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

Updated on December 3, 2012

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


  • 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%)


  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


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


  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.


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