Three years ago, my husband celebrated his 30th birthday. I wanted to do something special for him but he’s not big into parties or being in the spotlight. However, one thing my husband loves is lemons. Any dessert with lemons in it and he is in heaven. So I set out to find a lemon cake that would blow all other lemon cakes out of the water. And guys…I found it.
I had to be really secretive about making it because not only was the cake a surprise, but I’d also invited a few of his closest friends to come over for a low key, semi-surprise party. I wish I could have captured the look on his face when his friends started showing up randomly at our house. Priceless.
But back to the cake. I’m not even joking when I say this is the BEST lemon cake I’ve ever tasted in my life. The cake is moist and almost melts in your mouth. There is just the right amount of lemon in the cream filling/frosting. And the crumb topping is like the icing on top of the icing on the cake. *wink* Everything just works so perfectly together. To take this cake to the next level, I added fresh raspberries on top. Oh. my. goodness.
As a quick side note, Olive Garden has a lemon cream cake that is almost identical to this one, but truthfully, I think this one is way better.
So are you ready to make this yet? Let’s get started:
First, gather your ingredients. There are 3 separate parts to the cake: the cake itself, the lemon cream filling and the crumb topping.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Decide if you want to use one pan or multiple pans to bake your cake in. I’ve always just used one 9-inch round cake pan and then cut it in half to make two layers, but you could also bake it in two or three pans. Grease the pans well to make the cake easy to remove from the pan once cool.
For the cake: In a large bowl, mix together the dry cake mix and the dry pudding mix. I just use a whisk to make sure it’s well incorporated. Then I add the egg whites, water and oil. Beat well for 2 minutes at medium speed. Pour into prepared pan(s) and bake for 40-45 minutes if using one pan. (If using more pans, start with 25 minutes and keep checking to see if it’s cooked through by inserting a toothpick. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan.
While the cake is baking, make the lemon cream filling. In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese and powdered sugar together with a mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in lemon juice and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks form. Fold cream cheese mixture into cream. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
For the crumb topping, grab a small bowl. Combine the flour and powdered sugar together using a whisk. Add cold butter that’s been cut into cubes and dribble in vanilla. Using your fingers, break the butter into smaller pieces as you work the ingredients together. Be careful not to press it together. You want everything to be crumbly, with the butter pieces no larger than a pea. If you’re having trouble, put the topping back in the fridge for a few minutes to let the butter harden and then resume working it into crumbs. Chill until ready to use.
When cake is cool, gently remove the cake from pan(s). If you used one pan, cut the cake in half and remove the top. I like to even out the top a little bit because I actually flip the cake over onto the serving plate so it’s on the bottom and it will frost easier if it’s flat on the bottom and the top will be pretty and flat. If you used multiple pans, you can trim a little off the top if it’s too rounded, otherwise you don’t need to do anything.
*Hint: Use a large bread knife to even out the tops and to cut the cake in half. It won’t stick like other knives.
Place the bottom layer of cake on serving plate or stand. Depending on how many layers you have, divide the filling into half or thirds. Be generous with the filling. Carefully place each layer on top of the cake/filling and spread the filling over the top and sides.
If you are using any berries on top, place those before putting the crumb topping on. Sprinkle crumb topping on top of icing.
Chill the cake for at least 3 hours before serving. Sift powdered sugar over the top if desired. Cut into pieces and serve.
Olive Garden Lemon Cake
- 1 (15.25 oz) white cake mix (any brand will work as long as it’s the right size)
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 1/3 c. water
- 1 (3-oz) white chocolate instant pudding mix
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 12 oz. cream cheese, softened (1 1/2 pkg)
- 3 c. powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
- 4 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- Grated lemon peel off 1 lemon
- Yellow food coloring
- 2 Tbsp. butter, cold
- 1/4 c. powdered sugar
- 1/4 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- berries, optional (I used raspberries but blueberries or blackberries would be good too.)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease either 1, 2, or 3 (9-inch) round cake pans. (refer to notes above)
- Cake: Pour dry cake mix into a large mixing bowl. Stir in dry pudding mix. Add remaining cake ingredients. Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Pour into pan(s). Bake for 40-45 minutes if using one pan and 30-35 minutes if using multiple pans, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely in the pan.
- Lemon Cream Filling: In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Mix in lemon juice and lemon zest. Whip cream in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold cream cheese mixture into whipped cream. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
- Crumb Topping: In a small bowl, combine flour and powdered sugar. Add cold butter and dribble in the vanilla. Use your hands to mix. Break butter into smaller pieces as you incorporate dry ingredients. Be sure not to press together. You want to end up with a very crumbly texture with pieces no bigger than a pea. If you’re having trouble, put mixture in the fridge for a few minutes to harden the butter. Chill until ready to use.
- When cake is cool, remove the sides of the pan or gently remove cake from pans. If you used one pan, cut the cake in half and remove the top. If you used multiple pans, you can trim a little off the top if it’s too rounded, otherwise you don’t need to do anything.
- Place bottom layer of cake on serving plate or stand. Depending on how many layers you have, divide the filling into half or thirds. Be generous with the filling. Carefully place each layer on top of the cake/filling and spread the filling over the top and sides. If you are using any berries on top, place those before putting the crumb topping on. Sprinkle crumb topping on top of icing.
- Chill the cake for at least 3 hours. Sprinkle top with sifted powdered sugar before serving.
- Makes 12 large pieces and 16 smaller pieces.