California, USA

A good old fashion cake plate is the best way to store many cakes. Besides, eating cake the same day tastes better and is more fun anyway. There are plenty of other foods we can store in our fridge besides cake.


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA

Simone, this cake sounds truly wonderful! Great hub, with pictures and step by step instructions. I love lemon very much, and can't wait to try it. :)


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

You're quite right, SweetiePie! Fridges are GREAT for other stuff, and mine can be so packed with food, there'd be no room for a cake even if I wanted to put one in there! XD

And thanks, oceansnsunsets! I hope you get a chance to try it soon, and that you enjoy it as much as I did!


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 5 years ago from California, USA

Oh, My Gosh! I am making this tonight for dessert tomorrow and it is no one's birthday! Have all the stuff and I love lemon! This sounds really good!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Oh yay! I hope you enjoy it :D


Kalyko profile image

Kalyko 5 years ago

Wow, this makes me want to start cooking right away. Thanks for a great recipe!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, Kalyko!! I hope you have a chance to make it soon - it's rather tasty!!


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

I love lemon! I have to make this one soon: it will be perfect for my Mothers-of-Preschoolers group. Thanks for the recipe!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Oh, that would be quite good! I hope you enjoy making it!!


1stPhotoInvites profile image

1stPhotoInvites 5 years ago

Absolutely delicious!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

It's hard to go wrong with three sticks of butter, fresh lemon, and sugar!


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

You let HP staff members taste the cake? Their reviews might not be objective! I, on the other hand, am a cake-tasting expert. So next time, you'd better send some of your cake to me too! kekeke :)


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

Heheheee! You make a most valid point. If you stop by our office someday (you're not TOO far off!), let me know in advance and I can make it! XD


Heather 5 years ago

Have you used this has cupcakes ever? I would Like to make This for the teachers at my sons school & it's easy for them to grab up a cupcake or a mini cc and keep in going. Some cakes don't fare has well has others in cc form, lol...

If u haven't I'll test them this week and let you know how it went. :c)

Thank you, it looks GREAT this maybe my "brunch" one day soon with hot tea


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

I have not tried this recipe specifically in cupcake form, but I think it would do very well, heather! It would make for a lovely school-based birthday treat, methinks. If you do test the recipe out in cupcake form, let me know how it goes!


chianne 5 years ago

yes you did luyer so don't be rood jerk


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

But... but that's my job...


faythef profile image

faythef 3 years ago from USA

Yumm..I should make this..I have a ton of lemons I need to use

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