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have some more cake

Recipe: triple layer lemon cake

I like spring. I do. I do. Love the sound of birds singing in the early morning. Love seeing the foxes traipse through our yard at dusk. The light is different outside and in the house. The sun is bright and high, but not yet oppressive as it will be in summer. This alternates with chilly, overcast, drizzly days that hover around freezing. The air is just cool enough that you need a jacket, but warm enough that you take the jacket off after hiking for an hour. Yesterday: sunny and warm (70°F, which borders on hot for me). Kaweah engaged in her seasonal brain-baking on the deck and then staggered into the office to cool down. Friday will be rainy/snowy and cold again – and Kaweah will stand at the deck door, making little grunting sounds, asking to be let out… because she thinks it’s always nice and sunny on the deck.

where could we take this?

No one fruit represents sunshine to me more than the lemon. It’s not just the vibrant yellow, but the liveliness of the juice and the scent of the freshly grated zest. It wakes me up, keeps me interested. I was recently asked to post a couple of links back to the website of a certain national magazine. But you know, I can’t endorse something I haven’t tried and to be honest, I have never tried any of their recipes before. I agreed to test-drive one of their desserts. [UPDATE: 5/28/09] Because those brilliant people can’t hold up their end of a simple agreement, I’ve removed the links. Food bloggers – I recommend not having anything to do with Better Homes and Gardens.

grating some lemon zest

I have to admit that it took a while for me to find a recipe to try because I wanted to avoid anything that called for instant pudding mix, faux whipped topping, or store-bought cake… After all, use real butter is called use real butter for a reason. I settled on the triple layer lemon cake because it was something I could make entirely from scratch.

batter up!

I halved the recipe and poured it into one pan. The full recipe calls for three 9-inch pans. Greasing and flouring the pan did not make for a good release (at least when it was cooled, it didn’t want to release). I think a layer of parchment is a good idea. It didn’t matter though, because I cut out a few circles of cake and sliced the layers to even thickness.


While the cake was baking, I whipped the cream cheese frosting. I really love a good cream cheese frosting and this one had a nice lemony zing to it. Admittedly, I increased the amount of lemon juice and lemon zest, because you know it’s got to be good. Could definitely see this frosting making an appearance with some other friends. Hello cinnamon buns. Oh hello ginger carrot cupcakes.

creamy cheesy frosting

The recipe suggests using purchased lemon curd or to search their recipe center. I prefer a lemon curd recipe I got from my pastry skills class – it’s *awesome*. Make THAT one. You will be a better and happier person for it. I deviated from the assembly instructions because we don’t eat a lot of cake in this house. Instead, I tried out some new acetate that arrived in the mail a few weeks ago.

piping lemon curd

Refrigeration helps to stabilize the structural competence of the cake. Overall, the crumb was a little on the coarse side for my tastes and it was oddly moist and chewy. The flavor however, was pleasantly mellow which played nicely against the tartness of the curd. I personally prefer chiffon or genoise when making multi-layer cakes. This might be nice in a bundt pan. In general, I don’t think these are recipes I’d really go for.

my version of the triple layer lemon cake (okay, quad-layer)

Triple-Layer Lemon Cake
[print recipe]
from Better Homes and Gardens

1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder (reduce to 1/2 tsp at 8500 ft.)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
2 tsps finely shredded lemon peel
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1 cup lemon curd
lemon cream cheese frosting
lemon peel curls (optional)

lemon curd
from Culinary School of the Rockies pastry skills course

6 oz. fresh lemon juice, strained
9 oz. sugar
3 oz. butter
3 oz. heavy cream
6 eggs
1 tbsp fine lemon zest
pinch of salt

Boil lemon juice, sugar, butter, salt, and heavy cream in a saucepan. Place eggs in a bowl and whisk to loosen up the whites and yolks. Temper hot lemon mixture into eggs. Add mixture back into saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and nappé consistency. It should be quite thick or else it will be too runny in the final product. Strain, add zest, and stir. Place plastic wrap directly on curd and cool over an ice bath. Refrigerate when chilled. Can be frozen for up to 4-6 months. Makes 3.5 cups.

lemon cream cheese frosting

1 tsp lemon zest, grated
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp lemon juice
4-5 cups confectioner’s sugar

In a medium mixing bowl combine cream cheese, butter, and lemon juice; beat with electric mixer on low to medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, beating well. Gradually beat in 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 cups additional powdered sugar until spreading consistency. Stir in the lemon peel.

