Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Learn how to make this unique and light and fluffy lemon rosemary cake with lemon cream cheese frosting complete with step by step pictures. This is my favorite fluffy yellow cake recipe that always comes out tender and moist! 

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

I made a cake this weekend. That sounds like a small statement. But listen to me when I say: this is a big statement!

Cake is my baking arch enemy. I have just had so many failures with cakes. If you saw my last post, you know that this was the cake I had planned to make for my birthday.

I decided to make a giant cookie instead because I knew it would be far less stressful and much more enjoyable for me to eat. But I was determined to make this cake anyway. And man, am I proud of it!

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

We bakers are known for our patience. Well, let me tell you this: I am not patient! Not at all. And this cake took me all freaking morning to make so it also took all my energy to keep myself in the cake baking game. To keep myself from taking any shortcuts and to just plain finish.

I give those wedding cake bakers mad cred. They deserve it.

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

I kept the look of the frosting on this one simple. The reasons for this is 3-fold.

#1: I wanted it to look a little old fashioned.

#2: I pretty much only like cream cheese frosting and it’s not the easiest to work with as far as decorating.

#3: Let’s be honest, I don’t have any cake frosting skillz (with a z). This is the best I could do. One challenge at a time, folks! One challenge at a time.

The cake turned out really light and fluffy! I am pretty pumped about the success! So I wanted to try something different for this post. I did step-by-step photos to help your cake turn out as light and fluffy as mine did!

Let me know how you feel about me doing my posts like this for the future. Helpful? Annoying?

Click here to skip all the way down to the recipe!

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

Everything is going to go a lot more smoothly if you get all your mise en place (getting everything in it’s place) before you start.

Trust me. Then you know you need to run out in the ice to get more sugar before you actually start mixing anything (not that I had that problem or anything).

Hopefully you also put those eggs and that buttermilk out in enough time to come to room temperature too! You want a fluffy cake right? Okay, then. Let’s do this right!

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

Preheat your oven to 350F! (not really sure why that deserved and exclamation mark)

Spray two 8″ or 9″ cake pans and dust with flour. Tap out the excess flour and set pans aside while you get your batter together! (things are getting exciting! more exclamations!)

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

Gather up a large bowl, a sifter, the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar. Remove 1/4 cup of the sugar and set aside for later. Sift together everything (minus the 1/4 cup sugar).

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

I like to use a whisk to speed things along since I don’t have a hand crank sifter. Baker’s trick!

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

Give it all one more quick whisk to combine everything and set the dry ingredients aside.

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

Moving on to the wet stuff! Grab your egg yolks, melted butter, oil, vanilla, buttermilk, lemon zest, and chopped rosemary.

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

And give them all a quick whisk together and set aside.

Whew! This is hard work.

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

Now whip your egg whites in the mixer with the whisk attachment. Stream in the 1/4 cup sugar you reserved earlier with the mixer on high just until stiff peaks form. Like those ^ up there!

You just made simple meringue yo! Good for you!

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

GENTLY move the meringue from the mixing bowl into a clean mixing bowl and set aside. GENTLY! Capiche?

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

Finally, we can start making the batter! Add that dry ingredient mixture to the mixing bowl and with the mixer on low speed gradually pour in the wet ingredients.

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

Mix for only about 10 seconds then shut off the mixer and scrape down the bowl. Mix for about 20 more seconds on low speed and shut off. We don’t want to over develop the glutens here! We took all this time to get everything together let’s keep things light and tender!

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

GENTLY fold 1/2 the meringue into the batter being very careful not to deflate the meringue.  GENTLY fold the rest of the meringue into the batter.

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

You will have a few white streaks in the batter. They will bake out. You want to fold as little as possible to keep the cake light and fluffy!

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

GENTLY divide the batter evenly between your prepared pans. Are you noticing a trend? GENTLE!

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, rotating 1/2 way through.

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

Cool on a wire wrack. Ignore the imperfections! The top will become the bottom!

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

Make your frosting while the cake cools! Lemon cream cheese frosting!

Now frost your cake, take some pictures, and share with someone special!

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

The cake is not overly sweet and I am obsessed with the herbaceousness that the rosemary brings! You’ve probably noticed the thing I have for rosemary in baked goods.

