Lemon ombre layer cake recipe

(116 ratings)

Impress your friends and family with this delicious lemon ombre layer cake. It's the perfect cake for special occasions and celebrations...

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)
  • healthy
Preparation Time30 mins plus cooling time
Cooking Time30 mins
Total Time1 hours
Nutrition Per PortionRDA
Calories452 Kcal23%
Fat33 g47%
Saturated Fat21 g105%

Impress your friends and family with this delicious lemon ombre layer cake.

This lemon ombre cake is the perfect cake for special occasions and celebrations like birthdays, Mother's Day or Easter. This cake serves between 16-20 people, thanks to its large layers, and is filled with citrusy lemon curd. The buttercream is made from egg whites and caster sugar so it can keep its shape if you decide to pipe roses to decorate. This lemon cake is an ombre cake as the sponge colour fades from light to dark for an effective finish when cutting. For another clasic, see Mary Berry's lemon drizzle cake.


For the cake:

  • 350g butter, softened
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • Finely zested rind of 2 lemons
  • Lemon extract
  • 3tbsp milk
  • Yellow food colouring

For the filling:

  • 6-8tbsp lemon curd

For the buttercream:

  • 300g caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 150g egg whites
  • 500g unsalted butter
  • Few drops of lemon extract

For the decoration:

  • Paste food colouring in yellow
  • 1-2 edible wafer butterflies
  • 3 x 20cm sandwich tins,
  • buttered, base lined and floured
  • Sugar/jam thermometer
  • Large piping bag and star piping tube




  1. Set the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5. Tip the butter, sugar, flour, eggs, lemon zest and extract and milk into a bowl and beat well.
  2. Spoon out one-third of the mixture into a tin. Colour the rest yellow and spoon out half of this mixture into another tin. Add more colouring to the mixture in the bowl and spoon into the third tin. Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes, until they’ve risen and feel just firm to the touch.
  3. Remove the cakes from the oven. Leave them to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.
  4. Trim tops and bottoms off the cakes, so that the brown colour won’t be seen when they’re layered up. Spread lemon curd between the layers and stack cakes dark to light.
  5. For the buttercream: Pour 100ml water into a pan and add 250g sugar and the salt. Place the pan on the hob and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to the boil. Use a damp pastry brush to wash down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan. Boil the mixture rapidly, without stirring it until it reaches 121°C. When the syrup reaches over 100°C, start whisking the egg whites until stiff, using a tabletop mixer. Gradually whisk in the remaining sugar.
  6. As soon as the syrup reaches 121°C, remove the pan from the heat. With the food mixer on full speed, gradually pour in the syrup in a thin stream, taking care that it doesn’t splatter out. Continue whisking the mixture for about 5-10 minutes until the bowl feels just lukewarm.
  7. Gradually whisk in the butter. The mixture will collapse a little and may look like it’s curdled, but keep whisking until it forms a smooth, fluffy buttercream. Add the lemon extract to taste.
  8. To decorate the cake: Spread a thin layer of buttercream over the top and sides of the cake to level and smooth the top and sides. Fill the piping bag with some buttercream. Starting in the centre of the cake, pipe a rose swirl.
  9. Empty the buttercream in the piping bag back into the bowl. Add some yellow colouring to it and beat well. Refill the piping bag and squeeze the first bit of icing back into the bowl as it will still be uncoloured. Pipe about 5-6 roses around the first one.
  10. Squeeze the buttercream back into the bowl. Add some more yellow colouring and refill the piping bag, squeezing the first bit of buttercream back into the bowl.
  11. Pipe roses in a ring around the pale yellow ones on the top of the cake. Repeat again, as necessary, making each ring of roses a little darker in colour. If the buttercream becomes very soft, chill it in the fridge before continuing. Cover cake completely with the rose swirls. Add 1-2 butterflies for decoration.

Top tip for making lemon ombre cake:

The undecorated cake may be wrapped in freezer bags and frozen for up to 1 month.

You might also like...

Classic lemon sponge cake

Lemon curd cake (opens in new tab)

Triple-layer chocolate cake (opens in new tab)

Food & Recipes writer

Sue McMahon is a former Food and Recipes Writer at GoodTo and Cooking Editor at Woman's Weekly. Her primary passion is cakes and Sue regularly travels the world teaching cake decorating. Her biggest achievement to date was winning the Prix d’honneur at La Salon Culinaire International de Londres beating over 1,200 other entries.