Cake: Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grease and lightly flour three 9 x 1-1/2-inch round cake pans [Jen suggests lining with parchment paper too]. Combine flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, lemon peel, and lemon juice; beat until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Add flour mixture and buttermilk or sour milk alternately to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Pour into prepared pans. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans. Cool thoroughly on wire racks.

To assemble: [Jen suggests leveling the layers by trimming any domed tops.] Place a cake layer on a cake plate. Spread with half of the Lemon Curd. Top with second layer; spread with the remaining Lemon Curd. Top with third layer. Frost top and sides with cream cheese frosting. Cover and store cake in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. If desired, garnish with lemon peel curls. Serves 12.

71 nibbles at “have some more cake”

  1. Y says:

    That cake, aaaah.. looks like a breath of fresh air – something desperately needed, with the gloomy weather we’re experiencing over here.

  2. Meeta says:

    oh these are far too cute. send this for my mingle this month PLEASE! I am celebrating with spring cakes and this would fit in perfectly!

  3. Kathy says:

    Lemons wake up my senses, like sunshine.

  4. Happy Cook says:

    Beautiful and delicous. My tounge just tinkle by the thought of having this , yumm.
    Just a question for the leamon curd is it correct you used whole eggs.
    I made leamon curd and it didn’t come out that good, so i am looking for a lemon curd recipe.

  5. Rosa says:

    What a pretty and delicious looking cake! A great idea…



  6. Chantal says:

    Lovely presentation

  7. Kristin says:

    Foxes! You’ve got foxes?! And I got excited by a turkey walking past my window yesterday. I KNOW we’ve got foxes, but I’ve never seen one in my yard. Gotta love Kaweah’s hopefulness…it should always be sunny on the deck darn it! Lemon…yum!

  8. Caitlin says:

    Oh hello ginger carrot cupcakes?!? You can’t leave me hanging like that – that sounds waaaay too good. Especially with lemon cream cheese frosting. Sounds like something I should be friends with too… PS – where do you get your acetate from? I’ve never used it, but want to try it out.

  9. Vi Vian says:

    Hello MasterChef,

    Can you please tell me the name of the plastic that you showed? I have been looking everywhere but not able to find them. Thank you very much.

  10. Macie says:

    Looks refreshing! Is it easy to form them like that? Seems like it’s stick when you tried to remove it.

  11. Melanie Thurber says:

    Ok. Now we need a lemon cake that is moist and delicious. Not coarse. I had the same problem just yesterday when I made a lemon layer cake for my daughter’s 15th birthday. I made my own lemon curd and then whipped up some cream and folded it in for the layers. The frosting was good (though I think cream cheese always makes it better). But the cake was coarse, and it didn’t want to come out. Anybody???:)

  12. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Absolutely beautiful, as always! My favorite picture is actually the one with the lemons and the eggs in a bowl.

    Love lemon and adore lemon curd (I put it on my morning toast). Thanks!

  13. dawn says:

    you make it all seem so easy.
    I love your photos, you have such great talent in getting just the right shot.

  14. Maria says:

    Lemon desserts are perfect for Spring! Your photos really are fantastic. Great dessert!

  15. Nicole says:

    Lovely presentation!

