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I have a recipe that’ll make your taste buds tango and your heart do a little lemony jig. A dreamy Lemon Sheet Cake that’s as bright and cheerful as a summer’s day, with easy lemon cake recipe and a tangy, lip-smacking lemon buttercream frosting that’ll have you reaching for seconds (or thirds, I won’t judge!). Mixes up in 15 minutes in one bowl and it’s ready to be baked!
Calling all lemon lovers today with this citrusy goodness of this homemade Lemon Sheet Cake recipe! Trust me, it’s like bottling up sunshine and turning it into a slice of pure delight. If you love lemon desserts like I do, then I know you’re going to love this cake recipe.
To kickstart our lemony adventure, you will need some basic baking ingredients, plus some fresh lemons of course! No lemon extract here, friend it’s fresh lemon zest and lemon juice!
What I think I love about this moist lemon cake, besides the amazing lemon flavor is the fact that it mixes up and the cake batter is ready to be poured into your 9×13 pan. Once the cake is in the oven, magic starts to happen. The batter slowly rises and transforms into a golden masterpiece, while the scent of warm lemon fills the air.
After patiently waiting for it to cool, I whip up a tangy lemon buttercream frosting with even more lemony goodness. The frosting is like the lemon cake’s partner in crime, adding an extra layer of lip-puckering delight that perfectly complements the tender crumb and delicate citrus flavor. Trust me, the combination of fluffy lemon-infused cake and that tangy frosting is a match made in lemon heaven!
So grab your aprons, unleash your inner citrus artist, and let’s dive headfirst into this sunny slice of heaven. Get ready to pucker up and get baking. You are going to love this lemony sheet cake!
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Why You Will Love This Homemade Lemon Sheet Cake Recipe
- No Fancy Decorating Needed! – It’s what I love most about about sheet cake recipes is the ease of decorating compared to layered cakes. You just need a spatula to frost this cake and it’s ready in minutes once it’s baked. No fancy layers, crumb coats, or piping bags needed!
- Lots of Citrus Flavor! – Made with fresh lemon zest and lemon juice in both the cake and frosting, it’s bursting with fresh citrus flavor!
- Great Make Ahead Dessert – You can make this cake ahead of time, store it in the fridge, or even freeze the leftovers when that lemon craving hits!
- One Bowl Recipe – Hooray for less dishes! I made this lemon sheet cake in one mixing bowl and then it’s ready to be baked!
For the lemon cake:
- Sugar– This is key to not only sweetening your cake but also to tenderize it as well. I used granulated sugar.
- Butter– I used salted butter, but unsalted butter will also work. Just add a pinch of salt.
- Eggs– Room-temperature eggs are a must so they blend in easily to your batter otherwise they will seize up the butter.
- Milk– I used whole milk for richness, but any milk will work.
- Lemon Juice– You can use fresh lemon juice from a lemon or store-bought juice
- Lemon Zest– You will need 1 whole lemon for the lemon zest.
- Flour– I used regular all purpose flour for this cake, which I think created the perfect texture for this cake. Make sure you are measuring your flour correctly so you don’t end up with a dense cake. I recommend weighing for best accuracy, or you can read more here about How To Measure Flour
- Baking Powder– This is what will leaven your cake, or help it to rise. Be sure your baking powder is fresh, and hasn’t expired. To check it, put a teaspoon of it in a small bowl of hot water If it bubbles, you’re all set! If not, throw it out and get a new container.
- Baking Soda– Baking Soda works with Lemon Juice to help the cake rise. Baking soda and baking powder are different, so do not mix them up!
For the buttercream:
- Butter- I used unsalted butter in my frosting so the frosting wasn’t too salty. Different brands will use varying amounts of salt in their salted butter, so it’s best to use unsalted butter so you can control the amount of salt. You can read more here about Unsalted Butter Vs. Salted Butter In Baking. Make sure you’re using softened butter before you begin.
- Confectioners Sugar- You need confectioners sugar (or powdered sugar) for the buttercream frosting. I don’t sift my sugar anymore but just make sure to whip it long enough. If you don’t have any powdered sugar, make some at home in your food processor with granulated sugar!
- Heavy Cream– To thin out your frosting and add a bit of richness and creaminess. But milk or half and half also works!
- Lemon Juice– Fresh lemon juice is best, but store-bought works fine too.
- Vanilla Extract– Again this helps to make for the perfect flavor. Pure vanilla is best for flavor but vanilla extract works too.
How to Make Lemon Sheet Cake
Preheat Oven and Prepare Baking Dish
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180oC). Grease a 9×13 inch cake pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray (or nonstick baking spray) and set aside. Or you can also line with parchment paper for easy removal.
Combine Butter and Sugar
Use an electric hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. I like to use my stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment but a hand mixer also work.
Add Eggs, Milk, and Lemon Juice.
Add the eggs, milk, and lemon juice to the butter mixture and continue mixing until the batter is homogenous.
Add Dry Ingredients.
Add the baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest, and flour. Slowly whisk in the flour mixture until no clumps of flour remain in the cake batter.
Transfer the lemon sheet cake batter to the baking dish, and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until you can cleanly remove a toothpick from the center of the cake.
