Lemon Cake

This cake is phenomenal. I’ve had it bookmarked from my friend Kristin’s blog, You Got Served, for months now and I finally got around to making it for my birthday earlier this year. It did not disappoint. The cake was intensely moist and perfectly zingy with lemon flavor and the frosting is absolutely divine. In fact, I’m convinced the secret weapon of this cake is the frosting. I’m definitely glad to add this to my tried-and-true cake arsenal! (Sorry for the lack of pictures once the cake was cut into – my only defense was it was my birthday and I was more interested in satisfying my birthday cake craving than in taking pictures!)

Lemon Cake

Perfect Lemon Cake

Perfect Lemon Cake


  • 1 package lemon cake mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 small package lemon instant pudding
  • Frosting:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, very soft
  • 6-8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest


  1. For the cake, mix dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients. Mix with electric mixer on medium speed for about two minutes. Pour into a greased 9×11 pan or two round pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Don’t overbake or the cake will be too dry!
  2. You can also make cupcakes and bake them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. The cupcakes will fall after they come out of the oven, but this is normal. Just fill up the indentation with more frosting.
  3. For the frosting, place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of sugar, then the juice and the zest. Beat until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, until icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency (I added about 6 cups total). Use and store at room temperature. (Don’t refrigerate and it will last in a covered container for about three days.)
  4. Garnish with berries, if desired.

Recipe Source: adapted from You Got Served

74 Responses to Lemon Cake

  1. Dani says:


    I’ve been following your blog for I think at least 8 years. You never fail me. I love your recipes and you! I tried this cake tonight. I’m not the best baker especially with cakes. This made me look like a rockstar! It was so Delicious. My husband said this was my best cake to date.

  2. Leisel Morris says:

    Ooh! You were right! This doesn’t dissapoint. I added a layer of lemon curd! DIVINE! Seriously divine!

  3. Mel says:

    Hi Kim – I don’t have a homemade lemon cake mix recipe, unfortunately. It’s been years, I have to admit, since I’ve even made this one since I’m like you and don’t do the cake mix think anymore. Good luck on your search! I have a lemon cupcake recipe I’m trying out next week that I hope blows this lemon cake out of the water. We’ll see!

  4. kim says:

    I would love to try this cake out for my “surprise” Easter dessert as both my husband and my mother LOVE lemony cakey things. I am stubborn about not buying cake mix though (by the way, LOVE your from scratch home-made cake mix!). Do you have a home made lemon cake mix recipe or can you recommend a substitute? If not, no worries, I’ll prowl through some of your other yummy desserts. Thank you for your never-ending inspiratuion. I’ve loved everything I’ve tried from your site!

  5. Sandee says:

    I make all of my cakes similar to this now. I do 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup water though, same eggs, same sour cream, and throw in a small box of pudding that matches the flavor of the cake mix. The cakes and cupcakes always turn out so moist! I just follow the baking instructions on the box. For chocolate cake, I throw in chocolate chips too! Love the idea of the lemon frosting!! Thanks!! Love your blog!

  6. […] Recipe Source: Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe  […]

  7. Karen says:

    Hey Mel! These cupcakes rock. I already bought the ingredients to make them again. I put them on my blog: http://thefoodcharlatan.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/lemon-cupcakes/

  8. […] Source: ever so slightly adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe […]

  9. Jnl2211 says:

    Oh my, I’ve just invented the best lemon frosting 🙂 Just do the ‘magic’ frosting as usual, but sub out about 1/4 or more water for lemon juice, cook like normal, when cooled add 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract, and 1 tablespoon lemon zest(more or less depending on your taste). Then I took took out 4T butter and put cream cheese in place. I’m sure it would be good with just butter though. Holy cow!! Udderly delicious (pun intended 😉

  10. Mel says:

    Jnl2211 – to be honest, I haven’t made this cake in a long time. I remember loving the frosting but based on your description, I think you’d be much happier going the magical frosting route with the lemon zest.

  11. Jnl2211 says:

    I reall want to make this cake, but I’m so scared to try the frosting. I’m not one for sugary, gritty frosting and it sounds like a lot of powdered sugar. I was thinking about doing the “magical” frosting and adding zest and lemon extract, what do you think?

  12. Jnl2211 says:

    Yummy! I made this into cupcakes and filled them with a lemon mousse and did a whipped cream cheese frosting! So delicious!

