Lemon Meltaway Cake

This cake was inspired by a cookie!

Have you ever tried Lemon Meltaways? I suspect many of you have since it's a familiar sight on holiday cookie trays (though I love making them in spring and summer). For those unfamiliar, they are powdered sugar-coated cookies with a huge lemony kick! When I first tasted this cake, I found the burst of lemon flavor so similar to those cookies that I immediately dubbed this confection "Lemon Meltaway Cake". It's a fitting moniker in more than one way, too. The cake layers are drenched in lemon glaze that makes the texture melt-in-your-mouth tender.

These swirls and kisses of buttercream almost look like meringues, don't they? I think so. Everywhere I look (okay, mostly on Instagram) cake bakers and decorators are piling their cakes high with adorable baked meringue cookies. I decided to make some buttercream swirls instead. I froze them on waxed paper and then piled them high willy-nilly on top of the cake. After the buttercream garnishes come to room temperature, they still hold their shape! You can use this technique with almost any buttercream, just make sure it's high butter ratio so the swirls will firm well when chilled. I love the look, and unlike baked meringues, these buttercream flourishes are so much easier to cut through when serving slices!

Check out that texture. It's pretty darn special, if you ask me. The cake is filled with delicious lemon curd, which adds additional tang and moisture. I usually make homemade lemon curd for layer cakes, but to make this cake less of a production I used ready-made. I like Dickinson's Family brand because it is tangy and flavorful, and if you look at the ingredients, well, there aren't many. And that's a good thing. If you'd like to make your own lemon curd from scratch, then you can find my recipe at the very end of this blog post.

I used two food colors for this cake: Wilton golden yellow and teal (both are included in this set). You may choose to omit the food color but the cake layers and frosting will be very pale (almost white) without it.

I made a batch of Lemon Meltaways to serve alongside this cake, but I ended up placing a few on top of the cake, too! I'm including the cookie recipe at the end of this post in case you'd like to do the same.

Lemon Meltaway Cake
Yields one 8-inch triple layer cake, or one 9-inch double layer cake; about 12 to 14 servings

Wilton Golden Yellow gel food color was used to tint the cake layers and frosting. You can omit the food color if you prefer, but both elements will be very pale.
I suggest purchasing ready-made lemon curd since this cake has several steps. I often make homemade lemon curd for cakes, and if you’d like to do the same you can find my lemon curd recipe here.

Lemon Cake
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup lemon curd
1 teaspoon golden yellow food color, optional (I like Wilton brand)

Lemon frosting
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon golden yellow food color

Buttercream rosettes and kisses
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons milk or cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Teal gel food color (I like Wilton brand)

Make the cake layers: Heat the oven to 350°F.
Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with flour-based baking spray (alternatively, grease and flour the pans). In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and 3/4 cup butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Beat in the lemon extract. On low speed, alternately beat in the flour mixture and milk until blended. Add the food color and beat on low speed until a consistent color is achieved. Scrape down bowl as needed and re-mix briefly.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans (about 2 cups batter per pan). Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the cake pans and level with a cake leveler or serrated knife. Return the leveled cakes to their pans. With a skewer (or fork tines) poke the tops of the cake at 1-inch spaces. Whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice until smooth. Spoon the glaze over the cakes. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove from the cake pans; place the cakes on a cooling rack (glazed side-up) and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
For the 8-inch triple layer cake, cover two cakes with 1/2 cup of lemon curd each. Stack the cakes, ending with the plain cake layer on top. If making the 9-inch double layer version, spread one cake layer with the lemon curd and top with the remaining cake layer.

Make the lemon frosting: In a large bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups butter, 4 cups powdered sugar, cream, lemon juice and lemon extract on low speed until well blended. Beat 3 minutes on medium speed; scrape down the bowl. Add the golden yellow food color a little at a time until a light golden color is achieved. Beat on high speed until fluffy, about 2 more minutes. Cover the entire cake with frosting using an offset spatula. Chill the cake while you prepare the decors.

Make the buttercream rosettes and kisses: Line a large baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment. Beat the unsalted butter and sugar in a large bowl; add the milk or cream a little at a time until the mixture is piping consistency. Add the vanilla extract and beat on high speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Transfer about 1/3 of the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip and pipe swirls of frosting onto the waxed paper. Paint the interior of a disposable piping bag with four stripes of teal gel food color. Transfer another 1/3 of icing to the piping bag; snip the end with scissors and pipe dollops (or kisses) onto the waxed paper, the icing will stripe as you pipe (a rhyme!). Tint the remaining icing with a small dab of teal gel food color. Mix until a light teal color is achieved. Transfer the frosting to another piping bag fitted with the large closed star tip and pipe swirls on the waxed paper. Soon after the garnishes are piped they can be decorated with your choice of sprinkles (I used some tiny yellow nonpareils on the teal swirls). Transfer the pan to the freezer and let chill until frozen solid, about 30 minutes.

When the icing is well set, remove the cake from the refrigerator. Remove the pan of piped buttercream from the freezer and use a small offset spatula to lift the flourishes off the waxed paper and onto the top of the cake. Arrange them as you please, or do as I do and pile them high!

Store the cake covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

I served this cake with lemon meltaways on top. Use the recipe that follows, if you’d like to do the same.

