A lovely little lemon syrup cake, with two layers of lemon syrup-soaked cake and a layer of whipped cream sandwiched in between. This simple lemon cake is lightly sweet, perfectly moist and full of lemon flavour.

2 layer lemon syrup cake on plate sliced

If you’re looking for an easy lemon cake recipe that is full of the lemon flavour you crave, this is it! I love this small lemon cake with syrup as it is always moist and while it looks special, it requires minimal decorating, so it’s perfect for a fuss-free, but fabulously delicious lemon cake!

What is a syrup cake?

A syrup cake is a regular cake that is soaked in syrup after baking. In this cake, it is a lemon cake, soaked in a lemon and sugar syrup, for twice the lemon flavour! The syrup is poured over the cake after the cake is baked and still warm, then left to soak into the cake for several hours. You might think it would make for a mushy cake, but as you can see, it absolutely doesn’t. It’s a bit of magic and it makes for such a full-on lemon-flavoured cake!

Key ingredients and substitutions

Lemons – you will need a couple of teaspoons of lemon zest for the cake itself. For the lemon syrup, you’ll need the juice from 3 lemons. So start with 3 average-sized fresh lemons, organic or well-scrubbed.

Step-by-step photos

eggs and sugar in mixing bowl
adding oil to batter
adding melted butter to batter
  1. Add the eggs and sugar to a bowl (with an electric mixer) or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  2. With the mixer on high medium speed (Speed 6-ish on a Kitchenaid mixer) whisk together well, then whisk in the oil with the mixer running.
  3. With the mixer running, whisk in the melted butter.
adding sour cream to batter
adding flour mixture to batter
finished batter in mixing bowl
  1. Continue mixing and whisk in the sour cream.
  2. Reduce the speed of the mixer to whisk in the flour mixture.
  3. Increase the mixer speed briefly to finish whisking the batter.
stirring finished batter
batter in baking tins
making lemon sugar syrup in saucepan
  1. Stir the batter in the bowl to make sure it is well combined.
  2. Spoon the batter into the two prepared pans and bake.
  3. Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup in a saucepan on the stove top.
poking holes in the baked cakes
pouring lemon sugar syrup over cakes
cakes soaking in lemon syrup
  1. Use a cocktail pick or small skewer to make a bunch of little holes in the baked cakes.
  2. Pour the warm lemon syrup over the baked cakes, dividing equally between the two cakes.
  3. Allow the cakes to stand in the syrup, at room temperature, for 3-4 hours.
topping cake with whipped cream
whipped cream spread out on cake
dusting icing sugar on finished cake
  1. Remove the soaked cakes from the pans and place one layer on a serving plate. Spoon the whipped cream on top.
  2. Spread the whipped cream out towards the edges, then gently place the top layer on top.
  3. Dust some icing sugar on top of the cake (with a doily or just plain) and serve.

Pan size options

  • This cake is made with two 6-inch diameter pans. I love this size of pan for small cakes and if you’re a cake baker, this size of pan would be a great addition to your kitchen! If you don’t have two 6-inch pans, you still have some options!
  • Alternatively, you can bake this cake as one 9-inch round cake or you can use a 9×5-inch loaf pan. In both cases, it’s probably best to forego the layers and serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top or on the side.
  • I don’t recommend using a springform pan simply because when the syrup is poured over the cake, it may leak out of a springform pan and not soak the cake properly.
lemon syrup cake sliced on plate

Recipe tips!

  • You can use a paper doily to dust a pattern of icing sugar on top of the cake, but it’s certainly not necessary. Simply dust with icing sugar instead.
  • I just put a round of parchment on the bottom of the pans, but you can line the entire pan if you like. The downside in round pans is that you’ll probably get some wrinkles on the side of the cake from the parchment folds. If only covering the bottom, be careful when using a knife to loosen the sides, to avoid scraping the sides of the cake.
  • As you can probably foresee, cutting this cake could be a bit challenging with the very soft whipped cream. There is a trick! Instead of cutting this cake holding the knife horizontally, as you normally would, insert the knife vertically and cut straight down in the centre of the cake. Then repeat that motion working towards the outside of the cake. This places less pressure on the top layer which could cause the whipped cream to push out. (There will still be a little whipped cream movement, but it is part of the charm of this perfectly imperfect cake :)
lemon syrup cake sliced on plate

Making ahead, storing and freezing

Making ahead is somewhat built into this cake, as it needs to sit in the syrup for 3-4 hours before serving. I’ve actually made the cakes the day ahead, soaked them, then removed them from the pans and refrigerated overnight well wrapped and they were fine. Fill with whipped cream right before serving.

Store leftover cake well-wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. (As this is a naked cake, the cake will lose moisture out of the top and sides if not wrapped all the way around.)

The cake layers should freeze well for up to 3 months. I wouldn’t freeze the finished cake, due to the whipped cream.