  16. Hilda says:

    Love the alternative construction.
    Have you tried out Pierre Herme’s lemon cream? Helen and I have both raved about it before and I have to restrain myself from making some now that I think about it…
    You know I first visited URB ages ago because it was called URB.

  17. JessW says:

    I love the citrus-y flavors in spring! Lemons, limes, tangerines: YUM! This looks like it would be lovely with a great set of china and some jasmine for an afternoon tea. Love it!

  18. Patricia Scarpin says:

    I have made some recipes from with very nice results – but, like you, I won’t go for anything made from a powder I have no knowledge about or a mix full of chemicals I can’t even pronounce. :D

    Your choice was amazing – I do love anything lemon – and a layer cake is always a beautiful dessert.

    As for spring, it’s my favorite season (also when my birthday takes place). :D

  19. Dana says:

    In my experience, everyone likes lemon. It’s what I make when I’m not sure of my dinner guests’ tastes. This looks absolutely lovely.

  20. Britni says:

    Hi Jen! I do so love your lemon cakes, but after this review (and my own experiences) I’m probably going to stick with you chiffon cake recipe :) However, thank you so much for the inspiration you are to me! And on a side note, that picture of the lemon zest is fabulous, do you use a macro lens? Do tell!

  21. Laura says:

    I’ve been craving lemon too–I agree that it is great in spring. Your cakes are gorgeous. You must be one of the least lazy people EVER. I would’ve thrown it in a bundt pan for sure! :)

  22. Allen says:

    Glad to see you added a fourth layer — more layers = more dessert!

    I must say that your pop-ad warning is useful — I foolishly went to their site and experienced a big pop-up ad, then clicked to another page only to receive one of those interstitial ads that forces you to view an ad before continuing to their content. WTF? Nope. I don’t think so. As we discussed earlier, I may be an easy-going pig but I have my limits :-)

    Your plating it so beautiful — the red design is perfect.

  23. pixen says:

    that’s an awesome, awesome layered cake and yummylicious refreshing too!

  24. Mollie says:

    Yes please, I’d like to say hello to some gingers carrot cupcakes.

    Looks fab as usual – i’m snickering at the “structural competence” comment.

  25. Karen B says:

    The last two cakes I’ve made stuck to the pan, but I did not do something nearly as beautiful with the remains! I certainly don’t NEED any more toys in the kitchen, but the acetate looks like fun!

  26. Tartelette says:

    Great choice for the cake! It looks so Spring-y and if you add anything lemon curdish, well I just come running!
    Yep the pop ups drive me batty or more like overwhelmed my already kaput laptop but it’s nice to see them moving towards more and made from scratch stuff.

  27. wendy says:

    This looks really yummy! I love your presentation of the cakes, and just want to lick thr frosting off the spatula in your photo :)

  28. Kirsa says:


    This post, came like a divine sign from heaven.

    I was looking for a cake recipe to try for about 2 weeks now, and was wondering what to do. I had in mind a moist cake, but it had almonds in it and husband is tired of almonds for now, after I did your almond crunch cookies. the recipe DID call for lemon zest….

    I asked my coworkers… they agreeded that Lemon would be a great savor….

    and then, this post ! Have definitively to try something lemony now !
    It’s actually the first time I’ll bake a cake by myself (or cake a bake, as I did say in a moment of distraction wich then became my running gag at work…)

    oooooohhh I think I can recall also LEMON BOMBES that called for lemon mousse or something… where again would these perfect bomb molds came from ?

    I’ll let you know if I’m much of a baker after I do it this weekend !

  29. mycookinghut says:

    miam miam.. looks really yummy! I am a fan of lemon! May I ask where can I buy the dessert ring?

  30. Sylvia says:

    Love lemon cake , looks delicious

  31. Manggy says:

    You are so right about lemons! Cleanses the palate from all the chocolate and cream. Well, there’s a ton of dairy in this one too, but it balances it out ;) And I looooove them acetate strips. I’m thinking of buying those 3-pound rolls next time I’m in the States! It makes desserts absolutely perfect– case in point, your wonderful lemon cake. I love it!