There were those one cookies and those one cinnamon rolls and those waffles too! If you aren’t down with it, leave it out! The cake with just lemon would be awesome too!

Hey! I baked a cake! And it doesn’t look terrible! And it tastes pretty darn awesome! Don’t worry, it will probably only take me like a year and a half to do another one.

One Year Ago: 
Cheddar Jalapeno and Thyme Quick Bread

Two Years Ago: 
Peanut Butter Banana Bacon Cake

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- Baker Bettie

Yields 8-12

Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake

25 minPrep Time

25 minCook Time

50 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe


For the Cake
2 & 1/2 cups cake flour, plus extra for dusting pans
1 & 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 3/4 cups sugar (divided)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 TBSP lemon zest
1 TBSP fresh rosemary, minced
6 large egg yolks, room temperature
3 large egg whites, room temperature
For the Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 TBSP lemon zest
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
2 & 1/2 cup confectioners sugar


    For the Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 8" or 9" round cake pans. Dust pans with flour and tap out excess any excess.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 1/2 cups sugar. In another bowl whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, lemon zest, rosemary and egg yolks.
  3. For the meringue: In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium speed until foamy. With machine running, stream in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Beat at high speed just until stiff peaks form. Gently transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Add flour mixture to the empty stand mixer bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix for about 10 seconds. Stop mixer and thoroughly scrape down the bowl. Mix again on medium for 20 more seconds just until combined.
  5. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in 1/2 of the meringue just until incorporated. Fold in the rest of the meringue. Be very gentle to not deflate the air in the meringue. You will have a few white streaks in the batter. Divide batter evenly between your prepared cake pans.
  6. Place pans on a half-sheet pan and bake on the center rack in the oven at 350F for 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through. The cake will begin pulling away Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and will no longer jiggle in the center when it is finished.
  7. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a thin bladed knife around the sides of the pans to loosen cakes then invert on a greased wire rack. Allow to cool completely (about 1 more hour) before frosting.
  8. For the Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
  9. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until combined and creamy. Scrape down the bowl as needed.


Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated's Fluffy Yellow Cake


Tools I used for this recipe…


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58 comments on “Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting”