Let the Cake Cool.
Let the cake cool completely in the prepared baking pan on a wire rack before frosting.
For the Lemon Frosting:
Combine Butter and Lemon Zest.
To make the frosting, in a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and lemon zest together on medium speed for about 1-2 minutes.
Add Powdered Sugar.
Then add in the powdered sugar, with the mixer off 1/2 cup at a time. And the mix on low until combined.
Then increase the speed for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
Add Heavy Cream, Lemon Juice, and Vanilla.
Add the heavy cream, lemon juice, and vanilla. Mix on low until combined. It may curdle at this point but will smooth out during mixing.
Continue Mixing and Spread on Sheet Cake.
Mix for 8 minutes until light and fluffy. Top the lemon cake with the lemon frosting, slice, serve, and enjoy!
- Be sure to measure your flour correctly. Over-measured flour can result in a tough dense lemon cake as apposed to the light and fluffy one that we want. So be sure to scoop and level the flour into your cup. For a full nerdy tutorial on measuring flour you can read this post.
- Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. Room-temperature ingredients will just play nicely together. You want everything incorporated into one smooth batter.
- Check Those Leavening Agents. This cake relies on your baking powder for it to rise. So make sure your baking powder is fresh! If you are not sure, then test a teaspoon of it out into a bowl of warm water. It should bubble. If it doesn’t then it’s time to throw it out and buy some new stuff.
- Do Not Overmix The Flour Mixture. Once you have added the dry ingredients to the bowl, you want to make sure to not mix the batter too much. The more you mix the ingredients at this point, the tougher the cake will be come in the end. So once the last of the flour mixture has been mixed in, stop mixing.
- Cool cake completely. Make sure your cake is completely cooled before you frost, or your frosting will melt if you spread onto a warm cake.
- Add Lemon Slices to this Lemon Sheet Cake. You can add a sliced lemon or a bit of lemon zest as a fun garnish to this delicious cake.
- Add More Lemon. For some extra flavor, you can add the lemon zest of two lemons instead of one to this sheet cake.
- Make It Sweeter. This sheet cake is soft and moist with plenty of lemon flavor. If you want to add some sweetness to balance the zest of the lemon, you can use vanilla buttercream frosting instead of lemon frosting.
- Serve with fresh berries. For a pop of color and sweetness, serve with some berries like raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries!
- Add Lemon Curd – Spread on some lemon curd before frosting the cake for even more lemon flavor.
- Serve with whipped cream – For a bit lighter bite, instead of the frosting, you could serve with a dollop of homemade whipped cream.
This sheet cake will last several days at room temperature. Make sure to cover any leftover cake well with plastic wrap. You can store the lemon sheet cake in the fridge, but it might dry it out a bit.
You can also freeze cake slices of this lemon sheet cake for up to 3 months. Just thaw at room temperature before serving.
Yes, this lemon sheet cake can be made into a layered cake. Just divide the batter into two 8-inch round cake pans and bake for about 38 minutes.
Yes divide the batter into a cupcake pan lined with cupcake liners. Fill each cup about 3/4 full and bake for about 20 minutes. This cake batter will make about 24 cupcakes.
More Recipes to Try
For the cake:
- 2 cups (400 g) white granulated sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks, 226 g) salted butter, *see note
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup (240 ml) milk
- ¼ cup (60 ml) lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest about 1 large lemon
- 3 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/4 cups (283 g, 2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 4 cups (452 g) confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Make the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with butter or nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- Use an electric hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.
- Add the eggs, milk, and lemon juice and continue mixing until the batter is homogenous. Scrape down bowl as needed.
- Add the baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest, and flour. Slowly whisk in the dry ingredients until no clumps of flour remain in the cake batter.
- Transfer the batter to the baking dish and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until you can cleanly remove a toothpick from the center of the cake. Cool the cake on a wire rack before frosting.
Make the lemon frosting:
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and zest together on medium speed for about 1-2 minutes.
- Then add in the powdered sugar, with the mixer off 1/2 cup at a time. And the mix on low until combined.
- Then increase the speed for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add the heavy cream, lemon juice, and vanilla. Mix on low until combined. It may curdle at this point but will smooth out during mixing.
- Mix for 8 minutes until light and fluffy.
- When ready to use, with a pastry bag and tip attached, pipe the frosting on each cupcake. frosting:
- Lemon flavor: You can add a sliced lemon or a bit of lemon zest as a fun garnish to this delicious cake. For some extra lemon flavor, you can add the zest of two lemons instead of one.
- Storage: Store your leftover cake in the fridge covered for up to 4 days or on the counter for up to 3 days, in an airtight container. You can also freeze this cake for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before serving.
- Salted butter: You can use salted butter or use unsalted butter with a pinch of salt.
- Baking Pan: If using a glass pan instead of metal pan, you may need to bake for a few additional minutes.
- Layer cake: Divide the batter into two 8-inch round cake pans and bake for about 38 minutes. For frosting, you may need to double the batch for enough to cover a layer cake.
- Cupcakes: Divide the batter into a cupcake pan lined with cupcake liners. Fill each cup about 3/4 full and bake for about 20 minutes. This cake batter will make about 24 cupcakes.