Lemon Ricotta Cake

Total Time

Prep: 1 hour + chilling Bake: 30 min. + cooling


16 servings

Updated: Jun. 30, 2023
This lemon ricotta cake recipe is a family gem that was passed down from my grandmother and mother. Garnished with shaved lemon zest, the moist four-layer cake is the perfect dessert when you want to impress. —Nanette Slaughter, Sammamish, Washington


  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 medium lemons
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 5-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/3 cup 2% milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Colored sugar, optional


  1. For lemon curd, in a small bowl, combine eggs and egg yolks. In a heavy saucepan, cook and stir the sugar, lemon juice and butter over medium heat until smooth. Stir a small amount of hot mixture into eggs; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly. Cover and chill until thickened, about 1-1/2 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the ricotta cheese, buttermilk, lemon zest, vanilla and lemon juice. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture, beating well after each addition.
  3. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  4. Using a citrus zester, remove zest from lemons in long narrow strips; toss with sugar. Let stand for 30 minutes. (Save fruit for another use.) Meanwhile, to make the frosting, in a large bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, grated lemon zest, vanilla and salt; beat until smooth.
  5. Cut each cake in half horizontally. Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate. Pipe a circle of frosting around edge of cake. Spread a third of the lemon curd inside frosting. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining cake layer. Frost top and sides. If desired, pipe a decorative border of frosting using a star tip, and decorate sides of cake with colored sugar. Garnish with lemon zest strips. Store in the refrigerator.

Lemon Ricotta Cake Tips

How can you avoid making a dense lemon ricotta cake?

There are several reasons why you might wind up with a dense cake. The culprit could be overmixing, which can create a very dense cake. Other common cake mistakes include using too much liquid, too much sugar or too little leavening, such as baking soda or baking powder.

What's the best way to juice lemons for lemon ricotta cake?

There's more than one way to juice a lemon! You can cut the lemon in half and squeeze it by hand or with a citrus juicer, or follow this trick for how to juice lemons without cutting them. Another easy way to juice lemons is in a food processor. When it comes to zesting, here's how to zest a lemon.

How do you store lemon ricotta cake?

Most cakes that have a buttercream frosting can be made up to 3 days prior and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you are only storing the buttercream, press a piece of wax or parchment on top before placing the lid on the container to prevent it from picking up fridge odors. Have leftover lemons and ricotta cheese on your hands? Try a batch of frosted lemon ricotta cookies.

—Ellie Crowley, Taste of Home Culinary Assistant

Nutrition Facts

1 piece: 657 calories, 27g fat (16g saturated fat), 172mg cholesterol, 370mg sodium, 98g carbohydrate (77g sugars, 1g fiber), 8g protein.