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Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

June 11, 2021
This birthday cake is an easy and delicious one-bowl recipe with bright lemon flavor and creamy homemade frosting.

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

This Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake is moist, + fluffy with tart and sweet flavors and topped with whipped lemon buttercream frosting. A crowd-pleasing treat for a birthday or special occasion. Vegan option available.

This fluffy one-bowl cake is another to add to my long repertoire of Funfetti recipes. By the way, if you haven’t tried Vegan Funfetti Pancakes (Quick + Easy) or Vegan Funfetti Cake + Vanilla Buttercream yet, what are you waiting for??

But let’s focus on this classic lemon sheet cake first. It’s dense, moist and fluffy and topped with one of my favorite classic frostings: lemon buttercream. You truly can’t go wrong with this simple, but sophisticated sheet cake for a birthday, holiday or any day!

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

Why You’ll Love Lemon Sheet Cake with Buttercream Frosting

  • It’s super fluffy and moist.
  • Bold lemon flavor.
  • Delicious and comforting in every bite.
  • Melt in your mouth goodness!
  • Can be made as a traditional 2-layer cake, sheet cake, or cupcakes. Your choice!
  • Not too sweet, but perfectly sweet at the same time.
  • That Whipped Lemon Buttercream Frosting is EVERYTHING.

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

How to Make The Fluffiest Lemon Sheet Cake

While I was intimidated to make my own cake recipes for a long time, I finally cracked the code on how to make the fluffiest and most flavorful birthday cake with this recipe.

There are two secrets to this lemon Funfetti cake:

  1. Buttermilk for tang
  2. The right mixture of flours. You need both all-purpose flour and super-fine cake flour. This combo definitely creates a beautiful bite.

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

Lemon Sheet Cake FAQs

How long can I store the cake for?

When tightly wrapped + refrigerated, this cake can be stored for up to 5 days. You can make it a day ahead of time and serve it at room temperature if you’re planning a party. 

Can this cake be made ahead or frozen for longer?

Absolutely! You can always bake this cake the night or day before and let it cool, tightly wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use. The buttercream frosting can also be made prior and tightly wrapped and stored in the fridge as well. When ready to serve, let cake sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, frost, and enjoy!

To store frozen (frosted or unfrosted), simply tightly wrap and cover cake and freeze for up to 2-3 months. To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bring to room temperature.

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

Can I use Cake Flour by itself?

Definitely! You can replace the all-purpose flour and use 100% cake flour in this recipe. Using cake flour alone makes your cake even more soft, fluffy, and moist!

On the other hand, you can also make this sheet cake with 100% all-purpose flour if that’s what you have on hand. 

Can this Cake be made Vegan?

Yup. To make this cake vegan, you can simply substitute the eggs with apple cider vinegar mixed into the milk and the unsalted butter with coconut or vegetable oil.

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

Why are the ingredients at room temperature?

It’s always best to have cold ingredients at room temperature to ensure that the mixing process is more seamless and even. Please note that microwaving your butter last minute if you forget to leave it out at room temperature isn’t recommended. Microwaving often changes the consistency of the butter which doesn’t create a nice ‘creaminess’ when mixed.

Instead, to quickly soften your butter, run a plate and a bowl under hot water. Place the unwrapped butter on the hot plate and cover with the bowl. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Then your butter should be nice and soft. You can also cut the butter into a few pieces to speed up the softening process even more. 

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

Can I use the recipe to make cupcakes?

Absolutely! Simply follow the recipe as written and bake in a lined cupcake pan for 18-20 minutes.

You can also divide the batter into two 8-inch cake pans for a nice double layer cake. The bake time will be a little less in a smaller pan so keep your eyes on them during baking.

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

Decorating Lemon Sheet Cake

If I’m serving this cake for a birthday, I always shower it with rainbow sprinkles. Other fun ways to dress up this lemon sheet cake include:

  • Chocolate shavings
  • White chocolate chips
  • Fresh berries
  • Cocoa powder

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

More Delicious Cake Recipes to Try

  • Vegan Carrot Cake with Orange Frosting isn’t your traditional carrot cake. Not only is it completely vegan, fluffy, + moist, but it’s also full of shredded carrots, orange zest, pecan/walnuts, pineapple, and a ton of warm, fall spices for a decadent flavor.
  • Vegan Banana Cake + Cinnamon Browned Butter Buttercream is the best you’ll ever have! Banana, nut and warming spices make a winning combination.
  • Classic Red Velvet Cake + Cream Cheese Frosting is a healthier option to the decadent classic Red Velvet Cake. The velvety cream cheese buttercream is perfect for this fluffy cake (made with premium cocoa powder).
  • Vegan Chocolate Cake + Chocolate Buttercream is a healthier option for chocolate cake! Top it with airy cacao buttercream.
  • Vegan Funfetti Cake + Vanilla Buttercream is loaded with sweet rainbow sprinkles for a fun and festive look.

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 35 mins
Serves: 12 servings
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Ingredients

LEMON SHEET CAKE:

  • 3 cups organic cake flour 
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups organic pure cane sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp. (That's 2 stick!)
  • 3 large organic eggs, room temp.
  • 1 1/2 tsps lemon extract or lemon juice
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plant-based 'buttermilk'  (That’s Almond milk + 1 Tbsp lemon juice; See Notes!)

