Easy Lemon Cake, also known as lemon lovers layered cake, starts with a cake mix and lemon instant pudding mix! This lemon cake is so moist, light, and full of bright lemon flavor. It's topped with a whipped lemon pudding frosting that is so fluffy. If you love lemon + strawberry then be sure and also try my easy strawberry lemonade cake that also starts with a cake mix.
EASY LEMON CAKE WITH LEMON INSTANT PUDDING MIX AND A CAKE MIX
This easy lemon cake was one of the first recipes I ever posted to this food blog of mine. Bake when I first posted it the cake mix boxes were a larger size (18 oz) than they are today (15 oz). Because of that this recipe has not worked well for many of you over the years since they changed the boxed cake mix size.
I have been wanting to update this recipe for awhile now and here we are. I have personally made and tested this recipe dozens and dozens of times and I am very happy with the changes. The recipe is the same meaning, it still calls for a lemon cake mix, lemon instant pudding, and then a few mix-ins to make the boxed cake mix taste homemade, but there are some slight changes. I will post the original recipe in the notes of the recipe below because I know a lot of you have great success with the original recipe even with the different sized cake mix.
There are some slight changes I made to the original recipe.
- I reduced the oil and eggs to accommodate the smaller cake mix size. The original recipe used 1 cup of oil + 4 large eggs. It was just too much moisture in the cake which caused the cake to bake properly and instead sink in the middle.
- I took out the vanilla extract. This was a hard one form me. Again, the original recipe had too much moisture in it and when you added the vanilla it made the cake not as fresh and lemon tasting as it tasted without the vanilla in it. I tested the recipe so many times without the vanilla and it was much better. The texture and flavor. Of course, you can add in the vanilla extract if that's what you prefer or even use some lemon extract. I will make notes of all of that in the recipe below.
HOW TO MAKE AN EASY & MOIST LEMON LAYERED CAKE
Lemon Cake Mix - Do not prepare this according to package instructions. You are just going to be using the dry cake mix powder inside the box.
Lemon Instant Pudding Mix - Do not prepare this according to package instructions. All you want to do is dump the pudding powder into the bowl.
Sour Cream - Full-fat sour cream tastes the best so please use it. You are making cake after all, not diet food, so if you want it to have the best texture and rich taste then use full fat sour cream.
Canola or Vegetable Oil
MY TIPS & HELPFUL HINTS FOR MAKING LEMON CAKE
Can I make this lemon cake recipe in a 9x13 pan?
- I tested this recipe several times using a 9x13 pan and while it worked I did not love the results. It tastes better as a layered cake. You can bake it in a 9x13 baking dish but watch the center closely because it does not rise up high like the edges, so use a toothpick inserted into the middle to check for doneness. You want the toothpick coming out with moist crumbs not wet batter. Follow the instructions on the back of the cake for cooking times if making a 9x13 cake.
Can I make this lemon cake recipe in a cupcake pan?
- If you want to make cupcakes be sure you don't overfill each one. You want each cupcake to be filled slightly less than half full. Follow the instruction on the back of the cake mix for cooking time if making cupcakes.
What is Dream Whip? Can I substitute with something else?
- Dream Whip is a powdered whipped topping. Think of powdered milk compared to milk. Dream Whip is the powered, shelf-stable version of heavy whipping cream. I don't use Dream Whip a lot, actually only in this lemon cake recipe, but it's really good! Promise. You can find it in the baking aisle at the grocery store and it comes in a box with 2 packets inside of it. You will need 1 of those packets for the frosting, unless you want more frosting, then you will need 2 packets to double the frosting recipe.
- If you don't want to use the Dream Whip then feel free to use 2 cups heavy whipping cream in it's place. Depending on sweet preference you may have to add some powdered sugar as well to the frosting mix before you start beating it.
Can I make lemon cake ahead of time?
- Yes you can! In fact I love to make the cake the day before. I bake it and let it cool completely. Then I cover the cake pans with Saran Wrap and let the cake refrigerate overnight. The next day I make the frosting and frost the cake before serving it. I think it's much easier to frost a cold cake.
YOU WILL LOVE THESE OTHER LEMON RECIPES
Lemon Blueberry Banana Bread - Fresh lemon flavor, juicy blueberries combined with banana in the best quick bread recipe with no yeast.
No Bake Lemon Pudding Pie - A triple layer lemon pie made easy with a graham cracker crust, lemon pudding mix, and freshly whipped cream.
Lemon Zucchini Bread - Probably my favorite zucchini recipe ever. So bright, fresh, and full of fresh lemon juice, fresh lemon zest, and shredded zucchini.
Lemon Yogurt Fruit Salad - Fresh fruit combined with a lemon yogurt honey dressing.
Lemon Parmesan Chicken - Crispy oven baked chicken breasts dipped in lemon juice and butter and then topped with breadcrumbs. The crispy coating actually stays on this chicken thanks to the egg.
Lemon Chicken & Potatoes - A sheet pan dinner recipe with chicken breasts and potatoes coated in seasonings and fresh lemon juice.
Lemon Crumb Bars - An oatmeal & brown sugar base and topping with a creamy and fresh lemon filling in the middle.
Easy Lemon Cake with Lemon Pudding Frosting
- 1 box (15.25 oz) lemon cake mix
- 1 box (3.4 oz) lemon instant pudding
- 1 cup sour cream
- 3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 3 large eggs
Whipped Lemon Pudding Frosting
- 1 packet Dream Whip
- 1 box (3.4 oz) lemon instant pudding
- 1⅓ cups half & half milk or whole milk
- Heat oven to 350°. Prepare three 9-inch cake pans by spraying with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, or you can use the bowl of a stand mixer, add the dry cake mix, instant pudding, sour cream, oil, milk, whole milk, and eggs. Beat on low speed, increasing speed as needed, until the batter is well combined. The batter will be thick and that's ok.
- Divide cake batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans. The layers will be thin but don't worry cause as they cook they will bake up higher.
- Cook for 18-20 miutes. Use a toothpick inserted into the middle to ensure it's cooked all the way. You want the toothpick coming out with moist crumbs NOT wet batter.
- Let the cake cool in the pan (at room temperature) until it's completely cooled.
- At this point you can either frost the cake once it's cooled OR tightly cover the cake pans with saran wrap or tin foil and refrigerate overnight or for several hours before frosting it. I always make the cake the night before I need it. I bake and cool it the day before and then tightly wrap the cake pans up and refrigerate overnight. The next day I make the frosting and frost the cake.
Lemon Pudding Frosting
- Combine all frosting ingredients into a bowl, or use the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low speed, increasing speed as needed, until it's thick and fluffy and stiff peaks form. This will take several minutes. The recipe pictures show a double recipe of the frosting. If you like the more even layers of frosting and cake then you will want to double the frosting recipe for a layered cake.
Here are the older pictures of this easy lemon lovers layered cake. This recipe has been updated with more helpful tips, better pictures, and improved recipe in March 2021.