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lemon syrup cake sliced on plate

Get the Recipe: Lovely Lemon Syrup Cake

A lovely little lemon syrup cake, with two layers of lemon syrup soaked cake, with a layer of whipped cream sandwiched in between.
5 stars from 3 ratings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Soaking Time:: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
Yield: 10 servings


  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons (180 g) white granulated sugar
  • 7 Tablespoons (100 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons (50 ml) vegetable oil, or similar neutral-tasting oil such as canola, sunflower
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons (50 g) full fat sour cream, or plain full fat yogurt
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 3/4 cups (200 g) all purpose flour, spooned and levelled
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch fine salt

For the lemon syrup:

  • 1/2 cup + 1 1/2 Tablespoons (120 g) white granulated sugar
  • 7 Tablespoons (100 ml) water
  • 3 lemons, juiced

To serve:

  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream, 35% b.f.
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons white granulated sugar, to taste, for sweetness
  • icing/confections' sugar, for dusting before serving


  • Tip! This recipe is best made using a kitchen scale and the weight and the ml measurements on your measuring cups, for best accuracy. I have converted from these measures and they never convert quite exactly.
  • Preheat oven to 350F (180C) regular bake/non convection setting), with oven rack in the centre of the oven. Grease or spray two 6-inch baking pans (2" deep) and line with parchment paper. *See Note 1 below for options for the pans and for some other baking pan size options.
  • In a large bowl with an electric mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the eggs and sugar at medium speed (Speed 6 on a Kitchenaid mixer) until combined. With the mixer still running at medium speed, add and whisk in the melted butter, oil, sour cream and lemon zest.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the egg mixture with the mixer set to low (to avoid the flour flying out of the bowl), then once incorporated increase speed to medium and mix briefly until well mixed.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans (or single pan, if using) and spread top level. Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. *Baking time will vary from oven-to-oven and depending on the colour of your baking pans. Darker pans will bake more quickly. Be sure to test to ensure the cakes are thoroughly cooked! Remove the cakes from the oven, leaving the cakes in the pans and placing the pans onto a cooling rack for 20 minutes.
  • As soon as the cakes are out of the oven, make the lemon syrup. Add the sugar and water to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then add the lemon juice and heat until the syrup is just about to boil. Remove from the heat and cool until warm before using. *I like to transfer the hot syrup to a 2-cup measuring cup so it will cool more quickly and it will be easier to pour over the cakes.
  • Once the cakes have cooled in the pans for 20 minutes, use a cocktail stick or fine skewer to prick the surface of each cake with a lot of holes (press in about 1-inch or so). Pour the warm syrup over the cakes, dividing evenly between the two cakes (or pouring it all over if making a single, larger cake).
  • Leave the cakes to sit in the pans with the liquid for 3-4 hrs before removing the cakes from the pan. Tip! If you aren't ready to serve the cake right away, you can wrap the cake layers well (double wrap with plastic wrap) and refrigerate up to 24 hours.
  • To assemble the cake (close to serving): Whip the cream with the white sugar in a bowl until soft peaks form. Place one layer of the cake on a plate. Top with whipped cream (you may not need quite all of it) and spread to level, then carefully place the second layer on top. Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar and serve. (I used a cake stencil here, but a paper doily works, too, if you want to dust on a design.) Tip! To slice the layer cake with the whipped cream between the layers, rather than holding the knife horizontally and slicing straight down, hold the knife vertically and stick it into the cake straight down in the centre of the cake, then repeat this downward motion working toward the outside of the cake. This will help to prevent the whipped cream from squishing out the sides of the cake too much when cutting. (A little whipped cream will still squish out a bit, but I consider it just part of the charm of this casual cake :)
  • If you made a single layer cake or loaf cake, slice and serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top or on the side.
  • This cake will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. If you don't have a container, be sure to wrap around the outside of the cake, as well as any cut edges, as the cake will lose moisture out the sides if not covered.


Note 1: For ease of getting the cakes out of the pans, you can fully line the baking pan with parchment paper, with an inch or so extending past the sides of the pan to use as handles to remove the cakes from the pan. The downside is that when fully lining the pans, you will probably get some wrinkles on the sides of the cakes where the parchment folds are.  So try your best to make it as smooth as possible. You can also only line the bottom of the pan (as I did here) and take your chances that it will come out cleanly. If you go this route, use a knife and carefully run it around the sides before removing the cakes.
Pan Size Options: If you don’t have two 6-inch round cake pans (6×2″), you can use one 9-inch round (2″ deep) cake pan or one 9×5-inch loaf pan. In both of these alternative pans, you will forego the layer cake aspect of this cake, but you could serve slices with a dollop of the whipped cream on top or on the side. I don’t recommend using a springform pan simply because when the syrup is poured over the cake, it may leak out of a springform pan and not soak the cake properly.
Be sure to read the notes above this Recipe Card, for more tips on making this recipe. You’ll also find step-by-step photos there that you might find helpful.
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Course: Dessert
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 438kcal, Carbohydrates: 57g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 22g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0.4g, Cholesterol: 118mg, Sodium: 38mg, Potassium: 237mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 37g, Vitamin A: 651IU, Vitamin C: 23mg, Calcium: 88mg, Iron: 2mg
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Adapted from an Olive magazine recipe