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Lemon Custard Cake

This Lemon Custard Cake is truly magnificent. Just 8 simple ingredients come together to make 1 batter that bakes into 3 layers all by itself! It’s a guaranteed hit for any gathering.

lemon custard cake plated and garnished.
This Lemon Custard Cake is light, fluffy, and oh-so-creamy; it’s the perfect spring or summer dessert!

Why This Recipe Stands Out

We’re finding ourselves craving all our favorite bright, vibrant lemon recipes. Lemon Custard Cake checks off all the boxes.

  • Light and Bright: This is one of those refreshingly light desserts that you can enjoy even after a heavy meal.
  • Creamy Custard: If you’re into custard, you’ll adore this cake! It’s light, creamy, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
  • Magic Layers: While this recipe makes just 1 batter, the ingredients will naturally separate during baking to make a deliciously light sponge cake layer on top, a creamy, lemon custard layer in the middle, and a crisp, crust-like layer at the base.
  • Ingredients You Have: This recipe uses simple pantry staples that you may already have on hand – no exotic ingredients in this one.
  • Mother’s Day: This zesty lemon cake makes a great Mother’s Day dessert. For more recipe ideas for this special day, check out some of our favorite Mother’s Day recipes.

What Is Custard?

Custard is a mixture of eggs with milk or cream that’s cooked low and slow to form a soft and creamy (sometimes stiff) texture. Custard is usually sweet like in New York Style Cheesecake, but can also be savory like in Easy Breakfast Quiche.

In this recipe we make a custard with egg yolks and warm milk and then fold in beaten egg whites. The combination of heavy and light ingredients is what makes this custard cake separate into 3 delicious layers.

Key Recipe Ingredients

lemon peel and fresh lemons for lemon custard cake.
  • Eggs – Egg yolks and whites are separated to create a golden, creamy custard and light, whipped egg whites.
  • Butter – Butter adds a rich texture and flavor that balances the light citrus taste perfectly.
  • Lemon Extract – In addition to lemon juice and zest, we add lemon extract for an even more intense burst of citrus flavor.
  • Lemon Juice and Zest – Fresh lemon juice and zest make this custard cake pop with bright, sunny color and taste.
  • Whole Milk – Another key custard ingredient, whole milk makes this cake creamy and velvety.

Substitutions And Variations

Check out some of our favorite substitutions and variations for Lemon Custard Cake:

  • Omit the Extract: If you don’t have any lemon extract on hand, simply replace it with the zest of one more lemon. Don’t add any extra lemon juice, however, as the liquid will affect the texture of the custard.
  • Add Frosting: We think this Stabilized Whipped Cream would make a great topping for this dessert. You could also try topping custard cake with some of our cream cheese frosting that we use in this recipe for The Best Carrot Cake.
  • Add Toppings: Any fresh fruit would go amazingly with this vibrant, lemony dessert. Try topping it with sliced strawberries, fresh blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries.
  • Serve with Real Lemon Curd: For even more lemony flavor try serving custard cake with this Homemade Lemon Curd.

Step-By-Step Recipe Instructions

fresh whole lemons for lemon custard cake.
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar.
  2. Add butter and lemon extract and beat for 1 minute. Then, add flour and mix just until combined.
  3. Add lemon juice and half of the lemon zest. Slowly beat in lukewarm milk until incorporated. Transfer batter to a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Completely wash and dry bowl of the stand mixer. Using whisk attachment, whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, add egg whites to the large bowl of batter, and gently fold together.
  6. Pour batter into a lined and greased baking dish and bake at 325F for 45-70 minutes.
  7. Let cake cool completely before covering and chilling until ready to serve. Add desired garnishes.

For full list of ingredients and instructions, see recipe card below.

How To Prep Ahead

There are a few key prep-ahead tips we like to implement to make baking Lemon Custard Cake as easy as can be.

  • Room Temperature Eggs: Make sure to take your eggs out of the fridge about 30 minutes ahead of time to let them warm to room temperature. This will make separating them much easier and will help the yolks blend better into the custard.
  • Melt and Cool Butter: Make sure to melt your butter in advance so it has some time to cool. Adding piping hot butter to the custard will cook the eggs making them curdle which we want to avoid.
  • Zest and Juice Lemons: Feel free to zest and squeeze your lemon days in advance. Just store the lemon zest in an airtight container in the fridge and your lemon juice in a separate container in the fridge until ready to use.
  • Make Entire Cake in Advance: This cake is best served chilled, which means it’s ideal for making ahead of time. Keep covered in fridge until ready to serve.
lemon custard cake plated and garnished close up.

