Limoncello Cake

Lemon lovers, have I got a cake for you!

This Limoncello Cake has the bright and refreshing flavor of lemon infused in every delicious bite. The light and fluffy sponge cake layers have lemon zest gently perfuming the cake layers, which are also soaked with a limoncello syrup. Limoncello has such a delicate lemon flavor. It’s mild and has some floral notes and isn’t overly tart. It gives the lemon flavored cake a really great balanced flavor.

The billowy cream cheese and mascarpone frosting also has both lemon zest and limoncello for flavor. The creamy and fluffy frosting works so well with the rest of the cake to make it luscious but not too rich. In the center of the cake, I added refreshing and creamy lemon curd, just enough to really bring up the lemon flavor up a notch but not overpower the cake. All in all, I tried to keep the cake tender and luscious but not overly sweet or tart.

When I made this cake for my family, it was a big hit. The first thing my husband said when he took a bite was that I didn’t “oversell” it:). So I hope you give it a try and are just as happy with the results. If you love the flavor of lemons, this cake is for you.

Ingredients:

Sponge Cake:

8 eggs, separated, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar, divided

½ cup milk and melted butter, total (1/4 cup each)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1½ cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Limoncello Syrup:

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup limoncello

Frosting:

2 (8 0z) packages cream cheese (16 oz total), room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

2 (8 0z) packages mascarpone cheese (16 oz total), room temperature

1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 – 1 Tablespoon limoncello

1/2 – 1 teaspoon, lemon zest

1/2 cup lemon curd

Instructions:

If you don’t want to use limoncello, you can omit it from the frosting and use lemonade in its place for the syrup. 

Sponge Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of 2 round (9 inch) cake pans with parchment paper.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another.

Beat the whites using a whisk attachment on a standing mixer or a hand held mixer until foamy. Gradually pour in half of the sugar. Mix the whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In the other bowl with the yolks, add the remaining sugar and use the same whisk attachment to beat the yolks until they are pale and fluffy.

Combine the milk, melted butter, vanilla extract and lemon zest in a bowl or cup. Set aside.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the egg yolks, being careful not to deflate the batter as much as possible.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt over the folded eggs and gently fold in the batter.

When there are still some remaining streaks of flour, pour in the milk and butter mixture into the batter by the side of the bowl.

Continue gently folding until evenly distributed.

Divide the batter in half, pouring into the prepared cake pans.

Bake in the preheated oven until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, prepare the limoncello syrup and the frosting.

Limoncello Syrup:

Make a simple sugar by heating the sugar and water in a small pot until sugar dissolves and add the limoncello. Set aside to cool. Limoncello is an Italian liquor made from the zest of lemons, sugar, water, and, of course, alcohol. The flavor is very delicate and mild. 

Frosting:

In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment or using a hand mixer, mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar until evenly mixed, smooth and fluffy. Add the lemon zest, vanilla extract and limoncello.

Add the mascarpone cheese. You can just fold in the mascarpone cheese with a rubber spatula, since it’s soft enough or mix with the mixer just until combined, about 30 seconds.

In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until fluffy and stiff peaks form. You can do this by hand using a whisk or use a hand held mixer or a standing mixer.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the whipped cream into the frosting until evenly mixed. Assembling the Cake: 

Cut each cake in half horizontally.

Using a serrated knife, make a small cut all around the outside of the cake. This will keep your knife on the same level as you are cutting across. Continue cutting deeper into the cake until you have cut all the way through.

Another trick I use when decorating cakes is to line the serving plate all around the edge with aluminum foil so that the edge of the cake is overlapping the aluminum foil by about 1/2 inch. This will catch all the drips and crumbs, leaving your serving plate neat and clean. When you’re done decorating just carefully pull the aluminum foil out.

Using a pastry brush, brush the top and bottom of each layer with the limoncello syrup.

Put a dollop of frosting in the center of the cake plate, which will help to hold the cake in place. Place the first cake layer in the center of the cake plate and generously spread the cake layer with frosting, all the way to the edges.

Place the second cake layer on top of the frosted cake layer. Spread the lemon curd evenly over the surface of the cake, all the way to the edges. You can use more or less lemon curd, depending on how sweet and “lemony” you want the cake to be. 

Place the third cake layer on top of the lemon curd layer and generously spread the cake layer with frosting, all the way to the edges.

Top with the last layer and this time frost the sides and the top of the cake. Carefully pull out the aluminum foil from underneath the edges of the cake and discard.

You will have enough frosting left over to pipe a border all the way around the cake too. I piped a border all the way around the edges of the cake and added a few swirls in the center too. I used my favorite Wilton 1M piping tip. 

I also grated white chocolate on top of the cake as well as lemon zest and a thin lemon slice in the center of the cake.

The cake should be chilled in the refrigerator for at least 2-4 hours before serving, or overnight. The cake can be made 2 days in advance, completely assembled and stored in the refrigerator, covered.

Before serving, let the cake stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, for the best taste and texture.

