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Lemon Sheet Cake

Lemon Sheet Cake is deliciously lemony! Don’t miss this one if you love all things lemon!

slice of Lemon Sheet Cake

Lemon Sheet Cake

What is it about a lemon dessert that’s so refreshing and just delightful? The bright citrus flavor? That little citrus tingle? There’s just something about biting into a lemony treat that makes them irresistible.

This Lemon Sheet Cake is a simple one-layer cake that I think you’ll be more than happy to add to your baking arsenal. There’s no stacking multiple layers and perfecting your frosting skills. Just one simple cake that mixes quickly and easily and is brimming with loads of lemon flavor. What’s not to love?

This is a tall cake, too, for a single layer cake. There’s quite a lot of batter, so make sure your pan is not a shallow one. Most standard baking pans are 2 inches deep, and that will work just fine.

Once you’ve baked this amazing lemon cake, top it with a simple lemon cream cheese frosting that is truly among my all-time favorites. It is made with just 4 ingredients and has such amazing flavor from the combination of cream cheese and sour cream. Plus, the texture is smooth and silky and just lovely. The lemon flavor in the frosting comes from lemon zest, which also gives it an interesting look.

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slices of Lemon Sheet Cake on colorful plates

What You’ll Need

Along with lemons, you’ll need the basics for this Lemon Sheet Cake recipe. Scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for ingredient quantities and full directions.

For the cake:

  • Milk – Whole or 2% milk works best.
  • Lemons – You’ll need both juice and zest for this recipe. Count on needing 3 or 4 medium lemons to get everything you’ll need. Learn more: How to Juice and Zest Lemons
  • All-purpose flour – Measure by weight for best results. Otherwise, use the spoon and sweep method.
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter – Allow the butter to soften before mixing.
  • Sugar
  • Eggs – Let the eggs come to room temperature for easier mixing and a fluffier cake. I recommend baking with large eggs.

For the frosting:

  • Cream cheese – Bring the cream cheese to room temperature for a smoother frosting. Full-fat cream cheese in blocks works best.
  • Confectioners’ sugar – This is also called powdered sugar. Sifting it will make a smoother frosting.
  • Sour cream – Full-fat sour cream works best.
  • Lemon zest
slices of Lemon Sheet Cake on colorful plates

How to Make Lemon Sheet Cake

This cake is a cinch to make! You’ll need a few mixing bowls, a hand mixer or stand mixer, and your trusty 9×13 pan.

  • Prepare for baking. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9- by 13- by 2-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper either with butter and flour or a non-stick spray with flour (like Baker’s Joy or Pam Baking.)
  • Combine the milk and lemon juice. Stir to combine and set aside.
  • Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Combine the wet ingredients. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until the mixture is fluffy and lightened in color. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after adding each.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three portions, alternating with two portions of the milk mixture. Don’t over-mix; mix just until combined.
  • Bake. Spread the cake batter evenly in the prepared pan, and tap the pan gently on the counter a few times to dissipate any large air pockets. Place the pan in the oven, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The cake is done when it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Cool. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.
  • Make the frosting. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Mix in the sour cream and lemon zest.
  • Frost the cake. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake. If you like, decorate with sprinkles.

Topping Ideas

For a little fun, I like to add some sprinkles to an otherwise monochromatic cake. The ones I used in these photos are called Juice Box from Sweetapolita. I’ve also linked to a similar kind under the recipe. Any kind of sprinkles will do, of course, so just use your favorite!

For a full-on lemon experience, you could garnish servings with thin lemon slices or candied lemon peel.

Or add some fresh berries to bring some extra flavor to the party. Blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries would all be great choices.

overhead view of Lemon Sheet Cake slices

Tips for Success

  • Use room temperature ingredients. You’ll get easier mixing and better rise in the cake and a smoother frosting. (This comes with an asterisk, as butter shouldn’t be all the way to room temperature. Learn more: How to Soften Butter)
  • Don’t over-mix. Too much mixing leads to a tough cake texture.
  • Use a light-colored metal pan. Your cake will bake more thoroughly and evenly.
  • Keep it cool! If your kitchen is warm, stick the cake in the refrigerator briefly to let the frosting set a bit before garnishing or cutting into slices.

