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Lemon Ricotta Cake

This 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
  • Total Time
    Prep: 1 hour + chilling Bake: 30 min. + cooling
  • Makes
    16 servings


  • 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 whole milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Colored sugar, optional


  • 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.
  • Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add eggs, one 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.
  • Pour into two 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.
  • 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, in a large bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, grated lemon zest, vanilla and salt; beat until smooth.
  • Cut each cake in half horizontally. Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Pipe a circle of frosting around the edge of the cake. Spread a third of the lemon curd inside the 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.
Nutrition Facts
1 slice: 657 calories, 27g fat (16g saturated fat), 172mg cholesterol, 370mg sodium, 98g carbohydrate (77g sugars, 1g fiber), 8g protein.

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  • kmpatch
    Sep 30, 2014

    I made this as a two-layer cake with the buttercream frosting only - did not use the lemon curd. In the frosting, I used 1 tsp. vanilla and 1/2 tsp. lemon juice to punch up the lemon flavor. It was a huge hit! I accidentally made the frosting slightly too thin, so I refrigerated the cake overnight to keep the frosting from dripping. I took the cake out of the fridge an hour before serving but wish I had taken it out earlier. It was still scrumptious, but it's at its best at room temp. The layers are moist and dense like pound cake. The lemon flavor is not as strong as I thought. Since I wasn't using the lemon curd filling, the extra lemon in the frosting added just the right amount of extra tartness.

  • kcsings2much
    Jul 24, 2014

    Used this recipe for the cake batter and made it for my sisters wedding cake with just a simple vanilla buttercream. It was fantastic! Not too lemony and the cake itself was moist and rich! The cakes froze and thawed well as I made them in advance. New favorite summer cake recipe!

  • tfb1108
    Dec 11, 2013

    I just made this for our annual gal's night Xmas party to complement the Italian theme. It was a huge, huge hit. I made it exactly as the recipe states and it was very rich, very delicious. Next time, I will alternate the buttercream between the layers with the lemon curd. I will be sure to repeat this often!

  • melsacov
    Apr 1, 2012

    Every time I make this cake it seems to disappear in minutes. I usually make this a day ahead and keep in the fridge till guest arrive and it is perfect temperature by dessert. I alternate the second layer as frosting it gives the cake a more balanced flavor. I recommend to cut thin slices as this cake is very rich.My husband loves the cake so much he insists I make it for our daughters birthday party, I will try it with fondant. I will keep you posted :) ENJOY!

  • HjelmD
    Mar 16, 2012

    I absolutely love this recipe! I made it for Christmas and decided to add raspberry pie filling in the middle layer, alternating with the lemon curd. It was such a hit, there were no leftovers to take home and I was asked to make it for a family member for their birthday 2 months later. My second attempt was even better; I made homemade raspberry curd to go with the lemon curd, added some whipped egg whites to the batter making it even lighter and dressed it up with fresh raspberries and candied lemon slices. It was delicious!

  • sery
    Oct 10, 2011

    This cake is very good and I want to thank you for sending it in. I did make one mistake and that was to add ins for high altitude and the next time I make it I wont for get it. I am making it for my BD at the end of the mo. Shari from NM