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  • Writer's pictureFaffy

Take 2: Lemon layer cake with lemon buttercream! I told you I would not be defeated by a cake!

Here we go again! Lemon layer cake with lemon buttercream icing version 2! Last time I made this cake it was tasty and light but did not look the best so I decided to give it another go. I made this cake for my Dad on Fathers day. This was the perfect occasion to try this bake again because this cake is massive and last time Dave and I did not manage to finish it and also I knew my family would be really forgiving if it went really wrong. This time round the cake was light and fluffy as last time and actually looked pretty damn good. It was such a step up on my last try! So what did I do differently? All the details about attempt 1 can be found here.

Skip to the end for the adjusted recipe

Lemon layer cake view from above

Attempt 1

This recipe was made using Sally's Baking Addiction lemon layer cake recipe. Sadly my version was a visual disaster. While all the sponges were well baked, the top sponge was smaller than the other 2 and the icing was really thin and dripped a fair bit. Definitely not one for Instagram! Although I did post it.

Attempt 2

The second attempt of the lemon layer cake was so much better than attempt 1. It was still not perfect but I am definitely slowly getting there! Again the sponges were well baked and all light and fluffy. I still had the issue of one sponge being smaller than the others but with better icing (i.e. not dripping) it could be hidden this time. I did also had a go at piping for the first time to try and take it up a level.

So what did I do different?

The lemon layer cake recipe is from Sally's Baking Addiction! Find it here. But I actually followed my post because I found it simpler to understand because I don't have a stand mixer, just a trusty non-electric hand whisk.

Change 1: I used cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and lemon juice to make the icing, similar to last time and found the resulting icing was still thinner than desired. So I googled fixes and I added 1.5 tbsp of cornflour to help thicken it up without contributing any flavour. I also noticed that the original recipe mentioned using brick style cream cheese which we don't have in the UK so this might explain the difference in texture.

Change 2: I learnt about the concept of a Crumb coat. To do a crumb coat I applied a thin layer of icing on the top and around the side of three layered sponges and let them cake sit in the fridge for 30 mins. The first coat captures all the crumbs to make sure the frosting is not filled with them. I then repeated the icing addition 2 more times. This resulted in a much better frosted cake.

Change 3: I decided to do some pipping on top to give the cake a more professional look. But this is the first time I have ever piped so it needs some help. I piped using a 1M nozzle to create the top and also created a border around the bottom edge.

What other improvements should I make?

Future change 1: I only had two cake tins rather than the three required so I made the batter for all the cakes, filled the two tins and and set aside the remaining batter at room temperature while the other 2 sponges baked. I baked the third sponge, once I cleaned the other two tins and noticed that this sponge was smaller than the other two. This happened last time as well. I think the batter loses air while sat at room temperature so I might wait and only make the batter for the third cake when I am ready to bake it.

Future change 2: I heard that because we don't have brick style cream cheese in the UK some people get rid of the excess moisture from standard soft cream cheese by squeezing the cheese through a muslin bag. Alternatively, some people swear by using Philadelphia cream cheese only. I will try the muslin bag technique next time I try this frosting.

Future change 3: I will use the required 20 cm tins so that I get a taller cake, or try a 2 layer version so it is not so hard to finish while cake testing.

Verdict: This cake was light and fluffy and a massive improvement on the last time I baked this cake. It went down well with the family, even my picky sister agreed that this one was a winner. So I know this really went well. I think I still have some work to do in terms of cake decorating but I will get there. I am very proud of this step up.


Prep 30 mins, Bake time 25 mins

Total time 5 hours, Serves 12


For the cake

  • 345 g plain flour (sifted)

  • 2.5 tsp baking powder

  • 0.5 tsp baking soda

  • 0.5 tsp salt

  • 230 g unsalted butter, (room temperature)

  • 350 g granulated sugar

  • 3 large eggs (room temperature)

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 240 ml buttermilk (room temperature)

  • 1 heaped tbsp lemon zest (about 2 lemons)

  • 80ml fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • 230 g unsalted butter (room temperature)

  • 224 g Cream cheese (room temperature)

  • 600 g icing sugar

  • 2 tbsp (30ml) fresh lemon juice

  • 1.5 tbsp cornflour

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • pinch salt, to taste


To make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter three 23 cm sandwich tins and line with baking paper.

  2. Cream the butter and sugar together.

  3. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract until combined.

  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

  5. Add the dry ingredients and mix well.

  6. Slowly add the buttermilk, lemon juice and lemon zest and mix together

  7. Divide the batter evenly between the three sandwich tins and bake for 21-26 minutes or until the cakes are golden and a skewer comes out clean.

  8. Make sure the cakes have completely cooled before icing.

To make the icing:

  1. To make the icing beat the butter until creamy.

  2. Add the cream cheese and beat until completely smooth and combined.

  3. Mix in the vanilla extract, lemon juice and icing sugar

  4. If required, adjust the icing by adding lemon juice if it is too thick or icing sugar if it is too thin (try and limit adding too much icing sugar as the frosting will end up too sweet).

  5. If adding icing sugar does not work, add the 1.5 tbsp of cornflour to thicken up the icing instead.

To assemble and decorate:

  1. To create flat cakes, cut a thin layer off each sponge.

  2. To assemble the cakes, place layer 1 on your plate or stand. Spread with 1 cup of icing, then cover with layer 2. Top layer 2 with 1 cup of icing, and finally cover with layer 3.

  3. Spread a thin layer of icing sugar over the top and sides to create a crumb coat

  4. Place in the fridge for 30 mins.

  5. Repeat 1 or 2 times until the icing is finished

  6. Place in the fridge for 35-45 mins before serving.

  7. The cake should stay fresh for up to 5 days if kept well covered in the fridge.


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