This stunningly beautiful white layer cake with lemon filling, topped with tangy lemon cream cheese frosting, is a show stopper. A special occasion dessert that is classic and delicious!

Lemon layer cake on a white cake stand topped with three lemon slices. In the background, milk, plates and additional lemons are pictured.

This cake has its origin in desperation. I had company coming over for coffee and dessert, and I didn’t really have time to get to the grocery store. After scrounging in my pantry, I came up with a white cake mix, a couple of lemons and a block of cream cheese. Hmmm…I took a look in in my good ol’ Betty Crocker cookbook (a great starter cookbook, by the way) and came up with the idea for this stunning layer cake. 

Slice of white cake with lemon filling and white frosting made with cream cheese and lemons, with a bite taken out of it. A fork is also pictured, resting on the plate.

I know, it looks like a pretty ambitious dessert for spur of the moment! But your secret to simplicity is the cake mix. Using a cake mix is so easy and helps you get a head start on this recipe. 

The finished product is this beautiful layer cake mounded with lemon zest flecked creamy frosting and a tangy secret hidden inside, luscious lemony filling. White cake with lemon filling covers all the bases: it’s gorgeous to look at, and tastes heavenly. 

White cake with lemon filling and a lemon twist on top. It is placed on a white cake stand.

Making this white layer cake with lemon filling

This isn’t a last minute dessert, I’m just warning you. It will take some time to put together but it isn’t difficult to do.

I have three suggestions that will make your life easier.

  1. Zest the lemons before cutting in half and squeezing out juice. If you’ve ever tried doing it the other way around, you’ll know why I’m telling you this.
  2. Take the cream cheese and butter for the frosting out of the refrigerator before you get started with the cake so they will be nice and soft when you are ready to make the frosting.
  3. Make the lemon filling before you make the cake (or even while it is baking) so the filling has plenty of time to chill. Chilling time is necessary for the filling to thicken properly and you don’t want to spread hot filling on the cake.

Okay,  I said 3 suggestions, but here’s one more: Always make sure the cake is completely cool before frosting it. Don’t hurry and frost a warm cake. It’s disastrous, not that I have any experience with that or anything.

Let’s begin with the lemon cake filling. Flavored with lemon juice and zest, the filling is nice and tangy, a perfect counterpoint to the sweet cake. It’s basically a cornstarch thickened pudding and is cooked on the stove. It takes about 15 minutes to prepare and should be chilled in the fridge.

Lemon cake filling in a glass bowl.

Next, get started on the cake. A basic white cake mix works great and is easy to prepare. No special instructions, just follow the directions on the box.

Once the cake has baked and is cooling, get started on the lemon cream cheese frosting. Hopefully your cream cheese and butter is nice and soft by now. The lemon zest and lemon juice combined with the tangy cream cheese makes this frosting so flavorful! It’s absolutely one of my favorite frostings. I could eat it by the spoonful.

Lemon cream cheese frosting in a glass bowl. Beaters of an electric mixer are resting on the bowl edge.

Assemble the cake. Put the first layer on your cake platter. Slather the filling all over the top of the first layer, leaving a small border around the edge so that the filling doesn’t squish out. Carefully place the next layer on top and frost the cake.

White cake with cream cheese frosting and lemon filling, halfway frosted.

Voila! You’re finished! Get ready for the oohs and aahs when you present this white layer cake with lemon filling and lemon cream cheese frosting! And then a moment of silence as everyone digs in and enjoys this wondrous dessert!

Slice of white layer cake with lemon filling and lemon cream cheese frosting. A glass of milk, a lemon slice, and a fork are also in the image.

Love cake?

While this is probably the fanciest cake I have on my site, I have lots of other fantastic cake recipes! Try:

 

Image of white cake from above, topped with cream cheese frosting and three lemon slices.

White Cake with Lemon Filling and Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 1 layer cake
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes

This stunningly beautiful white layer cake with lemon filling, topped with tangy lemon cream cheese frosting, is a show stopper. A special occasion dessert that is classic and delicious!

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1 box of your favorite white cake mix

Lemon Filling:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (you'll need more for the frosting)

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Instructions

For Cake:

  1. Prepare white cake as directed on box in two round 8 or 9 inch pans. Cool completely on wire rack. You could of course use your favorite recipe for white cake if you wanted to, but as you’ve probably figured out by now, I take shortcuts whenever possible.

Lemon Filling:

  1. Have all your ingredients ready before you begin. Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in small saucepan. Add egg yolks and mix until egg is completely mixed with dry ingredients. Whisk in water until mixture is smooth.
  2. Cook over medium low heat until just boiling. Mixture will be quite thick. Immediately remove from heat and stir in butter. Gradually whisk in lemon juice until smooth. Stir in zest. 
  3. Pour into bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. In a large bowl, with electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy.
  2. Add powdered sugar and lemon juice; beat until light and fluffy. Fold in lemon zest.

Assembling Cake

  1. Slice off very top of each layer of cake to create a flat surface (not mandatory, but helpful)
  2. Place bottom layer on cake stand. Tuck pieces of wax paper under cake so that you can remove after frosting and have a neat cake stand when finished (again, not necessary, but helpful).
  3. Spread lemon filling on top of bottom layer. Do not go all the way to the edge (leave ~1/4 of an inch).
  4. Place 2nd layer on top of first (I like to do it upside down so the top of the cake has crisp edges). Frost entire cake with cream cheese frosting.
  5. Store in fridge!

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 279Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 116mgCarbohydrates: 52gFiber: 0gSugar: 47gProtein: 1g

RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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Verdict: I’m pretty sure I could live on this cake. Luckily we had a lot of company so I wasn’t tempted to actually try out that hypothesis. The tangy lemon filling is a perfect contrast to the sweet frosting. So yummy. However, I must confess that you could probably put cream cheese frosting on cardboard and I would still devour it.
Husband’s take: He likes it, but prefers white cake with chocolate frosting. Easy to please, he likes things simple and traditional. He gets white cake and chocolate frosting on his birthday. The rest of the time, I get to experiment!
Changes I would make: None.

Difficulty: Time consuming, but fairly easy.