  32. Alta says:

    Yummy, this looks so springy. And pretty! I think you and I have the same exact micrograter, don’t you love it? Mine is wonderful, makes zesting a lemon, grating parmesan, or grating nutmeg a breeze!

  33. Susan says:

    I’ve recently begun taking another look at BHG recipes based on a recent try of a simple coffee cake recipe from an old BHG cookbook. It was delightful. Then yesterday, Deb of Smitten Kitchen posted the black bread recipe that she adapted from a current favorite cookbook author. I (as usual) went scouting out other recipes to compare to it. Son of a gun! An almost identical recipe was found in a BHG cookbook! I was so surprised to find as complex a recipe in a basic homecooks manual. It’s made me decide to take another look at some of these basic cookbooks.

  34. Asianmommy says:

    You take the best pictures–your lemon cake looks like heaven!

  35. Granny says:

    This cake looks just lovely. I think I’ll make it for a treat for my daughter when she gets home next week. I’m a bit old fashioned though and I just hate to waste cake, so I’ll bake my cake in a square pan and then make square cakes so I’ve only to throw out the crusts. Luckily, the dog will think she is in doggie heaven over them, so those will be put to good use too.

    BTW, Susan, don’t be so surprised at those old cookbooks. Women were taught how to cook back then – home ec was all about cooking and sewing – and took pride in their homemaking skills. BHG has always been one of the best, but this is also the era of Julia Child and her wonderful books, of James Beard (don’t miss Beard On Bread!) and many more. I have new cookbooks, but I have to tell you I haven’t seen much of anything new in an American cookbook that isn’t in the cookbooks I’ve had since the 60’s.

  36. Tracy says:

    Lemon curd is one of those foods with an unappealing name but amazing taste.

  37. Recipe man says:

    i love lemos zest it adds so much taste and aroma!

  38. Mrs Ergül says:

    I told you you ARE a pro! I love lemon too. Can’t do without them, ya know?

  39. T$ says:

    I can’t even remember how I got to this site, random Googling session I guess… But I happened to be making a carrot cake today and hadn’t yet made the frosting. I made your lemon cream cheese frosting and it was wonderful! I’ll definitely be using that recipe again… Now I want to try your lemon curd recipe. Next weekend, I suppose~ And I second the call for your ginger carrot cupcakes recipe, please share!

    Thanks much!

  40. FoodieView Blog » Recipe Roundup: Celebrate Mother’s Day says:

    […] or the Strawberry White Chocolate Mousse from Simply Recipes. For light lemony flavor try the Triple Layer Lemon Cake from Jen of Use Real Butter or the Lemon Curd Cake from Mary of Alpineberry. If chocolate is on […]

  41. Marina says:

    This looks heavenly!! The last picture just took my breath away….

    I wanted to ask you something though, where do you get the plastic thing that you wrapped your cut-out cake to make it stable??

  42. jenyu says:

    Y – oh, sorry about the gloomy weather! Ours is turning sunny on the other side of the planet!

    Meeta – hello my dear, I have something else in mind for the monthly mingle (which I will post soon). :)

    Kathy – I love lemons!

    Happy Cook – yes, whole eggs. I rather like this one. Give it a try, see if you like it too!

    Rosa – thank you :)

    Chantal – thanks!

    Kristin – ha ha! Yes, Kaweah is hopeful like that – every day :)

    Caitlin – I’ll have to tackle those after I get back from travel, sweetie. But I will try to remember for you. Acetate – ordered from Amazon.

    Vi – Acetate. I ordered it from Amazon.

    Macie – It does stick, but I think it wouldn’t stick as much if I had refrigerated it.

    Melanie – I have a lemon chiffon cake that I use in a couple of recipes on urb. Go to the search field on the main page and type in lemon chiffon.

