This lemon butter cake has a buttery lemon crust with a gooey filling packed with tart lemon flavour. It’s like a cross between a lemon bar and cheesecake. The filling sinks down into the crust when baking, creating an irresistible, gooey center. The cake is easy to make and is quite possibly one of my favourite lemon desserts.
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Why you will LOVE this recipe:
- Gooey: It has a gooey, creamy filling that’s tart and packed with lemon flavour.
- Buttery: The crust is buttery and zesty.
- Easy: The cake comes together easily without an electric mixer. The crust and filling couldn’t be easier to make and more impressive.
- Lemon: It’s packed with tart lemon flavour. No need for any lemon extracts.
Loads of lemon flavour without extract
I don't like the flavour of lemon extract so I've discovered an alternate way to get loads of lemon flavour naturally.
I like to rub together sugar and lemon zest with my fingers before adding everything else. The sugar helps to release all of that lemon oil in the zest. It'll start becoming pale yellow and maybe a touch clumpy.
It's actually a really satisfying sensory experience too!
How to get that gooey filling
The cake batter is topped with a cream cheese custard filling. As it bakes, the custard sinks into the middle of the cake, creating a gooey filling.
The lemon butter cake filling uses egg yolks to help thicken, which also helps make the middle a lemon yellow colour without using yellow food colouring. It makes it extra rich.
Just a few simple ingredients (plus lemon juice and zest) create a gooey filling that tastes like a cross between lemon bars and cheesecake.
Buttery lemon cake batter
The cake batter is packed with butter and lemon. It's tart, sweet, and slightly chewy from the butter. It puffs up in the oven then settles into a dense, moist cake with chewy edges. Almost like a lemon bar but much softer and cake-like.
Since it has lots of butter in it I recommend using a good quality real butter. Cultured butter will give the cake an even more complex flavour.
If you're using a springform baking pan, I recommend placing it on top of a cookie sheet to catch any butter that may drip out the bottom when baking. I forgot to and a few drops of butter dripped onto the bottom of my oven, setting off my smoke alarm.
You can make this into all different flavours! Check out this lime gooey butter cake. Just swap the lemon juice and zest with your citrus of choice:
- grapefruit gooey butter cake
- orange (or even blood orange) gooey butter cake
Make ahead & storage
For the best gooey texture, I recommend serving the cake warm out of the oven.
For a firmer texture, chill the cake for a few hours or overnight (like you would a cheesecake). Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
This lemon butter cake will keep well in the fridge (store in an airtight container or cake carrier) for up to 3 days. You can freeze slices in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Wrap them in parchment paper to prevent them from sticking in the freezer.
Full steps and ingredients in recipe card below. But read through these for all the tips you will need for success!
Lemons: Fresh lemons give the cake all the lemon flavour.
Cream cheese: Use full fat brick style cream cheese.
Powdered sugar: Don't replace this with granulated sugar or the filling will be gritty.
Egg yolks: This gives the filling a yellow colour and thickens the filling
Butter: The cake batter has lots of butter so use a good quality real butter for best flavour and results
All purpose flour: Weigh the flour to get the most accurate results. If you don’t have a scale, measure properly by stirring the bag and spooning gently into a measuring cup. Scrape the excess off the top with the flat edge off a knife without packing it into the cup.
Step by step: cake batter
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 340°F (170°C). Grease a 9” round springform pan with a small piece of butter. If using a regular round pan, make sure to line the bottom and sides with parchment paper to be able to lift it out easily.
Step 2 - Combine grated lemon zest, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using your fingers, rub the mixture until the sugar becomes fragrant and pale yellow.
Step 3 - Add the melted cooled butter, egg, lemon juice, and whisk to combine. Sift flour and baking powder into the same bowl. Gently fold with a spatula to make a thick batter.
Step 4 - Spread batter evenly into the greased baking pan.
How to make the gooey filling
Step 1 - Combine cream cheese and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Mix with a spatula to break up any lumps.
Step 2 - Add salt, egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Whisk until smooth and creamy. You can use an electric mixer but you don’t need to.
Step 3 - Pour the filling onto the batter. Place the baking pan onto a larger baking sheet (this will catch any butter leaking out of the bottom). Place into the middle of the oven.
Step 4 - Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the middle is puffed. If you see it browning too quickly, tent the top with a piece of aluminum foil.
Step 5 - Let cool for 10 minutes before releasing the sides of the pan or lifting out the cake. Slide it onto a serving plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve.
Yes, you can swap for lime, orange, blood orange, or even grapefruit. Use the rind and freshly squeezed juice.
