This citrus-intense, Lemon Sheet Cake is calling all lemon lovers to the yard. Whip up this super easy lemon cake that’s bursting with fresh lemon flavor, and paired with a tangy, silky-smooth lemon cream cheese frosting to finish! Such a bright sweet treat that has an extra tender, moist crumb…a perfect dessert that feeds a crowd!

lemon sheet cake slice on small white plate with bite taken out

It’s citrus season, y’all!!! Gahhh, I love it so much! If you’ve been kicking it with me for a while, you already know how much I love lemony things. Be it savory, sweet, or cocktails/drinks…gimme dat lemon. This lemon sheet cake made its debut on the website a few years ago, and I’m so excited to have given it a whole makeover. If you enjoy lemon-flavored desserts, pull up, lemme tempt ya!

Homemade Lemon Sheet Cake 🍋

This cake is beaming with bright lemon flavor and a moist, tender crumb. You’ll love the pops of fresh lemon notes all throughout this stunner. It’s a cake that’s great for parties, gatherings, and more as it feeds a crowd, yay. But wait, there’s more! This beauty is finished with a dreamy frosting to seal the deal. It’s full of buttery-tang, lemon (obvi), and perfectly sweet with no cloying vibes.

More recipes: jamaican beef patties, my fave gluten-free chocolate cake, these fluffy brioche doughnuts, the best brown butter rice krispie treats, instant pot bbq pulled pork, and this caribbean rum cake– oh ya.

close up of lemon icing with Meyer lemon garnishes

There’s something special about a sheet cake. Over the years, readers have shared that they made this lemon cake recipe for special occasions like birthday parties, gatherings, and even a wedding! Yes y’all, a whole entire wedding, ha…Food is love made edible, and this sheet cake has that communal touch ♡

What You’ll Need For This Recipe

(Note: the full ingredients list, including measurements, is provided in the recipe card directly below.)

  • For the lemon cake: unsalted butter, granulated sugar, eggs, lemon zest + lemon juice, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk.
  • For the lemon cream cheese frosting: cream cheese, unsalted butter, lemon zest + lemon juice, and powdered sugar.

Ingredient Spotlight: Cake Flour!

Not all flour is the same, so let’s take a moment to discuss. Cake flour is considered a fine-textured, soft flour having a lower protein content than traditional all-purpose flour. Cake flour has a 7-8 protein percentage. Meanwhile, all-purpose flour has about 10-12 percent. ⇢ The lower the protein content (less gluten)- the more tender, light, and airy baked goods will be.

For the most luscious, tender-crumb cakes, I recommend using cake flour.

But can I use all-purpose flour as a sub? Yes, all-purpose flour can be used as a sub here. However, for cakes that are *chef’s kiss*, use cake flour, homies 👌🏾

ingredients for lemon sheet cake laid out on marbled pink surface

Lemon Sheet Cake- how to make it:

(Note: please see the recipe card directly below for the complete written instructions.)

⇢ This lemon cake recipe comes together so easily, let’s see:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray. Then line the pan with a piece of parchment paper with a bit of overhang on the sides, and spray again. Then set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk to combine. With the mixer on the lowest speed, gradually add the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, beating until just combined after each addition. Empty the cake batter into the prepared baking pan and evenly spread the batter, smoothing the top as needed.
  • Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Then transfer the cake to a wire rack and let the cake cool completely before frosting.
lemon cream cheese frosting in glass bowl

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- oh la la:

Okay, now let’s get into this frosting thooo. The lemon cream cheese frosting pairs so nicely with this lemon cake! It’s silky-smooth with a tang from the cream cheese and a punch of fresh lemon zest + juice. It’s luscious, light, and full of flavor- perfect for slathering on top of this lemon sheet cake!

How to make this lush frosting with a quickness:

  • Beat the cream cheese and butter together until light and creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Add lemon zest + lemon juice and continue beating until combined. Then add in the powdered sugar and continue beating until the frosting is well combined and smooth.

Garnishing & Decorating Your Lemon Cake

The fun + festive part! Here are some ways to make that cake extra pretty:

  • Lemon zest, lemon curls/spirals
  • Thinly-sliced lemon, chopped lemon pieces
  • Candied lemon slices (love the ones from Trader Joe’s!)
  • Dehydrated lemon wheels
  • A few swirls/dollops of lemon curd
  • Sprinkles
  • Fresh mint
  • Edible flowers
  • …or keep it plain as-is, it’s still equally delicious!