LEMON BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

  • 5 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp. (That's 2 stick!)
  • 1 tsp lemon extract or lemon juice
  • 2-3 Tbsps Almond milk (You can use your fave plant-based milk!)

TOPPING:

  • 1 cup Rainbow Sprinkles

Instructions

LEMON SHEET CAKE:

  • Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease and line with parchment paper (with two sides hanging out) an 8-inch square pan (for a thicker cake) or a 9 x 13 baking pan.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, lemon zest, and sea salt until combined. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, add together the sugar and unsalted butter, mixing by using a hand-mixer on medium-high speed, until fluffy and airy, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add in the eggs (one at a time), vanilla, lemon extract, and the buttermilk, followed by the dry ingredients, mixing everything together until well combined, smooth, and lump-free, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Pour batter evenly into prepared pan, spreading everything around for a perfect evenness.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the center of the cake comes out clean when tested with a toothpick or butter knife.
  • Once done, remove the cake from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before carefully lifting it from the pan and unto a cooling rack to cool completely.

TO MAKE THE LEMON BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

  • In a large bowl, add in the butter and beat using a hand-mixer on medium-high speed, until light, pale, and smooth. Add in the lemon extract or juice and continue to mix until incorporated.
  • Add in the powdered sugar and milk until completely smooth, thick, and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. NOTE: If buttercream is too 'runny', add additional powdered sugar (1 Tbsp at a time); if too thick, add additional milk (1 Tbsp at a time).
  • Using a metal or rubber spatula, top cooled cake with buttercream frosting and evenly spread over the top until fully coated and smooth. Top with rainbow sprinkles and wallah!
  • Slice into medium-sized squares and enjoy!
  • Bon Appetit!

Tips & Tricks

  • STORAGE: Keep leftover cake tightly wrapped using plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 5 days. To store frozen (frosted or unfrosted), simply tightly wrap and cover cake and freeze for up to 2-3 months. To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bring to room temperature.
  • LEMON CUPCAKES: This recipe yields about 30 cupcakes. Simply bake for 18-20 minutes instead, until centers come out clean.
  • PLANT-BASED BUTTERMILK: Add 1 cup of Almond milk (or your fave plant-based milk) + 1 Tbsp lemon juice and let sit for 10 minutes, until it slightly thickens.
  • FLOUR: If you don’t have cake flour, you can always just use all-purpose flour instead. 
  • VEGAN OPTION: To make this cake vegan, simply omit the eggs and substitute the unsalted butter with vegan butter (softened); Apple Cider Vinegar (1 Tbsp) to be mixed in with the plant-based milk instead for ‘buttermilk’; add 1 tsp baking soda to dry ingredients. 
  • MAKE AHEAD: You can always bake this cake the night or day before and let it cool, tightly wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use. The buttercream frosting can also be made prior and tightly wrapped and stored in the fridge as well. When ready to serve, let cake sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, frost, and enjoy!

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  1. Hi! I just made this cake, and might have made a grave mistake…. I added the eggs, baking powder, lemon juice, and vanilla as directed. When I added lemon juice and baking powder together, the baking powder reacted and fizzed. Now the baked cake hasn’t risen much and the crumb is very tight, almost like a brownie consistency. I think adding the lemon juice and baking powder together was the wrong way to go. The flavor of the baked cake is delicious! I know my baking powder is fine- I truly bake almost every day and use baking powder multiple times per week. So I’m thinking the only thing was that the juice and powder reacted and spoiled that reaction from occurring inside the oven. Do you think so? If so, maybe update the method here to reflect juice and baking powder added separately? Thank you so much- I am looking forward to your answer because I do want to try it again- the flavor is spot on!!

    • Hi Renee! Oh No! I’m so sorry that it didn’t rise much! It’s definitely caused by the reaction of both being together! I’d recommend adding all of the dry ingredients together, then adding the wet ingredients, but perhaps starting with the milk and making the lemon juice last. Thanks so much for pointing that out—I’ll be sure to specify this in the recipe! I do hope that you get a chance to try it again! 🙂

      • Thank you for the reply, Shanika! I saw it fizz and thought… “Ohhhhh nooooo…” but by then it was too late to change it. I will try again for sure! I’ll keep ya posted! Thanks again- Renee

    • Hi Michiel! Thanks so much! It really is the perfect easy cake! I hope that you get a chance to try it!:-)

  2. Yes! Jesus still reigns whether Easter looks like it has in past years or different given the current circumstances. This cake is such a happy delicious treat you can’t help but smile when eating! I’ll be quarantined for my birthday this year and this seems like the perfect cake to celebrate with. Stay safe up there!!

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Aimee! It never matters what it looks like. He’s unchanging! I hope that you enjoy this one on your Birthday for sure! It’s SO GOOD! Thanks so much—–stay safe and Happiest of Birthdays when it comes! 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Shannon! Definitely takes practice, but so easy! I hope that you enjoy this as much as I did! 🙂