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
Could you make this cake with cupcake tins for smaller, shareable portions?
I cannot wait to try this, it looks amazing!
Unfortunately not! It’s best baked the way it is.
This is the best recipe ever! I just have a few questions… is it ok make the cake 1 day before serving? And when I made this recipe I had an issue with the bottom of the cake, it turned a bit too brown, while the top was perfectly golden. Do you have any tips so this doesn’t happen anymore?
Oh good! Yes, you can make it a day ahead and store in the fridge. For the bottom, are you baking it on the middle rack? If the heat from your oven comes from the bottom, I’d adjust the rack to be in the middle or top third of the oven.
This cake was so good! I made it for mother’s day, and everyone in my family loved it. I got many compliments!
Yay! Thanks for sharing!
What an easy and delicious cake! It was a bit richer than I anticipated, but the addition of fresh strawberries was a good way to balance it. I rested it for an hour-ish on the counter and then a half hour in the freezer, was pleasantly surprised that the custard set well. Would do the full 3 hour set-to-serve process if I made it again as I think the consistency of the cake and custard would be better, but this worked in a time crunch! Lesson to me to aways read the recipe all the way through haha.
This recipe would be good for beginners who aren’t confident in measuring techniques, as all I had was a cup and a teaspoon measure (poorly stocked vacation rental) and it still turned out very well.
Chris Reynolds says
This should also work in an 8 inch springform pan…just a little taller?
It will likely need to bake a few extra minutes but I don’t think it should affect it too much!
Can you make this with almond flour?
Unfortunately not as almond flour acts very differently than regular flour! If you’re looking for a gluten free option, try a cup for cup gluten free flour.
Delicious and easy to follow directions. Even though it was moist, mine did not have the creamy pudding texture as in in the picture. I baked for 40 minutes and the crust does not seem over done. What did I do wrong?
Oh no! Did you use full fat cream cheese or reduced fat? If it was reduced fat my guess is that the excess water could have evaporated and created a thicker consistency.
I really like the cake, it has a delicious lemon flavor. The only thing I would change next time is that I would make it less sweeter and a little less cream. I feel as there is more cream than cake.
3 cups of powder sugar is way too much for me. Will the texture change if I use less sugar or if I substitute most of it with Splenda?
When measuring the powdered sugar, make sure to spoon it into the measuring cup and level it off. Don’t pack it down, shake it down, or scoop directly into the bag of powdered sugar because this will most definitely leave you with way too much sugar!
I just have one question before testing this amazing recipe. Does the butter need to melted or should it be mixed in room temperature?
It should be melted
Could I make this in a 9×13 baking dish? Should I double the recipe? Help!
Hmmm I haven’t tried it that way but I would assume it would need to be doubled! It also may need to bake for a few additional minutes
Hi I followed the recipe it turned out delicious
I tripled the amount and made 2 cakes
Can it be frozen ?
Yes I think so! Just make sure it’s completely cooled before wrapping and freezing.
I love your baking is excellent and it was so easy to see your page and get the recipes thank you 👏👏👍🌺🌺
This is seriously the best lemon cake I’ve ever had!! I’m my entire life!!!
This is so delicious! I used gluten free flour and it was amazing!! Thanks! This made the perfect birthday cake for my lemon-loving husband!
This is FANTASTIC! I’m blown away and so it my family. I will make this over and over again! And it’s so easy! Thank you I love you
What a delicious cake!! The edges were a little chewy too which made it even more delectable. It was a bit too sweet for me so next time I think I’d try and cut back the sugar a tad bit. Thanks for an awesome recipe.
If it’s too sweet, make sure to measure the sugar properly! Don’t scoop into the sugar or pack it down into the cup. Make sure it’s nice and light within the cup so I suggest spooning the sugar into the measuring cup and leveling it off. This will prevent you from using too much.
This was a hit! This gooey lemon butter cake is so easy to make and also so delicious. I accidentally spread the lemon cream to the edges of my pan, aaand also canceled my timer part of the way through without knowing how much time was left (oops!)—but the edges baked up nicely and the “golden skin.. evenly puffed” description brought my cake to a perfect bake. Love that this recipe uses lemon juice *and* lemon zest because the zest is where it’s at. Would make again!
Yay! Thank you for sharing!!
The taste is great! I don’t like cream cheese so I swapped the cream cheese out with Greek yogurt. It seemed a bit more liquid than the recipe and oozed a bit on the sides; however m, it created a lovely crust around the edges. It’s an easy recipe so I’ll definitely try it again.
Hi! This looks wonderful! Do you think I could use egg replacer instead of actual eggs?
I haven’t tried it myself but it might work!
I made this for my husbands birthday. My husband who “doesn’t like cake” and I’ve just watched him help himself to a second slice ! So yum, can’t wait to make for others.
Great instructions, super easy to follow. Thank you!