I love a simple garnish of fresh lemon zest and lemon slices- meyer lemons (my fave!) are pictured in the images shown for this lemon sheet cake 😍

slice of lemon cake on small white plate

Tips + Tricks, FAQs & More

You may have additional questions about this lemon sheet cake recipe. Like other recipes, I always advise sticking to the recipe as it is written in the recipe card directly below. However, here’s some extra info you might find helpful:

  • Spray the pan & use parchment paper– Spray and line your 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a bit of overhang on the sides, and spray again. This ensures that the parchment paper adheres well to the pan, acts as a double measure against any sticking, and can easily be lifted out of the pan.
  • Beat the butter/sugar well– You’ll want to cream these ingredients together very well until they achieve a light and fluffy texture, about 3 minutes.
  • Alternating the flour/buttermilk– This method has to do with gluten development. When you add the flour in stages with the buttermilk, the process allows the flour to bind with the fat (butter) and prevents the formation of gluten when the buttermilk is added in. The alternating process is to minimize any gluten formation, science 🤝 baking.
  • Using different pans– I developed this recipe using a 9×13-inch baking pan, and it gives the cake slices more height and plushness. However, you can use a traditional sheet pan (about 18×13 inches), commonly referred to as a half sheet pan. With this pan, the cake batter will spread out more, creating thinner slices of cake. If using, I recommend baking at the same temperature (350°F) with less baking time, about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Storing Leftover Cake

This lemon cake will keep fresh when stored inside of an airtight container (those cake domes are excellent!) for 4-5 days in the refrigerator. If you’d like, you can keep it on the counter (covered for freshness) for about 3 days. You can even freeze this sheet cake, too! To freeze, wrap leftover cake in plastic wrap, first. Then cover the plastic wrapped cake completely in foil. It will keep in the freezer for about 2 months. Allow the cake to thaw overnight in the fridge.

slice of lemon cake on small white plate with bite taken out

This Lemon Sheet Cake is one of my top favorites on the site to date. Such a delicious must-make for citrus season! Be sure to tag @butterbeready in your BBR recipe creations, I sure love to see it when you do. Until next time! 🤟🏾

Love lemon-inspired eats? Don’t miss:

*This post was originally published on 5/9/2018 and updated as of 1/25/2023.

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lemon sheet cake slice on small white plate with bite taken out

Lemon Sheet Cake (for a crowd!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 4 reviews
  • Author: Quin Liburd
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 1620 1x
  • Category: Desserts & Sweets
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American
Save Recipe

Description

This citrus-intense, Lemon Sheet Cake is calling all lemon lovers to the yard. Whip up this super easy lemon cake that’s bursting with fresh lemon flavor, and paired with a tangy, silky-smooth lemon cream cheese frosting to finish! Such a bright sweet treat that has an extra tender, moist crumb…a perfect dessert that feeds a crowd!


Ingredients

Scale

For the lemon cake:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 small lemon, zested & juiced
  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted if lumpy
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole buttermilk

For the lemon cream cheese frosting:

  • 1 (8-ounce) block full-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 small lemon, zested & juiced
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

For the lemon cake:

  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray. Then line the pan with a piece of parchment paper with a bit of overhang on the sides, and spray again. This ensures that the parchment paper adheres well to the pan and acts as a double measure against any sticking- then set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs, lemon zest + lemon juice- stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk to combine. With the mixer on the lowest speed, gradually add the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, beating until just combined after each addition. Empty the cake batter into the prepared baking pan and evenly spread the batter, smoothing the top as needed.
  4. Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Then transfer the cake to a wire rack and let the cake cool completely before frosting.

For the lemon cream cheese frosting:

  1. Beat the cream cheese and butter together until light and creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Add lemon zest + lemon juice and continue beating until combined. Then add in the powdered sugar and continue beating until the frosting is well combined and smooth.
  2. Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting over the cake. Then slice cake into wedges and garnish with thinly-sliced lemon, candied lemon slices, and/or extra lemon zest/peels, if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. Storing leftovers: This lemon cake will keep fresh when stored inside of an airtight container (those cake domes are excellent!) for 4-5 days in the refrigerator. If you’d like, you can keep it on the counter (covered for freshness) for about 3 days. You can even freeze this sheet cake, too! To freeze, wrap leftover cake in plastic wrap, first. Then cover the plastic wrapped cake completely in foil. It will keep in the freezer for about 2 months. Allow the cake to thaw overnight in the fridge.
  2. Please read the blog post in its entirety for more tips + tricks.