This gooey lemon butter cake is the ultimate lemon dessert! Tender lemon cake is baked with a layer of lemon cream curd on top. The curd sinks into the cake as it bakes, creating a super moist lemon cake with a puddle of creamy lemon curd on top. It tastes just as good as it looks and sounds…if not better!
What is gooey lemon butter cake?
The inspiration for this recipe came from classic gooey butter cake. If you’ve never tried it, it’s essentially a thin and dense cake baked with a layer of cream cheese and butter on top.
Basically, it’s sweet ooey gooey goodness. But for this lemon version, I wanted to create something that was more of a mash up between fluffy lemon cake and rich lemon bars.
To do so, the base is made up of a lemon cake that isn’t too dense or too light. It’s able to hold the weight of the topping while also baking all the way through.
The topping was the trickiest part because it kept overpowering the cake which made it difficult to set and cook through. But through the power of testing, this cake is now just right!
It bakes with a super tender and moist fresh lemon cake with a layer of rich and smooth lemon cream on top. The cream bakes into a creamy and pudding-like consistency that melts in your mouth.
Both layers are baked with fresh lemon, which means the entire dessert is bursting with zesty lemon flavor. It pairs perfectly with the rich cake and creamy topping.
How to make lemon butter cake
Not only is this cake a major crowd pleaser, but it’s also really easy to make! Just spread and pour into a pan, bake, chill, and it’s done. But to ensure it turns out just right, here are my top tips:
- Flour – I say this for every recipe, and especially cake. If possible, weigh the flour rather than measure by cups. This is the most accurate way of baking. If a kitchen scale isn’t available, gently spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level it off with a flat edge. This prevents the flour from packing down into the cup, creating a tough and dry cake.
- Butter – For the best flavor, I suggest using quality butter like cultured European style. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it does give the cake tons of flavor. Also make sure the melted butter has cooled before use.
- Lemons – Don’t skip on the zest and definitely use fresh lemon juice! It has a much stronger and true flavor and it’s not as tart as packaged lemon juice.
- Mixing – The batter is mixed by hand, so it’s difficult to over mix. In any case, stop mixing right when the flour disappears. If the cake batter is over worked, it will likely struggle to bake all the way through.
- Cream Cheese – First and foremost, make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature before use. If not, the cream will turn out lumpy with clumps of cream cheese throughout. Second, I highly recommend Philadelphia block cream cheese as it has the best consistency and flavor out of any other cream cheese I’ve tried.
- Mixing – Mix in the powdered sugar one cup at a time, ensuring each is fully incorporated before adding the next. The sugar helps smooth and thin out the cream cheese which helps when mixing in the egg after.
- Egg – Speaking of, use a room temperature egg. If the egg is too cold, it could freeze up some of the cream cheese.
- Pouring – Pour the cream into the center of the spread lemon cake batter. It’s thin enough to where it will naturally spread out to the edges. It does not have to touch the sides of the pan, but it should nearly cover the entire surface of the cake.
How to tell when lemon butter cake is done
The toothpick test doesn’t work here as it will pick up the wet cream topping on the way out. To tell that it’s done, look at the surface of the cake.
The cream should form a dry and golden skin with small cracks around the edges. The cake will also have a golden ring around the edge and be slightly puffed in the center.
Chilling lemon butter cake
This part is ESSENTIAL to the process, as chilling the cake allows the cream to set. The cake will rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature and then it’s chilled uncovered for a least 2 hours.
Serving gooey lemon butter cake
This cake can be served straight from the refrigerator, but I like it to soften up at room temperature for about 30 minutes before eating. This allows the cake to loosen up so each bite just melts in your mouth.
How to store lemon cake
Keep the cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to a week!
For more lemon desserts, check out my:
- Lemon Cupcakes
- Lemon Zucchini Bread (GF, DF)
- Lemon Blueberry Muffins
- Lemon Bar Butter Cookies
- Lemon Poppy Seed Bread (GF, DF)
Make sure to tag me @butternutbakery on Instagram and leave a review below if you make this gooey lemon butter cake. To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the button on the recipe card, the buttons above or below this post, or on any of the photos above. Happy baking!Print
Gooey Lemon Butter Cake
- Total Time: 55 minutes + 2 hours cooling
- Yield: 8-10 slices
This gooey lemon butter cake is a combination of the two best lemon desserts – lemon bars and lemon cake. A soft lemon cake is baked with a puddle of lemon cream curd on top. It sinks into the cake as it bakes, creating a tender and moist cake that is bursting with fresh lemon flavor.
- 1/2 cup (110g) unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temp
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Zest of 2 lemons (2 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/4 cup (165g) all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 6 oz cream cheese, room temp
- 3 cups (360g) powdered sugar, plus more for dusting on top
- 1 large egg, room temp
- Zest of 1 lemon (1 tbsp)
- Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and line a 9″ round springform pan.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar. Then add the egg, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix to combine.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
- Spread the thick batter in an even layer in the bottom of the springform pan. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl using a hand or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the cream cheese until smooth.
- Mix in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until thin and creamy.
- Then mix in the egg and lemon zest.
- Pour the cream on top of the lemon batter, pouring right in the middle and allowing it to naturally spread close to the edges. It may need some help fully spreading, so use a spoon to nudge it out close to the sides.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top has formed a golden skin and it’s evenly puffed.
