Love and Olive Oil

Lemon Layer Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Lemon Layer Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

I do hope I’m not the only one that often finds the food and meals in a novel more memorable than the book itself.

For example, I read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake last year, and could not stop thinking about cake (On the contrary, I was quite disappointed when the Life of Pi turned out to be not so much about pie as I had hoped, although that didn’t stop me from having visions of creamy chocolate and tart cherry pies every time I picked it up.)

While I enjoyed the book very much, I couldn’t help but resenting the author for associating such a bright and cheery cake with sadness. Of course, it’s not actually the cake that’s at fault, rather the main character’s mother, whose despair she can taste with every bite.

Luckily, I baked this cake with a smile on my face and a grin in my heart, and I encourage you to indulge in the particular gladness of MY lemon cake.

There’s nothing sad about it. In fact, I’d argue that this cake is the epitome of happy.

Lemon Layer Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

The base is a classic, moist yellow cake infused with Meyer lemons (I lied when I told you the season was over; I found a bag of them at Whole Foods just last week!) In a somewhat unorthodox combination, the bright lemon cake gets paired with a rich and fudgy chocolate buttercream. See, I wasn’t joking when I said lemon and chocolate would make a perfect paring.

Lemon Layer Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Of course, you could certainly omit the lemon part if you just want something simple and classic, and so much better than any box or tub can provide.

I’ll share also that one of the best gifts I’ve received in recent memory are a set of 6-inch cake pans. Perfect for halving any 8 or 9-inch layer cake recipe, they allow me to bake up a fancy triple layer cake without worry of it going to waste. Because no matter how much you love cake, after 3 or 4 days it starts to get dry and you really wish it would just stop already. Turns out a 6-incher is just perfect for two. I love my little cakes so much I even had a custom-sized cake stand made just for me by Lindsay of Suite One Studio. It’s perfect, don’t you think?

Lemon Layer Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

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For Cake:
3 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
1 cup whole milk, divided
5 large eggs
4 teaspoons lemon or Meyer lemon zest (from 4 medium lemons)
3 tablespoons lemon or Meyer lemon juice (from 4 medium lemons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Frosting:
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup cocoa powder
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream, more or less as needed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper; butter parchment.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix to combine. Add butter and 3/4 cup of whole milk. Mix on low speed until flour is evenly moistened, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

In a small bowl, beat remaining 1/4 cup milk with eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Add to the batter mixture one-third at a time, mixing well after each addition. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (about 25 minutes for 6″ pans), rotating pans halfway through baking, until lightly golden on the edges and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Transfer pans to a wire cooling rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. Run a knife or thin spatula around the edge of the pan, then invert the cake onto wire rack. It should come out easily and cleanly. Remove parchment from the bottom. At this point the cakes can be wrapped tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap and freeze until ready to use (in fact, I recommend you freeze the cakes overnight, as the frozen cakes will be easier to level and frost later.)

To prepare frosting, in a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cocoa powder and beat until incorporated. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. As frosting thickens, add a few tablespoons of cream as needed. Depending on the temperature and consistency of your frosting, continue alternating adding cream and powdered sugar, then continue beating until frosting is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla.

To assemble, level each cake layer by cutting of the domed top with a long serrated knife. Place one layer, flat side down, on a cake stand or serving platter. Spread on about 1/2 cup of frosting onto cake using an offset spatula. Position second layer on top and press to adhere. Repeat with another 1/2 cup of frosting, and then position final cake layer, flat side up.

Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting. This “crumb coat” will keep the stray crumbs in place and make frosting the cake easier. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes to allow this crumb coat to set.

Remove cake from refrigerator and cover with remaining frosting, reserving some for piping decorative details if desired.

All images and text © / Love & Olive Oil

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  1. Beautiful. I wish I could find some Meyer lemons around. I bet the chocolate and lemon combination was perfect. Sweet and sour, yum

  2. Lemon and chocolate! such an unexpected combination, a great twist on a classic cake :)

  3. I read that book with my book club last year and considered making the cake for our meeting. I ended up not having the time to do it, but maybe I’ll bring it sometime just for fun. :)
    We did not particularly like the book, but still talk about over a year later.