Limoncello Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Sweets
Serves: 1 (9 inch) cake
Ingredients
Sponge Cake:
  • 8 eggs, separated, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • ½ cup milk and melted butter, total (1/4 cup each)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Limoncello Syrup:
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup limoncello
Frosting:
  • 2 (8 0z) packages cream cheese (16 oz total), room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ - 1 Tablespoon limoncello
  • 2 (8 0z) packages mascarpone cheese (16 oz total), room temperature
  • ½ cup heavy cream, chilled
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon, lemon zest
  • ½ cup lemon curd
Instructions
Sponge Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of 2 round (9 inch) cake pans with parchment paper.
  2. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another.
  3. Beat the whites using a whisk attachment on a standing mixer or a hand held mixer until foamy. Gradually pour in half of the sugar. Mix the whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  4. In the other bowl with the yolks, add the remaining sugar and use the same whisk attachment to beat the yolks until they are pale and fluffy.
  5. Combine the milk, melted butter, vanilla extract and lemon zest in a bowl or cup. Set aside.
  6. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the egg yolks, being careful not to deflate the batter as much as possible.
  7. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt over the folded eggs and gently fold in the batter.
  8. When there are still some remaining streaks of flour, pour in the milk and butter mixture into the batter by the side of the bowl. Continue gently folding until evenly distributed.
  9. Divide the batter in half, pouring into the prepared cake pans.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.
  11. Cool on a wire rack.
  12. Meanwhile, prepare the limoncello syrup and the frosting.
Limoncello Syrup:
  1. Make a simple sugar by heating the sugar and water in a small pot until sugar dissolves and add the limoncello. Set aside to cool.
Frosting:
  1. In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment or using a hand mixer, mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar until evenly mixed, smooth and fluffy. Add the lemon zest, vanilla extract and limoncello.
  2. Add the mascarpone cheese. You can just fold in the mascarpone cheese with a rubber spatula, since it's soft enough or mix with the mixer just until combined, about 30 seconds.
  3. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until fluffy and stiff peaks form. You can do this by hand using a whisk or use a hand held mixer or a standing mixer.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the whipped cream into the frosting until evenly mixed.
Assembling the Cake:
  1. Cut each cake in half horizontally.
  2. Using a serrated knife, make a small cut all around the outside of the cake. This will keep your knife on the same level as you are cutting across. Continue cutting deeper into the cake until you have cut all the way through.
  3. Another trick I use when decorating cakes is to line the serving plate all around the edge with aluminum foil so that the edge of the cake is overlapping the aluminum foil by about ½ inch. This will catch all the drips and crumbs, leaving your serving plate neat and clean. When you're done decorating just carefully pull the aluminum foil out.
  4. Using a pastry brush, brush the top and bottom of each layer with the limoncello syrup.
  5. Put a dollop of frosting in the center of the cake plate, which will help to hold the cake in place. Place the first cake layer in the center of the cake plate and generously spread the cake layer with frosting, all the way to the edges.
  6. Place the second cake layer on top of the frosted cake layer. Spread the lemon curd evenly over the surface of the cake, all the way to the edges. You can use more or less lemon curd, depending on how sweet and "lemony" you want the cake to be.
  7. Place the third cake layer on top of the lemon curd layer and generously spread the cake layer with frosting, all the way to the edges.
  8. Top with the last layer and this time frost the sides and the top of the cake. Carefully pull out the aluminum foil from underneath the edges of the cake and discard.
  9. You will have enough frosting left over to pipe a border all the way around the cake too. I piped a border all the way around the edges of the cake and added a few swirls in the center too. I used my favorite Wilton 1M piping tip.
  10. I also grated white chocolate on top of the cake as well as lemon zest and a thin lemon slice in the center of the cake.
  11. The cake should be chilled in the refrigerator for at least 2-4 hours before serving, or overnight. The cake can be made 2 days in advance, completely assembled and stored in the refrigerator, covered.
  12. Before serving, let the cake stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, for the best taste and texture.
Notes
If you don't want to use limoncello, you can omit it from the frosting and use lemonade in its place for the syrup.

9 Comments

  • Tania

    Lemoncello cake is my husbands favorite. So I was very excited when you posted this recipe. But have to tell you I’m a little disappointed with the results. This recipe is not quiet it. Both the sponge cake and the cream is too thick and heavy. The one that we order at an Italian restaurant is very light and fluffy. The flavor is similar. But the texture is too heavy and dense for me.

  • Oksana

    Hi Olga! I made this beautiful cake for Thanksgiving and what a sad turnout it was despite its presentation. The cake is very dense and the cream/frosting is so thick! Not what we wanted in a lemoncello cake. I wish the frosting was fluffier and the cake was softer. Will not make this again. I’ll continue searching for the perfect lemoncello cake.

  • oksana

    I made this cake twice already….and oh my goodness!! Absolutely divine!! My guests thought so too. I don’t think the reviewers above read all the details when it specified that the cake is best when at room temp for at least 30 minutes. My culinary teacher always said “never start a recipe until you have read everything from top to bottom 🙂 I took the cake out of the fridge when dinner guests arrived. It sat at room temp for about an hour. And I am not lying…it was absolutely DELICIOUS!!! The cake layers were soft and fluffy and the frosting indeed was “billowy.” What a great recipe!! Definitely a keeper!! And one other detail, I did make my own homemade lemon curd. Thank you Olga, for another perfect recipe!!! I highly recommend others to try this recipe.

    • olgak7

      Thank you for taking the time to write, Oksana.
      I agree that the seemingly unimportant step of bringing the cake to room temperature is something some people may overlook but it makes such a big difference. The texture of both the cake and the frosting is completely different if you serve it cold. I myself, do not like it straight out of the refrigerator.
      I am so happy you enjoyed the cake.

      • oksana

        Oh and I’m totally stealing the cake recipe for future cakes, omitting the lemon when needee 🙂 It was SO delicious!! I love how it didn’t turn into mush when soaked as sometimes biskvit tends to do. Perfect recipe!! Thank you :))

  • Tatiana

    I made this cake for my son’s birthday. I let it stay at room temperature for a good hour, and it turned out so delicious, perfectly moist, and for sure was a winner. It was gone very quickly.
    I will definitely make this cake again! Thank you Olga!

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