Lemon Meltaway Cookies
Yields about 3 1/2 dozen cookies

I usually make these exactly as written below, but sometimes I pipe the cookies into shapes using a piping bag and decorator tip. To do this, mix the batter and thin it slightly with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream (the dough should still be rather thick but pipeable).  Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large decorator tip, and pipe shapes onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate the shapes until firm. Place in the oven and bake unil the edges are slightly browned. Coat the cookies with powdered sugar as usual.

14 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric stand mixer until creamy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar; beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Stir in zest, juice and extract. Whisk together flour and next 2 ingredients. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°. Drop dough by level the level tablespoonful 2 inches apart onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets, using a 1-inch cookie scoop.

Bake at 350° for 13 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes. Toss together warm cookies and remaining 1 cup powdered sugar in a small bowl; serve.

Store the cookies in an airtight container.

link Lemon Meltaway Cake By Published: Lemon Meltaway Cake


  1. Just when I think you could not possibly top your last cake.....BAM....you do it, AGAIN!!! Incredible and amazing!!!!

  2. I don't think I can make it through the weekend with out having this cake. I've just added this to the top of my weekend to do list! YUM!

  3. What an interesting idea to use buttercream, sounds great. The cake looks amazing.

  4. Wow this cake looks incredible! I've been noticing a lot of those cute meringue topped cakes, but I would rather have some real buttercream kisses on top instead anyday:) good job on the cake!

  5. What a brilliant cake idea!! Lemon meltaway cookies are good, but this cake version sounds waaaaay better IMHO :)

  6. This cake looks fantastic. What a beautiful decoration.

  7. What a delicious and beautiful cake! The idea of topping them with buttercream "meringue" looks amazing! And I love your cake stand, elegant and pretty!

  8. OMG YOU ARE BRILLIANT. I love those meringue-topped cakes I keep seeing, but I am totes not into the idea of making a bunch of meringue (especially during such a humid summer). This solves the dilemma.

    Also, that cakes looks insanely moist. I can't wait to try this one!!

  9. Amazing recipe! What a beautiful cake :) Thank you!

  10. Beautiful!


  11. You make the most beautiful cakes. Seriously.

  12. This cake is so gorgeous. I must have something lemony right right right now!

  13. You did not specify when to add lemon juice and powdered sugar into to the better, I was following the direction exactly like it was posted on your site and it came out hard as a rock. Very disappointed...;-(

    1. Hi Anonymous - in the recipe under "Make the cake layers" 2nd paragraph (beginning with "Pour the batter...") 7th sentence says:

      "Whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice until smooth. Spoon the glaze over the cakes. Let stand 10 minutes."

      You don't mix the powdered sugar and lemon juice into the batter, you pour it over the cakes after they bake.

  14. My favorite lemon curd is from Trader Joe's. It's British I believe. It's just lovely.

  15. Where did you get that cake stand? The cake is beautiful!

  16. Hi Heather. I made your lovely cake today. I made it into 3 8" layers. Wondering, in your recipe you say that each pan will hold approx. 2 cups of batter. I did divide the batter equally, but my layers are very thin. Maybe 1" tall at the most-no dome so I am not sure if I do need to level? Does this sound correct?

    1. Hi Paula,

      Hmm. My cakes domed on top, and they definitely rose over 1-inch. I'm wondering if something hapened with the leavening? I would skip leveling this time. The cake height sounds short, but I'm hoping things will turn out a-ok in the end. I'd love to know how it turns out! Best of luck!

  17. Hi Heather!
    First of all, sorry if this comment double posts- I've been having a lot of trouble getting my computer to work with me.
    Anyway, I tried making your lemon melt away cookies to put on top of this cake, but they turned into a total disaster! All that came out of the oven was a bubbling pool of lemon-scented butter :(. Any ideas?? I chilled my dough for more than an hour and it was very firm when I put it in the oven. I noticed that there aren't any eggs in your recipe... is that correct?

    Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Kate!

      I'm so sorry to hear your cookies melted! So frustrating. There aren't any eggs called for in the recipe. It's an old Southern Living recipe that I've used for ages ( you can see the original recipe here http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/lemon-meltaways ). I'm thinking maybe your oven got too hot? It's hard to say. If you attempt them a second time, then I'd suggest reducing the heat by 25 degrees and bake them on a light aluminum baking sheet. I hope this helps! Again, I'm so sorry you ran into trouble!

  18. Hi Heather,

    Have you tried this recipe with cupcakes? It sounds delicious. I need a lemon cupcake and am wondering how they'll turn out.

    Thank you.

  19. Hello Heather. I need to make a lemon cake, and I always turn to you for spectacular recipes and ideas. I believe I made this cake in 2015. I think the Nov. 5, 2015 prior post is mine. This time, I want to make this cake taller. I will be using 8" pans, and would like at least 3 layers, but I am hoping that each baked layer will stand at around 1 1/2" tall. Last time I made it, my layers were only around 1" and kinda thin. Do you think I can double the recipe for more batter, but filling the pans no more than 2/3 full? I love tall cakes and would like this one to finish around 5" tall after frosting. I think I may add the frozen buttercream do-dads on top as well. And a little pixie dust for sparkle! :-)


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