- Allow the cake to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill uncovered for about 2 hours. This is important as it allows the cream to set.
- Run a knife around the edge of the pan and release the cake. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar then slice and enjoy!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
Keywords: lemon cake, lemon butter cake, gooey butter cake, gooey lemon butter cake, lemon cake recipe
OMG this cake is definitely gonna be on repeat in my house. Just made it a few hours ago, and oh yumm.. I’m left with 1 tiny slice which I put aside for my breakfast tomorrow morning. This is probably the best lemon cake/pie I’ve ever had. I change the recipe a bit, and it turned out so well. I put 1/2 cup of sugar in the cake mix instead of 3/4cup and 200g of icing sugar instead of 360g in the cream cheese mix. And it’s the right amount of sweetness for our family. Thank you for this ground breaking recipe. It’s honestly an easy and sophisticated looking/tasting cadding(cake pudding). Lol. Oh and yes, I forgot to mention, I saw ur post on instagram and am now a follower❤️.
Yay! So glad you loved it!
Great and tasty cake. I love lemon and this was the best!
Everyone who ate it complimented me!!
Thanks for this great recipe!!
This recipe came out so good! I made it twice. One with 360g of powdered sugar in the lemon cream and once with 300g of powdered sugar. I preferred the 300g it was flavorful but not as sweet and the lemon wasn’t too overpowering because it only had lemon zest. You could probably get away with using less sugar and could potentially substitute an alternative. I also made it with pillsbury GF flour which is a 1 to 1 substitute and it came out nice. Must try!
Thank you for sharing!! Glad to hear it turned out with GF flour 🙂
Is this cake ok to freeze?
I am planning to bake this beautiful cake a couple of days before a party..!
If it’s just a couple days, it’s ok to just refrigerate it! Otherwise it probably can freeze, just make sure it’s well wrapped 🙂
I only let it set for 2 hours and it was still pretty runny but tasty. But the next day – WOW! The flavor really built up as it sat overnight. I will definitely make this again, but I think in bar pan for easier serving and a day ahead. If you like lemon dessert, this is a must try. Thanks for the recipe!
Yay! So glad the wait was worth it!
Hi there! can i add lemon juice to the cream base?
I tried that but it made the cream too thin 🙁
It is in the best recipe for a lemon tart, it has such an intense and creamy flavor. I like to leave it a little longer (5min more low T°) in the oven so that the edges are little harder and creamy inside.
Thank you so much for your amazing recipes and all the work you do to give us this
So glad you enjoy it! Thank you!
Made this before and it was so delicious! I already went to the store and forgot to get more sugar. Any thoughts on subbing coconut sugar for the granulated sugar?
It might turn the cake a darker color but it should be ok?
I had gooey butter cake in St. Louis last year for the first time ever! When I saw this recipe I just had to make it. It was absolutely delicious and worth waiting for.. but as soon as those two hours were over it was pulled out of the fridge and appreciated!. 🥰 10/10 making again 🙂
Yay! Glad you love it!
When making this recipe I was absolutely sure it was not going to work. The cake batter barely covered the bottom of my spring form pan (I didn’t pay attention to the size of my pan so that totally could have been user error) and I was sure it was going to be mediocre at best after baking. WOW was I wrong…this cake was INCREDIBLE – one of the best things I’ve ever made/eaten. My family has requested a repeat of it twice in three weeks – thanks for a great bake!
Would I be able to make this in cupcake form using a silicone mold? I’d love to take this for a small office gathering of four without taking a whole cake.
It likely wouldn’t work well as a cupcake because the cream on top could easily over bake.
Ayla Lewis says
Could you use swerve or stevia powder?
Unfortunately not, as those tend to be much sweeter than sugar by weight.
Hi- I’m getting ready to make your gooey lemon cake. It looks fantastic. I have a springform pan that measures 9.5” rather than the 9” that the recipe calls for. Do you think the 9.5” pan will work OK and not change the outcome terribly? Thank you!
9.5 is fine!
Amazing! The perfect gooey butter consistency. Made with Bob’s red mill Gf flour and it was perfect. Soo so good.
Easy to follow instructions! Great Lemon flavor. Subbed in Gluten Free 1 for 1 Flour, and it was a hit! Will make again. Thank you for a great recipe!
Oh good! Glad to hear it worked GF!!
A straightforward recipe and a delicious result. Definitely making this again 🍋
Julia Librone says
I made this cake this morning but could only wait one hour before tasting the chilled cake.
It is delicious, easy to make and enjoyed by everyone. I will definitely make it again. Not being able to have Chocolate (and it’s my favorite thing in the world) I’m always looking for a delicious recipe without it. Thank you for a great alternative.
No chocolate! Oh no! Well luckily you can still have this 🙂
Wow, just wow. This was so easy to make and tastes like it must have taken all day. It’s pretty much a lemon bar in cake form, but with better texture and not at all greasy. It’s chewy and delicious! GREAT recipe – make it today!
Ah thank you!!
Cant wait to try this out! But will it work on a 6inch or 8inch pan better?
Definitely 8″! And it may take a little longer to bake.
I’m getting ready to make this, just so I’m clear it all goes in at the same time or the base bakes first like a short bread? Thanks for any help
Yes it all goes in at the same time