Creamy and tart, lemon cake filling takes minutes to make. Brighten cakes and desserts with sunny homemade lemon custard. 

Recipe Overview

Why you’ll love it: Making your own lemon cake filling is easy and it tastes so much better than canned lemon filling. The lemon custard makes a great dessert on its own, too.

How long it takes: 20 minutes to make, 1 hour to chill
Equipment you’ll need: saucepan, bowl, lemon zester and juicer
Servings: makes 1 ¼ cups

Image of lemon cake filling in a small jar with a white spoon. A lemon is pictured in the background.
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Do you love the tartness of lemon and the creaminess of pudding? Do you enjoy bright and light desserts? Well, who doesn’t, right? Lemon cake filling, made from scratch in your own kitchen, will be appreciated by everyone. It’s versatile enough to use in a lot of different desserts or to serve in a dessert bowl, without any embellishment.

Why You’ll Love this lemon cake filling

  • It’s easy to make. While making lemon cake filling yourself may seem daunting, it’s really not difficult at all. You’ll be able to make this custard-like filling in 15 minutes. You won’t need any special equipment and you won’t need to learn any fancy cooking techniques.
  • It’s yummy! Lemon filling is so good, you’ll want to leave a fair amount of it in the pan for the cook’s enjoyment. Hey, I’m talking about you! Don’t deny the urge to sample what the pan has to offer. That’s your bonus.
Image of pale yellow lemon cake filling in a small jar with a white spoon next to it.

How do you make lemon filling from scratch?

Lemon cake filling is a one-pan recipe. You’ll need a small saucepan and a whisk. Choose a silicone whisk if you’re using a nonstick saucepan.

The ingredients are basic:

  • lemon juice
  • butter
  • egg yolk
  • sugar
  • cornstarch
  • salt
  • water

Mix the dry ingredients in the pan and blend in the egg yolks. The mixture will be thick and kind of lumpy. Whisk in the water. This should smooth out the egg mixture.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. It’s important to stir the whole time!

Stir in the butter and lemon juice, adding a bit of lemon zest, too, and you’re done! It’s so easy. 

What's the difference between lemon filling and lemon curd?

Lemon filling or custard is usually thickened with cornstarch and can be cooked in a regular saucepan. Lemon curd is richer, with more egg yolks and lots of butter, no water or cornstarch, and is usually made in a double boiler. They can be used pretty interchangeably.
Overhead image of lemon cake filling in a small jar.

How to use lemon Cake filling

  • Fill a layer cake.
  • Serve it in a bowl with a dollop of whipped cream.
  • Make lemon custard tarts with pre-baked pastry shells or mini phyllo cups.
  • Layer it in a trifle with angel food cake or pound cake, with sliced fresh strawberries or blackberries.
  • Fill cupcakes. Make your cupcakes extra special with a hidden jewel of lemon filling. 

What flavors of cake go well with lemon cake filling?

Lemon cake filling goes well with white cake (try my white cake with lemon filling and lemon cream cheese frosting!), yellow cake, or lemon cake. Try it layered in a trifle with pound cake, angel food cake, or lady fingers. 

Image of cake filling made with lemons.

Storage Tips

Lemon cake filling will keep in the fridge up to a week, tightly covered.

More Lemon Recipes


Lemon Cake Filling

4.44 from 109 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Creamy and tart, lemon cake filling takes minutes to make. Brighten cakes and desserts with sunny homemade lemon custard. 
Save this recipe!
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  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest


  • Have all your ingredients ready before you begin. Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in a small saucepan. Add egg yolks and mix until egg yolks are completely mixed with dry ingredients. Whisk in water until mixture is smooth.
  • 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. 
  • Pour into a bowl and cover the surface of the filling with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Makes 1 ¼ cups.



Serving: 0.25cup, Calories: 139kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 71mg, Sodium: 102mg, Potassium: 22mg, Fiber: 0.1g, Sugar: 17g, Vitamin A: 199IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 11mg, Iron: 0.2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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4.44 from 109 votes (95 ratings without comment)

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  1. Jessica says:

    5 stars
    This lemon filling is AWESOME!!! I love the consistency and taste. I can’t wait to use it on my cake!!! Thank you Rachel!!!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      I’m so glad you liked it! Thank you for leaving a review!

  2. Kyra says:

    1 star
    This recipe did not work for me. I tried it twice, and both times the water was too much. It never thickened and was very watery. I had it on the stove cooking for about 30 minutes both times. The second time as I was slowly pouring in the water, it looked more like the video consistency of curd and I should have stopped, but I decided to follow the recipe and trust that the water amount was correct. This did not work. I do not know how everyone else made it so easily. This was not fast, and I ran out of eggs trying to make it the second time. I would find another recipe if I was you. I tried to show a picture of what the liquid looked like, but it was difficult to show. The picture is after half an hour cooking down on the stove.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Sorry you’re having difficulties! Did you remember to add cornstarch?

    2. Shery says:

      This happened to me. I replaced the cornstarch and it was perfect.

  3. Marion says:

    Can I bake this in a Bundt cake as a filling! And will it be like a pudding filling, or cook into the cake?

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      We haven’t tried baking this filling, it’s best added after baking. Let me know if you give it a try, though!

  4. Barbara says:

    5 stars
    First time making lemon curd, and it was delicious! Can’t wait to fill donuts!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad you liked it!

  5. Regina says:

    5 stars
    Could this be used as a frosting for a cake baked in a 13×9 pan? I have a chocolate “pudding” frosting recipe that is made similarly to this and I use it to frost a cake and it is marvelous.
    Also, do you have a rough estimate as to how many cups of filling this recipe makes.
    Thank you!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      I think it could be used as frosting (only for a 9×13 like you mentioned, it wouldn’t work for a layer cake or something free-standing). It makes about 1 ½ cups. Hope you love it!

  6. Devon swyers says:

    5 stars
    I made this filling to use in a “strawberry lemonade” cake for my daughters birthday. The flavor is an amazing! I did use almost use 1/2 cup of lemon juice because it gave it a nice sour tang to it. But overall I LOVE this recipe!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So happy to hear that! Thank you for leaving a review!

  7. Gloriana says:

    5 stars
    Hi! I’m trying this recipe for my baking class hehe but I was wondering if I can use this filling bc I need to take my cake to class at room temp bc we’re gonna use fondant… do u think this filling Can hold aprox 8 hrs in room temp? Thank u!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Oooh, I don’t know. I think it should be okay but I can’t say for sure. It also has egg in it so it’s best refrigerated.

  8. Barb A. J. says:

    I have been looking a long time for a Lemon Filling to be used between two Cake layers and on top of the cake, surrounded the outside of the cake with a white frosting. I’ve read where canned Lemon Pie Filling is to soft. So, I’m extremely glad to find this. I want to make a cake or two for a cake walk at church for Fall Fest. I’m sure the children will enjoy themselves and also this homemade Lemon Cake. It’s my favorite for sure. I will make me one too. I’ll share with my family, depending on what’s left that is. Lol ! Thanks Rachel !!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      I hope you love it!

  9. Jacquie says:

    5 stars
    WOW it was so easy to make. It came out perfect. I will never buy store bought again! I loved that you can make it as tart as you want it.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad you liked it! Thanks for leaving a review!