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Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

June 11, 2021
Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea
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

Partially-eaten piece of lemon sheet cake on a small plate.

This fluffy one-bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake is another to add to your repertoire of fun recipes to bake. By the way, if you haven't tried this Vegan Funfetti Pancakes (Quick + Easy) or Vegan Funfetti Cake + Vanilla Buttercream yet, what are you waiting for??

What is Considered a Sheet Cake?

Basically, the main definition of a sheet cake is one that is baked in a shallow sheet cake pan as opposed to a standard round pan and it comes as a single layer.

Jump to:

Why You'll Love this Lemon Sheet Cake

  • It’s super fluffy and moist.
  • Bold lemon flavor.
  • Delicious and comforting in every bite.
  • Melt in your mouth goodness!
  • Can be also made as a traditional 2-layer cake or cupcakes!
  • Perfectly sweet with hints of tartness----not at all overwhelming!
  • Whipped Lemon Buttercream is EVERYTHING!

How Many will a Sheet Cake Feed?

If you're thinking of making this Lemon sheet cake for a crowd at a party or gathering, great news! You can totally make a larger sheet cake (full sheet cake pan size of 18" x 26") which can feed about 50-100 people. This recipe can make 12-24 slices of cake, depending on how small you cut the squares.

Pieces of Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake on a wooden board.

Ingredients for Lemon Sheet Cake

This is a classic birthday sheet cake. Here are the ingredients you need:

  • Flour. The blend for this cake batter is a combination of all-purpose flour and organic cake flour, however, using cake flour alone will create a lighter, fluffier texture.
  • Baking powder to help leaven your cake. 
  • Cane sugar. I use organic sugar for the best quality. 
  • Lemon zest adds a major zippy lemony flavor. 
  • Butter. Use unsalted butter to better control the seasoning. However, you can use salted butter and omit the salt.
  • Eggs. These should be at room temperature for easy mixing and this works as a binder. For a vegan option, you'll need apple cider vinegar to create a dairy-free buttermilk.
  • Lemon juice. I like to use freshly-squeezed lemon juice for an authentic lemony flavor. You could also use lemon extract if you like. 
  • Vegetable oil. You can substitute with a healthier oil like coconut oil, olive oil, or melted butter or vegan butter too. 
  • Milk. I love using Almond milk to reduce dairy, however, feel free to use whole milk. Try using homemade almond milk!
Cut pieces of Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake topped with sprinkles.

How to Make the Fluffiest Sheet Cake

Always ensure that your cold ingredients come to room temperature. This allows the batter to mix together better which creates the best cake texture.

Don't over-bake or under-bake your cake. Always keep an eye on your cake and test the doneness by gently pressing the tops to see if it springs back and the centers by using a cake tester or knife to ensure that it comes out clean.

Always cool your cake completely before frosting! This is major and will make sure that your whipped frosting stays on perfectly without sliding or melting off.

Why you will LOVE this Birthday Sheet Cake

  • Perfect balance of sweetness to satisfy your cravings.
  • Insanely delicious and perfectly moist.
  • Fresh & Fluffy.
  • A totally dreamy spring or summer dessert for any occasion, especially for Birthdays!
  • Gluten-free & Vegan options to suit all!
  • Vibrant lemony flavor.
  • Most importantly... It's totally mouthwatering

How Big is a Half Sheet Cake?

OK, so if you're a little intrigued about the sizes of a sheet pan, then look no further. Here's a breakdown of the sizes and the amounts of cake that you can achieve:

Half sheet cake: This recipe uses this pan and can make 12-24 slices of cake, depending on how large you cut them.

¼ sheet cake: Would be half the amount of this recipe and should make around 6-12 slices of cake, depending on how large you cut them.

Full sheet cake: Would require this recipe to be doubled and should make around 50 -100 slices, depending on how large you cut them.

Fork and two pieces of Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake on plates.

How to Make Your Own Homemade Cake Flour

If you're in a pinch and you don't have any cake flour on hand and you only have all-purpose flour---no worries! You can still achieve that extra fluffiness that cake flour would by simply adding 1 teaspoon of arrowroot or starch to your flour before whisking.

Lemon Sheet Cake FAQs

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.

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 Sheet 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 vegan butter.

Can I use this Cake recipe to Make Cupcakes or a 2-Layer Cake?

Absolutely! Simply follow the recipe as written and bake in a lined cupcake pan for 18-20 minutes. This should make about 30 cupcakes.

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.

Can I Make this Sheet Cake Gluten-Free?

Of course! If you would love to make this cake gluten-free, then substituting all-purpose flour with Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour is the easiest option. It’s a special blend of gluten-free flours, starches, and xanthan gum, which makes this cake just as soft, fluffy, and airy as the original! They also have a great All-purpose GF flour that works great as well.