    TheKitchenWitch – mmm, with toast – that is a pick-me-up!

    Dawn – thank you!

    Maria – thanks, I love lemon anytime, but it feels right in spring.

    Nicole – thank you :)

    Hilda – haven’t tried it, but now I may have to! ;)

    JessW – Ah yes, I love teas! Little bites with awesome tea… a great way to enjoy the afternoon (or running around in the woods with a crazy dog).

    Patricia – ha ha ha! I hear ya! layer cakes always have a nice mouthfeel to them. Oh, when is your birthday?!

    Dana – that’s a great rule of thumb! I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like lemon :)

    Britni – yeah, I would use the chiffon too. That was shot with the 50 mm. But I use all of my lenses depending on the perspective I want to capture.

    Laura – ha ha ha! That’s sweet of you ;) I’m hyper, to be sure.

    Allen – yeah, that’s a huge downside to this whole adventure. Can’t imagine anyone thinking that a user would find that pleasant. Thanks!

    Pixen – thank you!

    Mollie – ha ha, now I HAVE to blog the ginger carrot cupcakes, don’t I? :)

    Karen – the acetate… we’re still getting acquainted! I need to learn more tricks.

    Tartelette – I was about to lose hope when I flipped through their recipes (hate how I had to go through one by one by one…) Don’t they hire people to do usability studies?

    Wendy – ;)

    Kirsa – the bombe molds are from – good luck.

    Mycookinghut – these are ateco stainless steel ring molds. I got them locally, but I know you can order them online. Google and you’ll probably find dozens of vendors.

    Sylvia – thanks.

    Mark – awww, thank you! The acetate is fun stuff, but… I think it works better with chocolate :)

    Alta – I do like my micrograter very much. Except when I grate my finger!

    Susan – that’s great :)

    Asianmommy – thank you, dear.

    Granny – thanks. I hope she enjoys it.

    Tracy – that’s true, I never thought of it that way. But it IS so good :)

    Recipe Man – really lovely and fresh, isn’t it?

    Mrs. E – ;)

    T$ – well, those cupcakes will have to wait a while as I have travel and deadliens coming up, but I will get to them (love ginger and carrot cake together). The lemon curd is gooooood :)

    Marina – it’s called acetate and I ordered 500 ft. of it from Amazon.

  43. Cakelaw says:

    These look magnificent – so sunny and bright and gorgeous. Just what the doctor ordered.

  44. ana says:

    OMG, just beautiful. Lovely. Do keep the good work…;)


    P.s. Can you please tell me what kind of camera do you use? (I am buying myself a new camera and any good advise will be nice…;))

    Thank you.

  45. jenyu says:

    Cakelaw – thank you :)

    Ana – I shoot with a Nikon D200 and D70. I can’t advise you on a camera if I don’t know 1) what you already know and 2) where you want to go with it.

  46. ana says:

    Oh of course. Can I write you on your e-mail? (found it on the other site…;))

    Thanks. And again…your blog is just….perfect…! Love it.

  47. Patricia Scarpin says:

    Hey, darling, it’s November, 13. ;)

  48. jenyu says:

    Ana – sure, but I’m leaving town soon and may not get back to you for a week or more – sorry, very busy!

    Patricia – good to know :)

  49. kali says:

    Hi! Needless to say I love your blog. Do you have any advice for working with acetate? Do you make the forms yourself? I would love to try it out, but I’m not familiar with the process at all.

    Beautiful dessert and photographs, as always. Thank you so much for the work you put in to URB!

  50. jenyu says:

    Kali – not that practiced with acetate. i just use it to line molds and then fill it with stuff. still learning. Thanks!

  51. T$ says:

    Hi again – I was going to make your lemon curd last night but started second guessing my assumptions about whether you were referring to weight ounces or volume ounces. I assumed the following:
    lemon juice – volume
    sugar – weight
    butter – weight
    cream – volume

    Did I guess right? I’m new on the volume scene. :( Can’t wait to try your recipe; yours is the only one I’ve seen that calls for cream which makes me extra curious! Oh, and would you recommend any adjustments when using Meyer lemons?