  13. Megan says:

    Wonderful recipe! Very moist. I prefer this cake bundt style with a glaze made of powdered sugar, 1 or 1.5 c., and lemon juice to the desired consistentcy. I loved this when we made it as the recipe states but got even more rave reviews when we did it with the glaze. Thanks for another winner!

  14. Natalie P. says:

    I’m about to make this for a co-worker’s birthday so I looked up the problem about curdling frosting (for the person who had that problem before). Not sure if overly warm butter is the problem, but this link discusses the problem of curdling cream cheeses and butter in frosting.

    Thanks for the recipes!

  15. Nicole says:

    this looks like the perfect springy easter lemon counterpart to the classic “better than…chocolate cake” I found my Easter dessert! Thank you! I might try orange zest, fresh OJ and powdered sugar glaze to top though, just b/c I don’t have any lemons, and I’m not a butter frosting fan. Getting excited…

  16. MelanieL says:

    I made this on Friday for a co-worker’s birthday and it was awesome! Everyone loved it! I’m thinking about making it again for Mother’s Day. Thanks for another great recipe:)

  17. Jill says:

    Mel – So I made this for the inlaws on Thanksgiving because they are lemon crazy people, I’ve never really liked lemon flavored stuff. They loved it, I mean fought over it, they loved it so much. I’ve been told that is what I’m making this weekend for our early Christmas with them LOL. Thanks!!!! But really, me, who doesnt really like Lemon, loves this cake.

  18. Melanie says:

    Hey Melissa – glad this cake worked out a second time for you. Thanks for letting me know. And happy birthday to your little girl!

  19. Melissa Basua says:

    I made this cake for the second time yesterday for my daughters 1st birthday and it was a hit!! Everybody loved it! Thanks for all the great recipes!!

  20. Melanie says:

    Jan – thanks for checking in to let me know that you liked this! I loved the “lemony perfection” comment – that about sums it up. Good luck finishing off the rest of the frosting. 🙂

  21. Maria says:

    I never make box mixes, but I might have to cheat a little and make this one, the cake looks AMAZING!!!

  22. tabchoirfam says:

    I was excited to make this cake as I had some fresh lemons from a local grove, but as I am not a baker and have no idea what I am doing, I had some questions. I made the cake and it looked kind of weird after I took it out of the oven. I baked it in a 9×13 for 30 minutes and when it cooled it separated from the sides and sunk in the middle. Did it not bake long enough? Then the frosting got all grainy. It still tasted good but didn’t look right. My sister who went to culinary school mentioned that the fresh lemon juice curdled the butter and that is why it went grainy. She always uses lemon extract to combat that problem. Did others have this happen or just me? Thanks again for your generosity in sharing recipes!

  23. Amy and David Ziehl says:

    I can’t wait to try this one out Mel! I just may make it tonight!!! Yummy!

  24. Shelley in SC says:

    I’m having my parents over for dinner Sunday, and I’ve just found my dessert! Thanks so, soo much!!

  25. Julie Pia says:

    I made your lemon cake for Sunday dinner today and it was one of the best cakes I’ve EVER made. I used a citrus mousse for the filling of each layer. It was amazing and the cake was sooooo moist. One thing I did differently was I baked the cakes for about 25 minutes and then baked for another 20 minutes with a piece of tin foil over the top. They turned out perfectly. I was wondering where you live because I’m thinking the altitude or humidity had something to do with the bake time. Thanks again for all your wonderful recipes. I absolutely love your blog. It’s one of my favorites. loves….

  26. Queen B. says:

    Printing this off….must bake !THanks for your great recipes.You are the best ever.

  27. Beckey says:

    I made this cake yesterday and all I can say is YUM!

  28. Melanie says:

    Travis and Beckey – glad you liked it!! Thanks for checking back in to let me know!

  29. Melanie says:

    Natalie – ok, so I think you and I must be soulmates if you are willing to 1) eat cake for breakfast and 2) admit it. I love it!

  30. Melanie says:

    Anonymous – you sound like a master in the kitchen making all those changes and having a great result! I love knowing that the fat was reduced and the cake still turned out great. Thanks for letting me know.

  31. Loralee and the gang... says:

    My son Isaac just requested a lemon cake for his 9th birthday (it’s on the 21st). So this is the recipe I am going to use! I will bounce back and let you know how much everyone liked it – cuz I’m sure they will!:~D

  32. camille says:

    YUMMY! I will be making this weekend!