  1. SUCH a beautiful cake!!! You did amazing!
  2. Your cake looks beautiful. Funny timing - I ALMOST ended up baking a Lemon Rosemary Layer Cake yesterday myself. My sister's favorite case is a Lemon THYME Cake I have made a few times, but I was having a hard time finding fresh thyme for some reason. Finally gave up and made it with dried. As for frosting, you're one up on me with the cream cheese (which is my go-to for frosting things). I'm just planning to serve it up tonight layered with a lemon whipped cream. And yes, I personally enjoy with pics showing the "in progress" of a recipe. That's especially helpful if it's something you've never made before and want to know what it should be doing along the way. Maybe not necessary for everything, but I like it. :)
    • Thanks for the feedback Chris! I think I will keep doing it for recipes that seem like they could be complicated to follow. And lemon whipped cream sounds amazing! I love fresh whipped cream with the tiniest amount of sugar! Way better than frosting.
  3. I love this step by step post! ... I need time to loose weight and try this! Best wishes for 2014 Bettie!
  4. I've made rosemary orange pound cake before, but I'll most definitely have to try this! It's sooooo pretty! I really love how you photographed all the texture. :D
    • Oooooooh! Rosemary and orange sounds delicious too! Rosemary is one of my most favorite herbs. I love it paired in sweets!
  5. Such a lovely cake. It sounds scrumptious! I just printed your recipe so I can try it--thank you so much. --Rocquie
  6. My husband has been requesting for this cake for more than a week now. Finally made this tonight and the cake turned out great! The lemon flavor definitely came through. The rosemary was subtle and a perfect complement. I overcooked the cake a bit and the sides turned out brown but the cake was still moist ad fluffly. All in all, this recipe is definitely for keeps. My husband said it was exactly what he was craving for. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this recipe! And belated happy birthday! P.s. The house smelled wonderful while this was in the oven. :-)
  7. Thank you for the step by step. Made the cake today.... AMAZING I added a little extra lemon and rosemary : ) Mmmmmm
  8. Nice - Would love to share with all my foodie friends - If you're interested then head over to FoodFotoGallery dot com and submit one of your food photos
  9. This cake was divine and such a hit at my party! The step by step photos and instructions were so helpful. Thank you so much! After many failed attempts this cake goes down in history as my first ever success! I am wondering if I could use the same recipe but make it chocolate?
  10. Thanks for adding a link to skip the pix and get straight to the recipe. I love rosemary. Will definitely be making this this spring! Now off I go to look at those food porn pix...
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  12. Do you think these would translate well to cupcakes? Any idea on how to adjust the baking time or temp for a try? I'm thinking they'd be great for my daughter's birthday along with the not-so-sweet carrot cakes I made last year.
    • I'm sure this would work as a cupcake Amelia. I haven't tried it, but I don't see why not. I would turn the heat down to 325F and keep a close eye on them. They will at least take 15 minutes so check them after that and then continue cooking until a toothpick comes out clean. Let me know how it goes if you do try it!
      • They made great cupcakes! It came out to 24 standard cupcakes. I baked them in two batches; the first I started at 325, but after 20 minutes they still hadn't risen properly, so I upped the temperature to 340 and baked another 5 minutes or so and they fluffed up nicely. I did the second batch at 340 for about 20 minutes (way longer than I thought it would need, but that's when the toothpick came out clean.) I have silicone muffin "tins" so I'm not sure if that alters the way they bake so significantly. I also put in half the rosemary since these are for picky toddlers, but it's barely noticeable, I'd use the whole amount next time. My kiddo loved the test one I gave her. I may do a lemon glaze to match the orange on these I'll be making too, instead of the cream cheese, even though it looks so so good. Thanks!
  13. Baking it as we speak. Im a pretty seasoned baker but thought id try this ...cus I thought your decorating was BEAUTIFUL. Rustic and simple looking ..Not over worked. Your decorating need no refinement.;) Now....as far as taste ...Ill let you know tomorrow !
    • Can't wait to hear how it went Caroline! This was by far my favorite cake I have ever baked. Hope you loved it too!
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  15. Hi Kristin! You have an awesome blog! I baked this cake for Easter and finally got around to writing about it on my own food blog: http://alovelettertofood.blogspot.com/2014/05/fluffy-lemon-rosemary-layer-cake.html. Thanks so much for a fantastic recipe!
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  17. So fun to try, and it looked great. Couldn't figure out how to post the picture. May have overbaked it, a bit on the dry side.
  18. This cake turned out really well. I added a bit more lemon to the icing and sprinkled lavender on the top as decoration which worked really with the lemon and rosemary. Great recipe, thanks for sharing:)
  19. Thanks for posting another brilliant recipe. I too think that the pics of the cake 'in progress' is a great idea, shall pin this it's sure to be great. I really love cream-cheese frosting, so use it often. I too wondered if this would be able to be made into a chocolate cake by adding cocoa powder in place of some of the flour? Iced with chocolate icing or melted chocolate, this should be gorgeous, like all your others are. I must look over some of your savory recipes now to experiment with... Many thanks, Odelle Smith.
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  21. Because of the whipped egg whites, does this cake come out as light as angel food cake? Thanks, Jennifer
    • Hi Jennifer, it isn't quite as light as an angel food cake. The amount of whipped whites in an angel food cake is much higher and an angel food cake doesn't have any fat in it which helps keep the texture that light. But this cake is quite light and tender. Like a really light and fluffy yellow cake.
  22. My husband has demanded I make this for his birthday. Demanded. Prob is, we have to travel 3 hours away from home 4 days before his birthday. I have made & frozen cake layers, refrigerated icing before & then assembled onsite in the past. How do you think this fluffy cake would fair? I know freezing eggs can be tricky so the meringue scares me a bit. Any tips on this are appreciated!
  23. this looks gorgeous! i have been looking for something fancy to take to a dinner party. how do you think this would hold up as a bundt cake?
  24. I love the look of the old fashioned cake. I also appreciate the pics of step by step on how to make it. Really helps trying to organize ingredients and what to do next. I have a question-where can I get baking pans like these???? . They make a lovely shaped cake. I am going to try this Lemon Cake but I will make it gluten free and sugar substitute. I will let you know how it comes out. Thanks for you hard work. It seems worth it.
    • Hi Donna! I find these disposable cake pans in my grocery store. I think it was a Kroger grocery store I got them in, but I have seen them in a lot of stores. Let me know how the cake goes!
  25. Just made the fluffy, lemon, rosemary cake for the Super Bowl party tomorrow! It came out perfectly and I am super excited for everyone to try it! Thanks for posting this yummy recipe with all of your lovely photos:). Go Broncos!!
  26. This sounds so amazing! I love baking with herbs! Such a great flavor combination!
  27. This cake sounds fabulous and is such a stunner! I'd love to bake it as cupcakes and another as a 3 layer 6" smash cake for my son's first birthday. It will be perfect for our Kentucky Derby themed bash! I'd love to hear any thoughts to may have on revised baking times for cupcakes and 6" pans?
  28. HI there, Would it be possible to do with a hand held mixer, since I don't have the other kind. thanks.
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  31. I just saw your recipe on Pintrest. Since this looks like it was originally posted in 2014 I hope you can call yourself a "real baker" by now! And that you now own some real cake pans!! I would make a little more frosting so the cake would not show through. I love the step by step tutorials, lets me know I am doing everything correctly. And I also hope you have not had to make your own birthday cake the last couple of years! What's up with that anyway???
    • Hi Iris, Thanks for stopping by! This is meant to be a rustic cake, so I actually wanted to cake to show through on purpose. I like the feel of it. But you can make more frosting and more heavily frost it if desired! I have always had real cake pans, I just didn't have two of this particular size at the time. Probably still don't! Lol! I definitely haven't made my own cake the last few years. I'm not super into cake so mostly I just eat cookies on my birthday!
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  33. In the oven now! Batter tastes so yummy. Made this for my foodie daughter' s birthday who challenged me to use something from the garden. Didn't want anything heavy made with beets or carrots or even zucchini so you saved the day!! Thanks for this and yes the pictures made even this elderly baker happy!
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  35. Pingback: Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting | FoodiYum