Yes, you may have to add 5 minutes to the baking time since it'll be thicker and watch so it doesn't burn. Tent with foil if it starts getting too golden brown.
I haven't tried it and I don't recommend it. You can serve the cake with lemon curd if you like for even more lemon flavour. Check out these lemon curd filled cookies to use up your lemon curd.
You can bake this in an 8" or 9" square pan and cut into bars. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper, leaving handles on the sides to be able to lift it out.
Or you can bake in a regular pan (8" or 9" will work), and line the bottom and sides with one whole piece of parchment paper. Leave enough overhang off the sides to be able to lift it out in one piece.
No. It lacks all of that zesty lemon flavour that you get when you squeeze a fresh lemon.
You need lemon zest for this recipe anyways. Grate the zest first. Cut in half and then squeeze the juice.
You will need about 2-3 large lemons. It may vary depending on the size of your lemons.
Check out these other recipes:
Did you make this recipe? I would love for you to rate this recipe and hear what you think in the comments below! Share your creation on Instagram and tag @flouringkitchen. Follow me on Pinterest to save and for more recipe ideas.
Lemon Butter Cake
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 lemon zested
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1 cup unsalted butter melted and cooled
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice freshly squeezed (from about 1 ½ large lemons)
- 2 ¾ cups all purpose flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 8 oz cream cheese softened (full fat, brick style)
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice freshly squeezed (from about 1 large lemon)
- 1 lemon zested
- 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 340°F (170°C). Grease a 9” round springform pan with a small piece of butter. If using a regular round pan, line the bottom and sides with parchment paper to be able to lift it out easily.
- Combine grated lemon zest, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using your fingers, rub the mixture until the sugar becomes fragrant and pale yellow.1 ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 lemon, ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Add the egg, lemon juice, and melted cooled butter. Whisk to combine.1 large egg, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 cup unsalted butter
- Sift flour and baking powder into the same bowl. Gently fold with a spatula to make a thick batter. Spread batter evenly into the greased baking pan.2 ¾ cups all purpose flour, 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- Combine softened cream cheese and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Mash with a spatula to break up any lumps.8 oz cream cheese, 2 cups powdered sugar
- Add salt, egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Whisk until smooth and creamy. You can use an electric mixer but you don’t need to.⅛ teaspoon sea salt, 2 large egg yolks, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 lemon
- Pour the filling on top of the batter. Place the baking pan onto a larger baking sheet (this will prevent butter leaking out of the bottom). Place into the middle of the oven.
- Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the middle is puffed. If you see it browning too quickly, tent the top with a piece of aluminum foil.
- Let cool for 10 minutes before releasing the sides of the pan or lifting out the cake. Slide it onto a serving plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately for extra gooey-ness or chill for a firmer texture.4 tablespoons powdered sugar
This cake is CRAZY DELICIOUS!! It’s like a lemon tart/cake/brulee. Gooey, chewy, lemony, not too sweet - absolutely divine & a total showstopper of a dessert. Thank you!
so happy you liked them, thank you so much!
I LOVED this recipe. I shared with friends and they also loved it. This is a must bake.
This cake is beautiful! Any tips on reheating in the oven after being in the refrigerator? Temp and time? Thank you for the recipe!
Hi! Pop it in a cold oven and heat it to 210F (100C). Leave it in there for about 5-8 minutes or until the top of the cake feels warm. Be careful you don't want to bake it a second time! Or you can heat it up gently in the microwave.
I made it per recipe in a springform pan. So good!! I’m thinking about making it as a pie. I may go with a little thinner crust, but it was soo good refrigerated next day. Anyone try it as a pie?🍋 🥧
I made this dessert for the first time to take to a girl’s night in. It was a big hit! It’s so easy and delicious. The crust, gooey filling and creamy cheesecake topping. Perfection! A definite make-again favorite.
Great cake for all the lemon lovers like me! But can I just say, I LOVE that you have the ingredients you need & amount needed under each step in the recipe…. It’s the first time I’ve seen someone do that and it is SO SO helpful & convenient, THANK YOU!
100% agree with how useful it is to have the ingredient measures at each step. Absolutely genius move which makes this so easy to prepare.
This cake is absolutely delicious. Made it for dinner guests and everyone loved it. I am saving this recipe and will make this again 100%
I can’t seem to get your contact….the cake looks fabulous, two questions,I have to freeze this for two months, will the soft centre work in freezing? Second question, can you really use a cake mix? Would you follow the box directions and then add the filling, and wouldn’t their cake mix be to high for the pan?