  33. Melanie says:

    DJ – what a fantastic idea to use raspberry jam in the layer. Delicious! Thanks for letting me know!

  34. Laura says:

    That sounds fabulous and those berries look delicious!

  35. The Bentley Family and Aussiemuminthekitchen says:

    You bet your butt I do it and admit it. LOL! What can I say I woke up, walked into the kitchen and it was sitting there on my counter top screaming my name. How could I not? That was some dang good cake!

  36. Melanie says:

    Lauren – that’s a great way to sum up this cake – it tastes like spring! Glad you liked it and thanks for letting me know.

  37. teresa says:

    Oh wow, this looks amazing!

  38. grace says:

    happy belated birthday–did i miss the announcecment? 🙂meanwhile, what a cake! i’m sure it’s just lucious, not unlike those plump, gorgeous berries!

  39. Wendie says:

    Cupcakes worked perfectly – they just required a little less baking time – more like 15 minutes. I halved the recipe for the frosting because I didn’t want tons left over. There was sufficient for all the cupcakes, unless you like your frosting really generous 🙂

  40. Lori says:

    Melanie, the cake was delish! I have no basis of comparison though but my hubby liked it and I ate A LOT of it! I sent some to my BFF and her hubby and she said her hubby especially loved it. Its on the menu for our 4th of July bbq! I had some frosting in the freezer though so I just used what I had but, I thought the cake was tasty.

    I’ve made so many of your recipes in such a short amount of time…I really love your blog and trust your taste buds!


  41. Melanie says:

    Lori – sorry it has taken me so long to respond but I’m hoping this cake worked out well for the 4th celebration! Thanks for your comment – I feel a kindred spirit to those who have similar taste buds as mine. 🙂

  42. DJ says:

    This was the hit to my Easter festivites! I did exactly as directed, (I did have to increase my cooking time…oven variance) and it was WONDERFUL. I added some raspberry freezer jam to my middle layer. YUM YUM!

  43. Christy says:

    Oh Melanie, this looks delicious! I love the berries on top-absolutely beautiful!!

  44. Melanie says:

    Tami – I’m glad you didn’t think the lemon frosting was too overpowering. It can be quite “zingy”! The lemon does make this a great Easter dessert, you are right.

  45. Melanie says:

    tabchoirfam – I’m sorry to hear this cake didn’t turn out well for you! I don’t have much advice for baking in a 9X13 pan since I’ve only made it in two round cake pans – mine didn’t sink in the middle, so maybe you are on to something with the baking time and perhaps it needed to be baked a few minutes longer. As for the frosting, I mixed the butter and four cups of the sugar together before adding the lemon juice and I’m wondering if that is why my frosting didn’t curdle. I’m glad you posted your comment so others can chime in if they have any input.

  46. Tami says:

    This was the perfect Easter dessert. The cake was so moist and the frosting was the perfect amount of sour. Loved it!

  47. Melanie says:

    Wendie – thanks for letting me know how cupcakes turned out! I’ve been wanting to make this recipe that way and I’m glad you were the guinea pig for me. 🙂

  48. The Bentley Family and Aussiemuminthekitchen says:

    I agree with Queen B. I’m printing this off right now and I’ll see if I can make it to the weekend without making it. Thanks for another great recipe!

  49. Melanie says:

    Anonymous – that’s not a silly question at all. You simply add the dry pudding mix in with the other dry ingredients so you don’t want to mix the pudding up beforehand. Let me know if you have any other questions. I’m glad you liked the cinnamon rolls, by the way!

  50. Melanie says:

    Anonymous – I don’t think it would be a problem to make this the day before but I would frost the cake and keep it tightly covered (like in a cake carrier or something) so it doesn’t dry out overnight. I definitely think it would work in a bundt cake pan but you might have to adjust the cooking time – I would check it after 30 minutes but it will probably take more like 40-45 minutes.

    Thanks for your comment – I’m glad you’ve liked the recipes you’ve tried!

  51. Melanie says:

    Cathy – I’m glad you checked back in because I haven’t heard from anyone that made these as cupcakes yet. So glad they worked out. Oh and by the way, I don’t know if we can be friends because I am REALLY jealous you have a lemon tree in your yard. 🙂

  52. Jan Russell says:

    I love lemony desserts, they are my favorite! Can’t wait to try this yummy looking cake!!!