How to Store Lemon Sheet Cake

Keep the cake tightly covered or transfer to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator up to 4 or 5 days, although it will be its best within a day or two of making. Bring servings to room temperature.

Can This Cake Be Frozen?

Yes, you can freeze this cake. Place any remaining cake on a rimmed baking pan and freeze until the frosting has completely hardened. Then wrap the cake in two layers of plastic wrap and place in an airtight, freezer-safe container or bag. Properly stored, the cake should keep up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

More Lemon Cake Recipes

Lemon Sheet Cake

Yield 12 to 16 servings
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Lemon Sheet Cake is all-out lemony deliciousness! This cake is bursting with lemon flavor in both the cake and the frosting.

slice of Lemon Sheet Cake


For the cake:

  • 1 & 1/3 (314ml) cups milk
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 2 medium lemons)
  • 3 & 1/4 cups (390g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 medium lemons)
  • 4 large eggs

For the frosting:

  • 8 ounces (226g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (220g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 cup (170g) sour cream
  • zest of 1-2 lemons
  • sprinkles, for garnish


To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9"x 13"x 2" baking pan with parchment paper. Grease (or butter and flour) the paper.
  2. Combine the milk and lemon juice. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  5. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 portions, alternating with 2 portions of the milk mixture. Mix just until combined.
  6. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of large air pockets.
  7. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or the cake is golden brown and a pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack.

To make the frosting:

  1. Using an electric mixer on low speed, mix the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until thoroughly combined and smooth.
  2. Mix in the sour cream and lemon zest.
  3. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake. Decorate with sprinkles if you like.


Keep the cake chilled if not serving immediately. Bring to room temperature before serving. If you're adding sprinkles, you may want to wait to add them until just before serving to prevent any potential color bleeding into the frosting.

Cake recipe slightly adapted from The New York Times. Frosting recipe slightly adapted from Imperial Sugar.

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    14 Comments on “Lemon Sheet Cake”

  1. I love lemon shortcake! Looks so moist and delicious – perfect with a cup of coffee ♥

  2. This is the best lemon cake EVER!

  3. The frosting was amazing, but the cake was far too dry.

    • I’m sorry you had troubles, Molly. I don’t find this cake dry at all, so I recommend checking how you measure your flour. If you don’t use a scale to weigh it, then be sure you’re lightly spooning it into the measuring cups and not scooping directly down into the flour.

  4. Hi!! Recipe looks great, want to try it! Does the cake work better with room temp ingredients (ex. The buttermilk) or is it okay straight out of the fridge to mix with the lemon? Thank you! 

  5. Hi, Jennifer !

    I have made so many of your baking recipes & all were successful & delicious. I am anxious to make the lemon sheet cake. Having to use a cane lately tells me I should begin making my baking methods less involved. This recipe surely fits that bill . Thank you. Carol Ann

  6. Am I reading Step 2 correctly? Does it say to combine the milk and lemon juice? Doesn’t that curdle the milk?

  7. Hi Jennifer! I made your cake and frosting this morning. The cake was fluffy but moist and did have a wonderful lemon-y flavor! However, I had some trouble with the frosting. Tastes awesome but it was runny. I added more powdered sugar and even some corn starch to get it thicker. No luck. So I made the cake into a poke cake, frosted it and it’s in my fridge now. Every one of your recipes that I have made has been a wonderful success! I’m sure I did something wrong. Can you help please? Thank you!

    • I’m sorry you had troubles, Tom! This isn’t a thick frosting like a buttercream, but I wouldn’t say it’s runny. It’s more toward an icing than a frosting, I suppose. The cream cheese is a lot of what gives this frosting its structure, so be sure to use full-fat cream cheese that comes in blocks. If you didn’t use anything different from that, you could try using a bit more cream cheese or a little less sour cream to tweak the texture. I hope that helps!

  8. Thank you for your response Jennifer! I will try it with a bit less sour cream the next time. I did use the remaining frosting/icing on some cookies and it was fine. You are still my #1 go-to for delicious recipes!

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