Lemon Sheet Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Sunny, springy weather calls for an all-yellow, all-lemon dessert.
Publish date:
lemon sheet cake with buttercream frosting

Recipe by Jessie Sheehan

Start to Finish: 2 hours, 45 minutes

Servings: 16 to 20



  • 2 cups cake flour, sifted

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 tsp. baking powder

  • 3/4 tsp. salt

  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 1/4 cup (lightly packed) lemon zest, plus 1/4 cup juice (from 8 lemons)

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 1 cup sour cream

Lemon Simple Syrup

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon zest, plus 1/2 to 3/4 cup juice (from 3 lemons)

  • Rounded 1/4 tsp. salt

  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy

  • A few drops of yellow food coloring

  • Yellow sparkling sugar, for decorating


1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and grease again.

2. For the cake, in a medium bowl, whisk both flours, the baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), using your fingertips, rub the sugar and lemon zest until blended. Add the butter and vanilla. Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat on medium to medium-high speed, stopping occasionally to scrape down the bowl, until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low. Add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating until blended between each addition. In a small bowl, stir the lemon juice and sour cream.

3. Starting with the dry ingredients, alternately add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the lemon sour cream in 2 additions. Stop mixing when only a few streaks of flour remain. Using a spatula, finish mixing the batter until blended. Transfer to the pan and smooth the top of the batter.

4. Bake the cake, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a moist crumb or two attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and peel off the parchment. Turn the cake right-side up.

5. Meanwhile, for the simple syrup, heat 1/4 cup water and the sugar over medium, stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in the lemon juice. Let stand until cool, about 20 minutes.

6. Using a toothpick, poke holes all over the top of the cake. Using a pastry brush, brush the cake with the simple syrup.

7. For the buttercream, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and lemon zest on medium speed until fluffy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in the salt. Alternately add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, and the lemon juice, 1 to 2 tbsp. at a time, beating until blended between each addition. Continue beating until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the food coloring.

8. Spread the buttercream over the cooled cake. Just before serving, sprinkle with the sparkling sugar.