Lemon Sheet Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

May 4, 2019

This Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting is a delectable dessert packed with lemon flavor from real lemons. It's sure to be a favorite with your family and friends!

Sheet cake on a cooling rack

Lemon Sheet Cake Recipe

If lemon desserts are your thing, you are really going to love this Lemon Sheet Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting. Just like this old-fashioned carrot cake, this recipe results in a moist cake, with an irresistible creamy frosting.

I've made this cake twice in the last month. First, I made it for my family. My youngest daughter loves lemons, but doesn't enjoy lemon-flavored candies or desserts. She did enjoy this cake, though. (WIN!) 

Three nights ago, I made it again. It was the last dance practice before recital, so I wanted to bring something special to class. Ya'll - this cake was a hit! Not only did I receive compliments the night of class, but in the Facebook group the next day, as well.
  • "...that cake was sooooo yummy!" 
  • "It was deeeeelicious!! The frosting was exceptionally yummy." 
  • "I've never had cream cheese frosting that was so smooth and light."
So let's talk about that frosting. It's indescribably delicious. Light, fluffy, smooth, and super lemony! You'll find it hard not to eat it with a spoon. (Ahem - I may or may not have been the one who ate what was left in the mixing bowl.)

Besides that incredible frosting, I love the simplicity of this cake. This lemon cake is made from scratch using very basic ingredients. It gets it's citrus zing from lemon zest and plenty of lemon juice. The buttermilk and sour cream make it a wonderfully moist cake.

Lemon cake on a cooling rack

How to make Lemon Cake

In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

  • In a large bowl,  beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy - a full 3-5 minutes. Then add in the eggs and vanilla, followed by the sour cream, beating them until smooth. 
  • Turn the mixer to low speed and carefully beat in the flour mixture, and then the buttermilk. Do not over mix. Set the mixer aside. Stir the lemon zest and lemon juice into the mixture.
  • Pour your batter into apan and bake for 27-33 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool before frosting.

The frosting is even easier than the cake.

  • Using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and no lumps remain - about 3 full minutes. 
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and salt. Once the sugar begins to incorporate, switch the mixer to high speed, and beat for 3 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon lemon juice to thin if desired.

three slices of cake stacked

How to Make Lemon Cake that Tastes Like Lemon

All too often, lemon cakes don't taste like lemon. The flavor is usually so faint, it's barely detectable, or not detectable at all. I have two suggestions for giving your lemon cake more flavor.

- Use real butter. Not margarine. Not oil. In the case of faintly flavored cakes, butter works wonders.
- Use fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. Bottled lemon juice is not only too tart, but it doesn't taste like an actual lemon. Fresh lemon juice, along with zest, make this lemon cake burst with real lemon flavor.

How to Make a Moist Lemon Cake

No one wants a dry, crumbly cake. There are a few good practices which will guarantee your lemon cake is soft, moist, and fluffy.

  • Use buttermilk and sour cream. (Greek yogurt works in place of sour cream) make the cake moist and give it a soft crumb.
  • Room temperature ingredients. Make sure your butter and sour cream are room temperature before you start. At the very least, make sure the butter is.
  • Avoid over mixing your batter. Mixing for too long can result in a tough cake. Instead, beat the butter and sugar for a full 3-5 minutes on medium. On low, mix the butter milk in, only until it's mixed. Don't overdo it. 
  • Blend the lemon juice and zest into the batter using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

What makes the Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting so light and fluffy?

The lemon cake is just a cake until you add this frosting, but how make it so good you don't want to stop eating it? Easy.

Don't under mix. You can't over mix the frosting, but you can under mix it. The directions are perfect, just follow those and you'll have a light and fluffy cream cheese frosting.

Slice of cake on a plate with slices in background

Love this recipe? Check out my Old Fashioned Carrot Cake or this Chocolate Buttermilk Cake!

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