Commonly Asked Questions

How long does lemon custard cake last?

Lemon custard cake will stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. We recommend enjoying this custard cake right away rather than freezing it, as the freezing and thawing can sometimes mess with the texture of custard.

What is the difference between lemon curd and lemon custard?

The main difference between lemon curd and lemon custard is the use of cream or milk. Lemon curd uses no milk leaving it bright, vibrant yellow whereas lemon custard uses a generous amount of whole milk leaving it creamier and fattier.

How do I know when lemon custard cake is done baking?

You’ll know your cake is done when the top turns golden and the center is firm to the touch. We like to start checking after 45 minutes.

How do I prevent my custard cake from cracking?

There are a few strategies we use to ensure our custard cake doesn’t crack or end up with a weird texture. First, don’t overmix the batter. Very gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture until just barely combined. Second, bake the custard cake low and slow. We keep our oven at 325F for this one. Third, don’t open the oven door for at least 45 minutes. Letting in cool air too soon could cause your custard to crack.

What is another good lemon cake recipe for someone who doesn’t like custard?

We love baking this Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake for a sweet treat without the custard.

Did you make this?

Please give us a rating and comment below. We love hearing from you!

lemon custard cake plated and garnished.

Lemon Custard Cake

5 from 25 ratings
This Lemon Custard Cake is truly magnificent. Just 8 simple ingredients come together to make 1 batter that bakes into 3 layers all by itself! It's a guaranteed hit for all the custard fans.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 12
Author: Amy Dong

Ingredients  

  • 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated, room temp
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed, not from a bottle
  • zest from 2 lemons, divided
  • 1 ¾ cup whole milk, lukewarm
  • powdered sugar and extra lemon zest for topping

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325F, with rack on middle position. Line bottom of 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper and sides of pan. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg yolks with sugar and beat with paddle attachment on medium-high for 3 minutes, scraping sides down as needed.
  • Add butter and lemon extract and beat on medium 1 minute. Add flour and mix on low just until incorporated; don’t over mix.
  • Add lemon juice and half of the lemon zest. Slowly add lukewarm milk and beat on low until batter is fully incorporated. Transfer batter to a large bowl and set aside.
  • Wash out the bowl of stand mixer and dry well (important for it to be clean before putting egg whites in.) Using whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium high 3-4 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Remove bowl from stand mixer.
  • Using a rubber spatula, gently add egg whites to the large bowl of batter, using a gentle and soft folding action until all whites are folded in – note that there will still be bits of egg whites visible in the batter; looks like tiny bits of cheese curds floating around. That's ok.
  • Gently pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake 45-70 minutes or until the top is golden brown and center of cake feels firm to the touch; don’t start checking until cake has baked at least 45 minutes. Oven temps vary, so bake time will vary.
  • Cool cake completely to room temp. Sprinkle on the rest of the lemon zest. Cover and chill until ready to serve (cake tastes best chilled.) Right before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Notes

  • Be sure to whip egg whites to stiff peaks, as the recipe states.
  • Be sure to very gently fold the whites into the batter. Go soft and easy so the egg whites get to do their job and keep the batter airy.
  • Let the cake cool completely at room temperature before popping it into the fridge to chill. This will keep it from cracking.
  • Top Lemon Custard Cake with Stabilized Whipped Cream for a fluffy, cloud-like finish.
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Nutrition (per serving)

Calories: 188kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 79mg | Sodium: 96mg | Potassium: 91mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 374IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Diet: Vegetarian
Method: baking

More To Bake And Eat

  • Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust – Melt-in-your-mouth, buttery shortbread crust is topped with a luscious lemon custard creating a dessert masterpiece that no one could turn down.
  • Lemon Pudding Cookies – These soft, chewy lemon cookies complete with white chocolate chips and a sweet lemon glaze are always a crowd-pleaser.
  • Lemon Olive Oil Cake – Supremely moist, ultra lemony, and decadent, this lemon olive oil cake is perfect for breakfast or dessert!
  • Lemon Icebox Cake – This no-bake lemon cake is a lemony twist on tiramisu. Fresh lemon curd gets the spotlight in this recipe.

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