Lemon Sponge Cake with Lemon Curd, Rosemary Buttercream, and Candied Pecans

This lemon sponge cake is in partnership with Bob’s Red Mill, one of our favorite company’s to fill our pantry with. 

This homemade cake recipe is a vintage lemon sponge cake made from scratch and filled with homemade lemon curd and frosted with rosemary buttercream. Topped with candied pecans and fresh rosemary, of course. A deliciously light and fluffy cake full of soft lemon flavor! If you don’t believe that these cakes are super delicious, look at our pictures. Only delicious things can look that pretty!

Okay, that might be a lie. You can’t really tell how good a recipe is based only on the photos (darn Pinterest!), but trust us when we say these are AMAZING.

I’ve got to be honest, guys. The first time I attempted this recipe it didn’t turn out as great as I hoped. It TASTED great, but the texture was like a sponge…literally, like the kind you use to wash your dishes. I was considering cutting up pieces for my daughter to take back to her apartment with her, that’s how bad it was.

BUT I adjusted the recipe and tried it again, and it came out perfectly.

I have two points here: The first is that cakes are tricky. Sponge cakes are especially tricky because they require whipping the egg whites so that the cake is soft and fluffy. Any recipe that relies on perfect egg whites is waiting to trick you.

Also, you need to make sure your flour is perfect. What’s the key to making our lemon sponge cake so soft and fluffy, you might ask? Well, we use Bob’s Red Mill Flour. Cakes can be tricky, inferior ingredients can easily ruin a cake. To keep this from happening, we use Bob’s Red Mill Organic All-Purpose Flour because we know the quality will always be great.

My second point is that it’s okay if your cake doesn’t turn out! Even those of us who bake for a living have days where something just goes wrong. Toss the cake in the trash (or use it as sponges!), take out the recipe card, and try again. You’ll get it.

This recipe really does call for the careful whipping of the egg whites. You need to mix them for a LONG TIME. If you have a stand mixer I recommend using it. If you only have a hand mixer…it will take a long time, put a good podcast on to listen to! Although I promise it will be worth it in the end.

Why do you fold in the egg whites into the egg yolks instead of stirring or beating?

Doing this keeps the consistency nice and light, and will keep the cake fluffy. Imagine that you just beat a bunch of bubbles into your egg whites. Your goal is to keep the bubbles from popping, so they can pop in the oven and spread into the cake. Folding the whites into the dough keeps the bubbles from popping.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT open the oven for the first 30 minutes that these babies are cooking. I know your kitchen smells delicious and you just want to check, but your cakes WILL deflate if you do this. Because these cakes rely so heavily on rising, any disturbance of the oven will keep that from happening.

Okay, so what’s the difference between a sponge, genoise, chiffon cake, and angel food cake?

They’re all very, very similar cakes. However, a true sponge cake has no fat except for what is in the eggs. A genoise, on the other hand, usually has clarified butter in the batter.

Chiffon cakes are a hybrid of the two. A chiffon cake has oil added to it which keeps it moist, and flour and dry ingredients are used for leavening. Unlike the sponge cake, the eggs are not separated before beating.

Angel food cake has no fat or leavening at all, and use the beaten egg whites as leavening. They also have a very high proportion of egg white to flour to keep it light and fluffy.

Do the eggs NEED to be room temperature?

Yes, this helps them aerate better and faster. Tip for speeding up this process: put your eggs in warm water. WARM, not hot. You don’t want to use boiled eggs in your recipe. Gross.

Do I need the lemon curd in this recipe?

Technically, no. If you’d prefer to use raspberry jam or something you have on hand, go for it. However, we promise the lemon curd is worth the effort and pairs deliciously with the cake. The cake is great by itself, however, if you don’t want to make anything extra at all.

Lemon Sponge Cake

| 8 people
Prep Time | 15 minutes
Cook Time | 1 hour
Total Time | 1 hour 15 minutes
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a light and fluffy sponge cake full of soft lemon flavor. Remember not to peek in the oven for the first 30 minutes!


  • 6 eggs, separated room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour sifted
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Check out our Kitchen Reference Guide for help with unfamiliar terms.


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Beat the egg yolks until they are thick and yellow, about 5 minutes on high.
  • Gradually add the sugar into the yolks.
  • Add the lemon zest and juice and beat again just to combine.
  • Stir together the flour and cornstarch, gradually beat it into the yolk mixture.
  • In another bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy, add the cream of tartar and salt.
  • Continue beating until soft peaks form (when you pull the beater out of the egg whites they pull up with the beater and then fall softly over)
  • Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Fold gently until mixed.
  • Pour into an ungreased sponge cake pan (tube pan). 
  • Bake for 1 hour. Do not open the oven for 30 minutes. Check every 10 minutes or so. You want it to be golden brown and firm to the touch.


For mini pans, fill about 1/2 full and bake for about 15 minutes. I got 9 4 cup cakes out of this recipe.

Homemade Lemon Curd

| 2 cups
Prep Time | 5 minutes
Cook Time | 20 minutes
cooling | 30 minutes
Total Time | 25 minutes
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Easy to make, this lemon curd is a beautiful silky texture with delightful bright lemon flavor!


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
Check out our Kitchen Reference Guide for help with unfamiliar terms.


  • Combine the yolks, sugar, and juice on med-low heat in heavy saucepan. 
  • Cook for about 10 minutes, whisking constantly until thickened.
  • Remove from heat and add the butter, whisk well.
  • Cool completely.

Rosemary Buttercream

| 2 cups
Prep Time | 5 minutes
Cook Time | 5 minutes
Total Time | 10 minutes
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Silky smooth buttercream with a delicious fresh rosemary flavor!


  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 31/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
Check out our Kitchen Reference Guide for help with unfamiliar terms.


  • Beat the butter until smooth and creamy.
  • Slowly add the powdered sugar, a bit at a time.
  • Add the rosemary and salt, beat until light and fluffy. About 3 minutes.
  • Add the cream until the desired consistency is achieved. 

Other homemade cakes you will love to try!

The BEST Homemade White Cake

Old-fashioned Brownie Cake

This is a homemade chocolate cake made with black cocoa and coffee. A deliciously grown-up cake.

Black Cocoa Homemade Chocolate Cake

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