Lemon cheesecake cake is the kind of cake we dream about. This brightly flavored sweet, yet tart cake is a delicious show-stopping dessert perfect for Father’s Day, birthdays, or anytime you want a special ending to your meal.
Cheesecake Factory copycat
Inspired by the Lemoncello Cream Torte at the Cheesecake Factory, our lemon cheesecake cake has all the fabulous lemon components you could imagine. We use fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to create our billowy lemon cheesecake filling. The fresh juice and zest again go into our lemon curd. The cake, a moist flavorful vanilla cake, makes a great base for these fillings. Creamy lemon butter cream frosting (made with, you guessed it, fresh lemon juice and lemon zest) tops the cake!
Vanilla cake recipe
Light and fluffy, the vanilla cake base is a delicate balance to the tart lemon fillings and frosting. The entire dessert tastes of lemon even though the cake is actually a more neutral vanilla.
We personally love to use doctored cake mixes as a base for many of our cakes. For this vanilla cake we like Duncan Hines white cake mix. We add sour cream, buttermilk and vanilla to the mix along with egg whites and oil. If you have more time and prefer a scratch cake, try our homemade vanilla white cake recipe here:
We baked this cake in 3 (6-inch round cake pans). We like the taller, slightly narrower look.
How to prepare cake pans
- Trace the pans onto parchment paper and cut to fit. Lightly grease bottom of pans and fit in parchment paper.
- Pour batter into cake pans.
- Bake 20-24 minutes at 350 degrees or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. (Bake a 9x13-inch cake 23-27 minutes.)
While the cake is baking, prepare the lemon curd (or purchase a jar), the lemon cheesecake filling, and the lemon butter cream frosting.
Our lemon curd is a delicious blend of eggs, lemons and butter. Sometimes we skip this step and purchase a jar of prepared lemon curd. We like the Trader Joe’s brand of lemon curd best. The recipe for lemon curd is below.
Lemon cheesecake filling
This lemon cheesecake filling is smooth, rich and delicious. I could eat this luscious cheesecake by the spoonful! The filling includes cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. Refrigerate the cheesecake until ready to use.
Lemon buttercream frosting
Buttercream atop this cake features butter, shortening, lemons, powdered sugar, vanilla and a bit of almond extract. It’s fluffy and full of sweet-tart flavor. Keep the bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
How to assemble the cake
- Remove round cakes from baking pans to cool. When cooled, wrap each cake in plastic wrap and freeze at least one hour. It's easier to frost frozen cake.
2. Spread a layer of lemon curd over the first layer.
3. Pipe a ring of buttercream frosting around the edges of cake to hold the filling in. (This can be done before adding the filling).
4. Spread a layer of lemon cheesecake filling over the lemon curd.
5. Place second layer on cake.
6. Pipe a ring of buttercream frosting around the edges; spread lemon curd over cake; spread lemon cheesecake filling over lemon curd.
Finally place third layer on cake, then poke 3 skewers or straws through cake from top to bottom to keep layers from sliding. Trip top edges of straws/skewers even with top of cake.
On third layer, spread top with lemon butter cream frosting. You can leave it like this for a completely naked cake. We prefer to frost sides of cake, then scrape sides with a cake scraper or spatula to reveal layers.
What is a naked cake?
We made this lemon cheesecake cake a “naked cake.” Just what is a naked cake? It’s a layer cake that’s decorated with little to no frosting on its' sides. It’s been a big trend over the last decade, specifically in wedding cakes. The naked cake trend started with Christina Tosi at Milk Bar in NYC in 2014 and its popularity quickly spread.
How to frost a naked cake
- After stacking and filling your cake, top the cake by frosting it (typically with butter cream frosting). You can leave the layers completely exposed, or spread a layer of frosting over the entire cake.
- After frosting the sides, scrape off most of the frosting with a cake scraper or metal spatula.
- Make sure the entire cake has frosting which will help keep the cake from drying out.
- Leave a thin layer of frosting on the cake, and make sure it is coated evenly.
Let the cake set
Chill the cake at least 4 hours in refrigerator before adding frosting on sides so the cheesecake filling can set up. Cut cake while very cold with a long, thin, sharp knife.