  36. I just made this cake.....oh my, delicious. This was a test run for a meeting I'm co-hosting next week. I shared some of the cake with a couple of neighbors. One even ate her husbands' piece! The pairing of fresh rosemary and lemon is wonderful. Keep creating....looking forward to trying some of your other recipes.
  37. Pingback: Fluffy Lemon-Rosemary Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting | Best Cook Recipes

  38. Gorgeous recipe - perfectly balanced!
  39. Oh, this is going to be prefect to make for the garden club. I'm always looking for new and different way to use herbs rather than the same old , same old. Looks DELISH!
  40. Congrats on the success. I did want to comment that if you are as a rule using those disposable foil pans, those are not a helping you. I would get some nice, sturdy pans and i think you'll see a huge difference.
  41. Are the tablespoons 15 or 20 ml?  Have had some disasters when not knowing
  42. Cakes are my arch enemy too. I tried and tried but I just got tired of tasting cornbread flavor and texture. Lol, BUT not this cake... Just finished baking this, although I prepared it, stuck it in the fridge because I went to the gym, came home forgot I was invited to ladies game night, than came home to finally bake and it turned out so deliciously moist the flavor is spot on with my tastebuds,my husbands and kids. The frosting makes you want to eat spoonfuls while binging on Netflix. Lol...this recipe stole my heart!                   I will make this F O R E V E R!! Thank you so much. 
  43. I made this cake yesterday and it was incredible! I will be making this for a baby shower cake this weekend. Definitely a great cake to make when trying to impress someone! Thank you for the recipe.
  44. My friend, Maria, who was a native of Rome, used to tell me her mother would send recipes for the cakes she baked, and before baking they would have to be converted from metric to US measurements; we know there were errors in translation. Maria was a newlywed and of course wanted to impress her husband. However, she had many failures, so many that she boasted of having a "cake cemetery" in the backyard! She finally mastered baking and made the best tiramisu I've ever eaten. Instead of strong coffee she used coffee liqueur, and since I do not care for coffee but have been known to partake of alcohol from time to time, this worked out exceptionally well for me.
    • Hi Renee! It is definitely a project I am working on to translate all of my recipes to use weight measurements for both standard and metric. It is a big project, but definitely working through it little by little! All new recipes do include both! The tiramisu sounds wonderful!
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