I haven't tried using cake mix, you'd have to take that risk upon yourself. The cake batter recipe is so easy to make that a cake mix honestly won't save you much time. It will freeze well, just let it come to room temperature and then heat it up gently so that the filling becomes extra gooey.
I know there’s an option for metric on your recipe, but do you go by weight to measure your flour? Everyone uses a different weight for their cup of flour, and I was wondering if you actually go by 120g/cup or if you use something different
Hi! I go by 120g a cup, I actually only measure my flour with a scale for consistent results. Hope that helps!
I live at high altitude. Do I need to make any adjustments?
I haven't tried making it in high altitude and I don't know anyone who has. Check out this website with adjustments for high altitude baking. If you try it out let us know how it went!
Hi, I'm wondering if the center is going to be Wiggly?
Yes, it'll be wiggly when it comes out of the oven and will set as it cools so you can slice it and it will hold its shape.
It’s in the oven now. Very easy to whip up and I have used 2 big oranges. Will let you know. I live in Italy so flour is different quality here!!
Hi Susan! You used oranges? How did it turn out?
So yummy!! Made this this afternoon. My husband walked in from mowing and commented how good it smelled. It wasn't even in the oven yet. We just had some warm from the oven. Absolutely delicious!
So happy you liked it, thank you for making it! 😀
I made it and even though I have a sweet tooth, it was very sweet. I already published on my FB because people asked me about the recipe, but I recommend the following, 1 cup of granulated sugar instead of 1 1/2 and the filling 1 cup maybe 1 1/2 of powdered sugar. I might repeat it with those changes. Thank You. It is mouth watering.
Glad you made it and hope it works out with reduced sugar too! 😀
Absolutely loved this recipe and the tip of rubbing on the zest into the sugar! I had this both warm and cold the next day and both were delicious. I did slightly prefer it warm though and tried warming it up for 10-15 seconds in the microwave and that worked out well. The filling is creamy and lemony while the cakes part reminds me of a delicious lemon cookie cake. I may try serving it with a blueberry sauce next time… bc there will 100% be a next time!
Thank you so much, so happy you liked it! That's a great tip about rewarming in the microwave, thank you for sharing 😀
Has this been made as keto friendly with almond flour and confectioners erythritol? Just wondering if it’s been done successfully before trying it out.
I've never tried it and have no idea if it will work out! If you do try it, let us know if it works out and what ingredients you used 😀
Could I use a lemon cake mix
I haven't tried it but it should work! Just follow the instructions on the packet but follow the baking instructions in this recipe (so that the filling sets)
Could I add fresh blueberries to the lemon filling? Thanks!
I tried adding fresh strawberries into the filling and it didn't work at all. I'm still working on developing a strawberry version but it needs loads of adjusting. I have no idea if blueberries will work out, I might test that out at some point in the near future. Maybe top it with fresh blueberries after baking for now - or you could always risk it and try! Let us know how it goes if you do 😀
Can this dish be made with gluten free flour?
Hi, I haven't tried it myself but it should work! Use 1:1 gluten free flour. If you try it, please let us know how it went in the comments!
I made this with 1:1 gluten free four and it was fabulous!
HI Ali! Can I ask please, what brand of gluten free 1:1 flour did you use? In my pantry I have Pillsbury, King Arthur and Cup 4 Cup here at home. But they all seem to give different results depending on what I'm baking. Anyway, hope you see this message, thanks in advance! And FlouringKitchen this recipe looks amazing! I think because there's no leavening it lends itself to experimenting with gluten free, I'm excited to try!
A real hit amongst my family. They LOVE LOVE LOVED IT!! 10/10
I'm so happy you all loved them, thank you so much!:D
Loving the brigerton tea vibes. Absolutely love lemons definitely adding to my favourites
Thank you so much! 😀
Any chance I could make these in large - and lined- muffin pans ? (Wanted to be able to bake and pack for homeless lunches I make.)
Hi, I'm not sure how to adjust the baking time on these. You can definitely try! An easier method might be to bake it in one 8" or 9" square pan and cut it into bars (squares) once they cool. Baking time remains the same. You can put the cut squares onto muffin liners so that they're easy to handle. Hope that helps, and please let me know if you end up making them 😀
Honestly, as a lemon dessert lover, this is one of my favourite lemon dessert recipes of all time. Everything from the different textures of the crust to the gooey centre is just so heavenly!
So happy you loved it, thank you so much!!
Since this gorgeous cake rises any chance u can make in a tart tin with removable bottom?
I don't think it would be a good idea unless it has tall sides. It does rise up in the oven! Otherwise yes, you can definitely use a tart pan.