Can I Use Lemon Juice Instead of Lemon Extract?

I highly recommend using freshly-squeezed lemon juice to bring acidity to your cake, which interacts with the leavener for a fluffy, soft texture, BUT also for a bolder, high-quality taste that extract just wouldn't give.

However, if lemon extract is what you have on hand, by all means use it! In this recipe, you'll need about 3-4 large lemons for a good amount of juice. The trick to more juice: Firmly roll your lemon (one by one) unto a hard surface or countertop prior to cutting and squeezing. This helps to extract more juices without the need to squeeze for your life. Haha.

Can I Use Lemon Juice Instead of Lemon Zest?

Of course! If you don't have lemon zest on hand because you're using store-bought lemon juice or you just prefer not to add it in, you can always substitute the zest with additional lemon juice. The general rule of thumb is to add 2 Tbsps of lemon juice for every 1 teaspoon of lemon zest called for. That simple!

Decorating Lemon Sheet Cake for Birthdays

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
  • Add a bit of food coloring for a festive look
Piece of Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake topped with colorful sprinkles.

How to Best Store Lemon Sheet Cake

Keep cake leftovers stored for up to 4-5 days in the fridge. Keep it in an airtight container to keep the cake from drying out. You can also freeze the cake tightly wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 3 months. Before serving, defrost the cake on the counter.

More Delicious Cake Recipes to Try

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).

Celebrate spring with a slice of delicious Lemon Strawberry Layer Cake! With layers of moist lemon cake and sweet strawberry frosting, this dessert is the perfect way to welcome the warmer weather.

This Vegan Vanilla Dinosaur Birthday Cake is the perfect thing to make for any child's birthday. Rich in vanilla flavor, fluffy, and completely moist, this birthday cake is one of the tastiest things to enjoy on such a special occasion.

Fork grabbing some Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake.

MADE OUR RECIPE(S)?

If you tried this Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. I love hearing from you.

Cut pieces of Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake topped with sprinkles.

Perfect One-Bowl Lemon Birthday Sheet Cake

June 11, 2021
5 from 15 votes
This birthday cake is an easy and delicious one-bowl recipe with bright lemon flavor and creamy homemade frosting.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 24 servings

Ingredients

LEMON SHEET CAKE:

  • 1 ½ cups organic all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups organic cake flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp. (That's 2 stick!)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups organic cane sugar
  • 2 tsps lemon zest
  • 3 large organic eggs, at room temp.
  • 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice (You can sub with 2 tsps of lemon extract if desired.)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Almond milk (You can sub with whole milk)

LEMON BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

  • 5 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp. (That's 2 stick!)
  • 2 tsps freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2-3 Tbsps Almond milk (You can also use whole milk or heavy cream; Just add the lemon juice in for a "buttermilk")

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS:

  • Festive Sprinkles
  • Fresh berries

Instructions

TO MAKE 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 half sheet pan.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, lemon zest, and sea salt until combined. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and unsalted butter, using a hand-mixer (or electric stand-mixer) on high speed, until fluffy and airy, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Reduce the speed to low and add in the eggs (one at a time), lemon juice, oil, and milk, followed by the dry ingredients, mixing everything together until combined, smooth, and lump-free, about 2-3 minutes. DON'T OVERMIX!
  • Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading everything evenly.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the center of the cake comes out clean when tested with a toothpick, cake tester, or knife. Also, the tops should bounce back once gently pressed.
  • Once done, remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for 25-30 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 high speed, until light, pale, and smooth. Add in the lemon juice and continue to mix until combined.
  • Add in the powdered sugar and milk until completely smooth, whipped, and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. NOTE: If buttercream is too 'runny', add additional powdered sugar (1 tablespoon at a time); if too thick, add additional milk (1 tablespoon at a time).

ASSEMBLY:

  • Using a metal or rubber spatula, top cooled cake with buttercream frosting and evenly spread over the top until fully covered and smooth. Top with rainbow sprinkles, fresh berries, or whatever you like and wallah!
  • Cut into small or medium-sized squares and enjoy! NOTE: Larger squares makes around 12 servings versus smaller ones.
  • 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) + 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 ½ teaspoon 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!

Nutrition

Calories: 245kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 128mg | Potassium: 35mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 507IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 1mg

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Xx, Shanika in script writing

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  1. Love the combination of sweet and tart in this easy to make cake. It is super fun and festive for any occasion.

  2. I was looking for a recipe like this, thank you for sharing! I can't wait to try it soon!

  3. 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

  4. I love sheet cakes and this birthday version looks so beautiful and moist!
    Love the pictures as well!

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

  5. 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! 🙂

  6. Making a fluffy vegan cake takes skill - looks like you nailed it with this cake! It looks too good. Gonna save this one for later!

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