We know this cake has a lot of parts. But it’s worth it, we promise! If you need to cut your prep time, try baking the cake in a 9 x 13-inch pan and cutting it in squares. You still get all the deliciousness, it's the easiest way to frost and assemble, and it works well for a potluck or bbq. Spread the layers over cake in this order: cake, lemon curd, lemon cheesecake filling, lemon butter cream over top.
We’re really excited about this cake! Honestly, I dreamed about it for weeks before finally putting it together. It’s bursting with refreshing lemon, not too rich, or too overpowering, but a blend of complementary flavors we think you’ll want to create again and again.
You Might Also Like These Refreshing Lemon Recipes!
- Lemon Angel Pie
- Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream--No Churn
- Orange Lemon Banana Homemade Ice Cream
- Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon Cheesecake Cake
- 1 Duncan Hines white cake mix OR our homemade vanilla white cake
- 4 egg whites
- ⅔ cup sour cream
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- ⅓ cup oil
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla
For Lemon Curd (Use 1 jar lemon curd or use our lemon curd recipe below)
- 1 egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons butter melted
- zest of 3 lemons
For Lemon Cheesecake Filling
- 2 8 ounce blocks cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 can 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
- ¼ cup lemon juice about 2 lemons
- zest of 3 lemons
For Lemon Buttercream frosting
- 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
- 1 cup 2 sticks butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 8- cups sifted confectioner’s powdered sugar
- ¼ cup milk or cream
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- zest of 2 lemons
- 1. Prepare 3 (6-inch round cake pans) by lightly wiping pan with shortening then placing cut-to-fit rounds of parchment paper inside each pan.
- Place all ingredients in a medium-large size mixing bowl. Mix at slow speed for 2 minutes to combine ingredients. Then mix 2 more minutes at medium speed to mix well.Distribute cake batter evenly between each pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20-24 minutes or until cake springs back and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
For Lemon Curd
1. Whisk together eggs, egg yolks, and sugar for 2 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow.
2. Whisk in cornstarch and salt, making sure there are no lumps.
3. Whisk in lemon juice, water, and lemon zest until fully incorporated.
4. In a mixing bowl set over pan of water (like a double boiler) OR heavy sauce pan, pour mixture in and place over medium heat. Whisk mixture continuously for 7 minutes, scraping down the sides every 30 seconds or so. The mixture should deepen in color and become very thick. Cut butter in small pieces and let it melt into mixture.
5. Remove from heat and whisk for 1 minute more. Pour in bowl; wrap in plastic wrap and chill in fridge for 1 hour.
For lemon cheesecake filling
- Place cream cheese in large mixing bowl and beat 1-2 minutes to soften.Slowly add sweetened condensed milk to cream cheese and continue beating 1-2 minutes.
- Add lemon juice and lemon zest and beat until light and fluffy.Place in covered bowl in refrigerator until ready to use.
For Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- In a large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla & almond extract.
- Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.
- Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.
To assemble cake
- Spread a layer of lemon curd, then a layer of lemon cheesecake over first and second layers.
- Place third layer on cake, then poke 3 skewers or straws through cake from top to bottom to keep layers from sliding. Trim top edges of straws/skewers even with top of cake. Chill cake at least 4 hours in refrigerator before frosting.
- After chilling, spread lemon buttercream frosting on top and then frost sides of cake.
- Scrape sides of cake with a cake scraper or spatula to reveal layers and make a “naked cake.”
For ¼ sheet cake (9 x 13 inch pan)
- Follow directions for cake above. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch pan. Pour batter in cake pan and smooth evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 23-25 minutes.
- When cooled, spread the following layers over cake in this order: cake, lemon curd, lemon cheesecake filling, lemon butter cream over top. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting with a thin, sharp knife.
- Chill cake at least 4 hours in refrigerator before frosting so the cheesecake filling can set up. Cut cake while very cold with a long, thin, sharp knife.
- You can make a two layer cake by using 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Frost first layer with lemon curd and lemon cheesecake, then frost top and sides of cake with lemon butter cream.
- Frosting recipe yields 3 cups of frosting.