This stunningly beautiful layered white cake with lemon filling, topped with tangy lemon cream cheese frosting, is a show stopper. A special occasion dessert that is classic and delicious!
Why you’ll love it: While the cake is made from a mix, the homemade filling and frosting really take it up a couple of notches.
How long it takes: a few hours
Equipment you’ll need: layer cake pans, mixing bowl, mixer
Servings: 8 to 10
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. Usually my go-to is a fruit crisp made with whatever fruit happens to be in season, like apple crisp or strawberry rhubarb crisp.
But after scrounging in my pantry, I came up with a white cake mix, a couple of lemons and a block of cream cheese.
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.
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.
About This Recipe
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.
Four suggestions that will make your life easier
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
How To Make This Layer Cake
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.
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, prepare 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.
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.
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!
Add a tablespoon of lemon juice to a cake mix to intensify the lemon flavor. Simply put the lemon juice in a measuring cup and fill the rest with the required amount of water. A teaspoon or two of finely grated lemon zest is great, too.
Cake mixes are so easy. It’s not necessary to beat the eggs before adding them; simply add the water, oil, and eggs to the mix and beat as directed.
Make It Your Own
- Omit the filling. Make a double batch of frosting. Spread a layer of frosting between the two layers of cake.
- Substitute canned frosting for the homemade cream cheese frosting.
- Substitute a lemon cake mix for the white cake mix for a triple lemon cake.
The cake should be stored in the refrigerator if at all possible unless you are going to serve it that day. Put it into a layer cake holder or cover completely with plastic wrap. I actually have a large Tupperware container that will fit over a layer cake so look in your cabinets and be creative.
While this is probably the fanciest cake I have on my site, I have lots of other fantastic cake recipes! Try:
- Banana Chocolate Chip Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- The Best Banana Cake – seriously!
- Apple Spice Cake with Bourbon Glaze
- Clementine Vanilla Yogurt Cake – frost this cake with lemon cream cheese frosting!
- Vanilla Cupcakes with a hidden surprise
- Flourless Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake
- 1 box (16.25 oz.) white cake mix (choose your favorite brand)
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 egg yolks
- ¾ 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 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 2 to 3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Prepare white cake as directed on box in two round 8 or 9 inch pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
- 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.
- 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 bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
- In a large bowl, with electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy.
- Add powdered sugar and lemon juice; beat until light and fluffy. Fold in lemon zest.
- Slice off very top of each layer of cake to create a flat surface (not mandatory, but helpful)
- Place bottom layer on cake stand or flat plate. Tuck pieces of wax paper under cake which you can remove after frosting and have a neat cake stand when finished (again, not necessary, but helpful).
- Spread lemon filling on top of bottom layer. Do not go all the way to the edge (leave about a quarter inch border).
- Place second cake 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.
- Unless you’re going to serve the cake within a couple of hours, it should be covered and refrigerated.
- If you prefer, omit the lemon filling. Make a double batch of frosting and spread a layer of frosting between the layers.
- Your choice of canned frosting can be substituted for the homemade frosting.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.