Light, fluffy vanilla cake layered with tangy lemon curd and luscious whipped frosting — this gorgeous lemon layer cake is easy to make with our box cake shortcut! (But it looks like it came from a bakery!)
Easy Lemon Cake
This wasn’t even a planned blog post.
My husband (the chef and baker in our family) made this lemon layer cake for a family friend — lemon desserts are her favorite.
As a self-proclaimed chocoholic, I don’t really understand why anyone would choose a non-chocolate dessert as their favorite. However, this lemon cake changed my mind!!
This cake starts with a boxed cake mix. Yep, a box cake!
But I promise no one will ever know when they see this cake because it looks and tastes like it came from a fancy bakery!
Here’s the breakdown:
Layers of soft vanilla cake topped with zesty lemon curd and fluffy whipped topping. It’s a beautiful contrast of textures and flavors! Every bite has vanilla and lemon, sweet and sour, cake-y and creamy — it’s heavenly!
This is the perfect dessert for any lemon lovers in your life! Or anyone you want to celebrate with a truly special cake…even if you don’t have all day to spend in the kitchen or if you’re a novice baker! Anyone can make this cake!
- 1 box white cake mix (plus ingredients listed on box, such as eggs and butter)
- 1 large tub of whipped topping (such as Cool Whip)
- 1 cup of lemon fruit filling or lemon curd
Helpful Kitchen Tools
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- Large mixing bowl
- 9-inch Round Cake Pans
- Wire rack for cooling the cake
- Serrated knife for slicing the cake layers
- Offset spatula for frosting the cake
- Prepare cake mix according to directions on box. We used a whisk and a large bowl to mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients; you shouldn’t need a stand mixer.
- Pour the cake batter into two 9″ round pans. Bake following package directions, remove from oven, and allow to cool completely.
- Once cool, level each cake so the top is an even surface. Cut each cake in half lengthwise so you now have 4 layers. Place one layer on a cake stand and top the first layer with lemon curd.
- Add another cake layer and top this second layer with whipped cream. Repeat with the remaining two cake layers, so the top of the cake is whipped cream.
- To tell if your cake is done baking, stick a toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.
- Try this cake cutting trick from In The Kids Kitchen for perfect layers every time!
- You can frost the sides of the cake, or leave them unfrosted as pictured here. This “naked cake” style is very trendy right now, but I love it because it is just the right amount of frosting!
- We topped our cake with fresh raspberries, lemon zest, lemon slices, and powdered sugar. Strawberries or blueberries or edible flowers would also make a fabulous garnish. So many possibilities to make this cake special for any occasion!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Lemon Curd?
Lemon curd is a creamy dessert spread made from egg yolks, lemon, butter, sugar and salt. Though it is usually sold in a jar in the jelly aisle, it is not actually a preserve. Lemon curd is similar to custard in texture, but it definitely has a bit of the tartness you expect from lemon!
Does This Cake Need to be Refrigerated?
Yes, I recommend keeping this cake or any leftovers in the refrigerator. I don’t always refrigerate cakes, but the whipped topping holds up better when chilled.
If possible, keep the cake covered with plastic wrap (loosely fitted so it doesn’t mess up the frosting) or in an airtight container made for cakes.
Can You Use Real Whipped Cream for the Frosting?
I don’t recommend using real whipped cream for the frosting. Whipped cream is lighter and it starts to lose its shape and structure fairly quickly. If it’s at room temperature, the whipped cream will essentially start to liquify, which is definitely not ideal for frosting a cake!
Instead, I recommend whipped topping (such as Cool Whip) because it will hold its shape. Normally when I see hydrogenated oils in an ingredients list, I kind of stay away, but the hydrogenation process is what fluffs up the whipped topping and gives it structure. So it is helpful in this case!
Can You Add Lemon Juice to the Cake Batter?
You may notice that we did not alter the cake batter, so the cake itself is not actually lemon-flavored. However, if you’d like extra lemon flavor, feel free to fold a couple drops of lemon extract into the cake batter before baking the cake.
Don’t use lemon juice — the acidity can affect the texture of the cake.
More Delicious Lemon Desserts to Try
- Pink Lemonade Mini Cheesecakes
- Meringue Lemon Cupcakes
- Strawberry Lemon Bars
- Baked Lemon Blueberry Donuts
- Glazed Lemon Poppyseed Muffins
Grab a Free Printable Copy of our Easy Lemon Cake Recipe:
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Easy Lemon Layer Cake
- 2 9-inch round cake pans
- Large Mixing Bowl
- 1 box White cake mix plus ingredients listed on box
- 16 oz Whipped topping (one large tub)
- 1 cup Lemon curd
- Prepare cake mix according to directions on box. Bake in two 9" round pans. Allow to cool completely.
- Level each cake so they're even. Cut each cake in half lengthwise so you have 4 layer cakes.
- Place one cake layer on a cake stand and cover liberally with lemon curd.
- Add another layer of cake and top this layer with whipped cream.
- Repeat with the other two layers of cake, then frost the entire cake with the whipped topping. Finish with fresh raspberries and lemon zest. Keep refrigerated.
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