  53. Melanie says:

    Anonymous – ok, I’m dying to know how the cake turned out with gelatin dessert and not pudding. Let me know!

  54. Melanie says:

    Julie – thanks for your nice comment. I’m so glad that you liked this cake – and what a fabulous idea to use citrus mousse for the layer filling. Delicious! You may be right about location affecting baking time – I live in a very dry climate at a high altitude and I’ve found that in comparing recipes with people that live in humid, near sea-level locations, baking time and even flour amounts can vary. Anyway, thanks for your tips and comment!

  55. Brig says:

    Hi Melanie, we have enjoyed stopping by and looking at all your recipes. There is an award for you over at our blog. Come on by some time to get it.

  56. Melanie says:

    Jennie – so how did it turn out? Hope you won over the judges!

  57. Abby says:

    Oh, this one would go over GREAT at work. I’m bookmarking it!

  58. Wok Through the Fire says:

    Wow this looks great! I’m working an a menu for a friend’s baby shower and this would be a delicious addition to the table 🙂

  59. VINCENT says:

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  60. Anonymous says:

    scratch that…I was just browsing your recipe list and I think this would be the seventh recipe!

  61. Jan says:

    Okay, I made this cake today and followed the recipe exactly. It was DELICIOUS, just absolute lemony perfection! LOVED the icing. Actually, I have a lot of it left over – close to half! I need to whip up some cupcakes or something because otherwise I might eat it all with a spoon! YUM!!!

  62. Natalie says:

    I made this cake for our Easter dessert and it was soooo delicious. You were right on the money with how moist it was. I am a total sucker for a moist cake of ANY kind. My whole family loved it. I ate 2 pieces for breakfast the next day too and dare I say it was even better and more moist. Thanks so much for sharing!

  63. Lauren says:

    I made this cake for Easter! It was absolutely that, Perfect! It tasted like Spring. Thank you for the recipe, it is a keeper!

  64. cathy says:

    I made these as cupcakes and they were fantastic. The lemon frosting is the BOMB!!! I’m glad I have a lemon tree in my yard…::::)Cathy

  65. Anonymous says:

    I made this in a bundt pan and substituted unsweetened applesauce for 1/4 c/ of the oil. I had reduced fat sour cream on hand so i used that. I made a cream cheese glaze to pour over top with 4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese 2 tbsp. or so fresh lemon juice, zest from 1 lemon, 1 tsp vanilla and enough powdered sugar to get the consistency of a thick glaze. It turned out great, tasted very rich and was super moist. You’d never miss all the fat in the original frosting with this version. It’s nice to know you can make a few lower fat changes and the cake is still delish!!

  66. jennie says:

    me again – – I just wanted to let you know that I’m making this tomorrow for my ward bake off … I hear two of the members of our judging bishopric have weaknesses for cake and citrus … I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

  67. Anonymous says:

    Silly question – do you make the pudding as directed on the box or just use the powder pudding mix? I’ve never commented before but love your blog & your recipes. I made your cinnamon rolls last weekend & they were absolutely amazing! Thanks so much for the awesome recipes!!!

  68. Anonymous says:

    Hi! Its too late at this point as the cake is in the oven, but I realized the lemon jell-o I purchased is not the pudding mix but the gelatin dessert! ugh…oh well, guess I’ll see how it turns out.


  69. Anonymous says:

    Hi! I think I am going to make this for our next bbq so I have two questions for you. Can I make these the day before, frosting and all (or should I frost the day of serving)? Also, would this work in a bundt cake? Just thinking it would be easier as opposed to frosting cupcakes or two cakes. If so, how long would I bake for?

    btw, this would be about the fourth or fifth recipe I’ve made from your blog! I love it!

  70. Rae says:

    Melanie-I know you posted this recipe forever ago, and I made it forever ago, but it is SO GOOD! That’s all. Just had to say that. 🙂 Because I’m making it again today….

  71. Melanie says:

    Rae – thank you for checking in on the lemon cake. I hope it was just as good the second time that you made it!

  72. jillian says:

    I’ve made this reciepe 3 times now and have decided that I like it best as cupcakes! I have put raspberry freezer jam in the middle of a double layer cake as well as frozen huckleberries on top of the cupcakes. I LOVE this cake! the frosting too!

  73. Melanie says:

    jillian – I’m glad to hear these work great as cupcakes, like others have mentioned. I’m definitely trying them like that next time. Glad you like them!

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