  4. Funny how the cake totally looks “regular” size in the photo, even when comparing it to the lemons in the background and the made to order mini cake stand. But now that you mention the 6 inch pans, I want some too!

  5. I’ve never tried lemon and chocolate together in a dessert, but this looks fabulous! Yum!

  6. Lindsay, that is one beautiful cake I must say.

  7. I totally read that book and remember thinking about wanting lemon cake! This is gorgeous!

  8. I love that you matched your photos with the book cover. :D Lemon cake and fudge makes me very glad!

  9. Ive always wanted smaller cake pans b/c as you said, no matter how much you love cake, unless you’re having a party or a huge family, layer cakes linger. And your customized cake stand. Swoon. I love the recipe, the pics, and the links in this post, Lindsay!

  10. I love the combination of Lemon and Chocolate! My meyer lemon tree is in full fruit right now, so it is the perfect time to make it. Thanks.

  11. When I saw the title from BlogLovin, I thought, WEIRD Chocolate and lemon? I wonder how that would taste? And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. Beautiful photos, I’m sure it was a delightful cake!

  12. This is absolutely gorgeous!! What a picture perfect cake :)

  13. I chose that book for my last online book and bake club selection. I absolutely hated it! It had such potential and in the end was a huge let down. I made a lemon and fudge cake too and loved it. I love the citrus and chocolate combination.

  14. So true, the 9in double layer cake is too short and squat but a 3rd 9in layer makes a massive cake and you have to make a larger batch…. I am ordering 3 6in cake pans as we speak!

  15. Fudge on lemon?! YUM!!

  16. I love the combo of lemon and chocolate. Decadence deliciousness :)

  17. Hi Lindsay! Both the choc +lemon combo and the 6″ cake idea intrigued me. How should I adjust the bake time for the 6″ pans? Thanks so much!!


    • You know what, this is the bake time for 6″ pans. It’d probably be another 10 or so for larger pans, I’d assume.

  18. Oh wow, I swear I’m the only person to not have tried lemon and chocolate together yet. I keep seeing all these amazing recipes and I really must make one soon! This looks amazing, may have just decided on a birthday cake for myself!
    And no, you’re not alone in remembering food in novels haha! In fact my guilty pleasure is reading baking murder mysteries where they give you all the recipes at the end of the book!!

  19. This cake is gorgeous! And thanks for sharing the tip about 6-inch cake pans – what a great idea!

  20. I totally read this book, craving cake, and depressed over how sad they made cake feel in the book! Your cake looks spot on, and would be extremely happy! :)

  21. Given my passion – no, obsession! – for lemon, I’m slightly ashamed to admit I’ve never had lemon + chocolate together, and actually have kind of turned up my nose at the idea. BUT, now that you’ve shared this and I’ve been holding hostage Mindy’s bag of meyer lemons she brought to the Bachelorette shindig, my interest has been piqued. If the lemons are still good when I get back to town, Imma be making some lemon-chocolate-y something!

    Oh, and, I love the 6″ cake idea! I’ve only got 8″ers and you’re right – I never thought I’d be tired of cake, but for just the two of us you are kinda’ like “when is this going to end?!”

  22. Oh goodness, chocolate and lemon? You had me there!

  23. You should check out the blog YummyBooks! It’s all about making food from books. It’s really wonderful, I’m totally addicted.

  24. I have never had a lemon cake with chocolate frosting. I love the idea. And I literally LOL when you said about the Life of Pi not being about Pie.. I sure wish it was! :)

  25. I was just gonna say that I love the cake stand! Your cakes are always so perfect–nothing compared to my always uneven layers lol

  26. What a wonderful post! I *cannot* wait to make this cake. I agree with your point on the food and meals in novels. I’ve found that food memoirs provides a happy balance between story and meals/recipes.
    And I am so glad that Meyer lemons are still around – I am going to make a quick dash to Whole Foods myself! Great idea about the six-inch cake pans, too! I also often don’t have very many mouths to feed!