  52. T$ says:

    er, meant to say I’m new on the *weighing scene

  53. jenyu says:

    T$ – liquids by volume, solids by weight. Don’t have any recs for Meyers. Should be great.

  54. Jade says:

    Hi! I was wondering if you knew what degrees I should use for this recipe if I were to bake it in a square pan o_o

  55. Jade says:

    for umm sizes like 13 x 9 x 2

  56. jenyu says:

    Jade – I think temperature will remain the same, but vary the baking time (increase). Use the toothpick test.

  57. Jade says:

    than you :]

  58. Lynne says:

    I made it for my sister’s 35th birthday! It not only was easy to make and assemble, but it was just so good!!!! I used my own lemon curd recipe but it was a success! i’m on the hunt for a super light lemon cake since i’ve been asked to bake one for my cousin’s wedding in a few months… happy that i got to try this one.

  59. jenyu says:

    Lynne – great to hear!

  60. Christy says:

    I have had so many problems making lemon curd from the traditional recipes I find. Ones that don’t use heavy cream or require tempering. None of those have worked, so I’m giving this recipe a go. Seems like I’ve tried it before but can’t remember. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  61. jenyu says:

    Christy – good luck!

  62. Recipe: Triple Layer Lemon Cake « Sugarmamabakingco’s Blog says:

    […] recipe comes from . I REALLY suggest clicking the link; the writer has spent a ton of time illustrating the […]

  63. Natalie says:

    Wow… I, too, had been looking for a perfect, from scratch, no pudding or cake mix, lemon cake recipe. My mom wants a lemon layer cake for her birthday. This one sounds perfect. I can’t wait to try it.

  64. Lemon Curd and a Lemony Recipe Roundup | TasteFood says:

    […] Granita from Pinch My Salt Triple Layer Lemon Cake from Use Real Butter And more from the TasteFood archives: Asparagus with Lemon and Olive Oil […]

  65. Terry says:

    This recipe looks fantastic!!! I’m going to try and make it one day this week. I love the raspberry sauce on the plate with the lemon….they go so well together. Did you make the raspberry sauce? If so, is the recipe on your site?

    I’ll be back here for more recipes……….what a beautiful site…….love it!!!

    P.s. What a cute lab……..we have a chocolate lab who lets us live in his house…….LOL!

  66. jenyu says:

    Terry – the raspberry sauce is just raspberries, sugar, and (if needed) a little water, boiled down until thick.

  67. Susan Marshall says:

    I kid you not. I made this for the Humboldt County fair (full size cake) and wo Best of Show. It was lemony delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe

  68. jenyu says:

    Susan – wow!!! YOU ROCK! :) Congratulations!

  69. Rebecca says:

    I made this for my boyfriend’s birthday and it turned out GREAT. So well in fact, that my roommates want me to make it again. Thanks for such a fantastic recipe!

  70. Karen says:

    I too was searching for a truely “scratch cake” and came upon this recipe. THANK YOU!!!!!
    I haven’t tried it as yet, only because I just got off from a greuling day at work and have to go pick up the kidling. I live in Colorado Springs, CO –where they think vanilla is prime…(Sigh!)
    How would you adjust this recipe for elevation 6035ft?

  71. jenyu says:

    Karen – I personally would try this recipe (which is similar, but better, in my opinion) In general, I don’t make adjustments the first time around (sadly, for those of us who live at altitude, we must run the risk of a recipe failing first) and then if there is a serious problem, I make adjustments accordingly. Like if the cake collapses, I will reduce the leavening. At 6000 ft, I would think the recipe might just work as is, but I can’t say for sure. Perhaps do a test cake first (just the cake – everything else should work fine like the buttercream and the curd). Good luck!

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