  27. This cakes looks so deliciously beautiful! Thank you for sharing, I can’t wait to make it this week!

  28. Mmmm, lemon and chocolate! This looks incredible. :)

  29. The 6 inch pans are great! But tell me how you halve 5 eggs. I know there is an adjustment but i don’t remember what it is.

    • Just eyeball it. I put the egg in a little dish and spooned out approximately half of it. A little more/less isn’t going to hurt it. :)

  30. Love your triple layer cake – so beautiful! And the lemon/chocolate combo – I can just taste it right now.

  31. I have never actually attempted a layered cake before. They seem daunting to me. I might have to do this one though and break that fear… looks GREAT!

    And yes, Life of Pi probably didn’t leave much good food thoughts behind, unless you are into raw fish ;)

  32. Yummy looking cake. I still have a bag of Meyer lemons I need to do something with, this would be perfect.

    Now to check out the site for a homemade cake stand. That sounds like fun!

  33. I loved that book! But I did think that chocolate and lemon was a weird pairing–but I suppose if orange and chocolate works, so should this!

  34. Love the idea of lemons and chocolate ;) Will definitely give it a try :D And I am also so fond of my little cake tin! I also use it often if I just want to try out a new recipe and only my boyfriend and I will eat it :D I also think that sometimes smaller cakes look more sophisticated? ;) Or is it just me :P I am still looking for a small cake stand, though :P

  35. Wow, so delicious! Great job!

    Regards, Edina.

  36. This sounds absolutely wonderful! Lemon and chocolate is a great combo

  37. I love lemon and chocolate and have one where I do lemon curd in the middle! This cake looks delicious and a must try, XOXO

  38. What a perfect cake! I love the LEMON in here!! My Whole Foods also still had some Meyer lemons last week, and I snatched them right up!

  39. I would never omit the lemon part! Looks wonderful.

  40. ummm this cake intrigues me. I’ve never thought to mix chocolate and lemon together. Sadly, I hardly ever have the time to read any more…

  41. I also really enjoyed that book! It was one that I saw as I was browsing the shelves, and the cover sold it. This cake looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it! Hopefully mine will taste very happy, too. :)

  42. It may only be 10:30 AM here in Florida, but I am drooling right now. Cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

  43. I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves making 6-inch many-layer cakes!

    I need to get me one of those cakes stands. beautiful!

  44. Amazing!! Choc and lemon really do well together..I could demolish a slice right now and its breakfast :)

  45. Just. Lovely. I’ve never baked a lemon cake with chocolate fudge frosting before. But, the idea of using 6-inch cake pans (makes so much sense for just 2 people, like me and The Big Lug) has made my mind up to try your recipe, Lindsay. I’m working on a paleo layered cake today (God willing I formulated the grain-free flours accurately!) and adore my 8-inch cake pans for 3-layered cakes. I have both 5- and 7-inch cake pans as well, but I think I really need those 6-incher cuties, too! They seem so ideal as to their size, don’t they? Thanks for sharing yet another unique baking recipe with
    Meyer lemons! xo

  46. I absolutely find the food and meals in a book more memorable than the book itself but only when the writing is good and I can feel like I can literally taste the food. What a gorgeous cake! Lemon and chocolate make a perfect paring! Yes, love this. . and the cake stand is perfection. Totally going to try this recipe!

  47. not only does this cake look amaaaze, but thank you for sharing those 6″ pans! I always find I have the same issue with dessert making in my home, and I could def put those smaller pans to use! Less waste, less space :)

  48. Well this is a gorgeous cake. I always think about food in the stories I’m reading. My Life in France was torture!

  49. The irony of such a book title, huh?

    I’m thinking there will be no sadness if I surprise my family with this one. The combination of lemon with chocolate is sublime … or should that be sublemon?

  50. Beautiful cake! I haven’t been able to find Meyer lemons anywhere near me – boo.

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