This Copycat Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake is entirely homemade and is every bit as good as the original—and dare I say, even better!

Slicing a piece of Copycat Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake

My little family has been living in Japan for a little over three months now. While we love Japanese food, sometimes you miss the comforts of “home.” 

I’ve been making many Olive Garden copycat recipes lately, like my Chicken and Gnocchi Soup, Zuppa Toscana, and Tuscan Garlic Chicken.

Italian Lemon Cream Cake

With Easter coming up, I wanted to make a cake that just screamed spring but was still something you can make all year round. Olive Garden’s Lemon Cream Cake is just that! 

When I set out to find a good copycat recipe for this lemon cake, I noticed that ALL of them use a white cake mix. Now there’s nothing wrong with using a cake mix; I prefer homemade cakes better. 

I adapted the white cake layer from my favorite white layer cake from Cook’s Country (you can never go wrong with one of their recipes!).

Slicing a piece of Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake Copycat
A close-up of a piece of Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake.

I noticed in all of the recipes online that they all used cream cheese, or a mixture of cream cheese and pudding, or cream cheese and cool whip for the filling. I knew I could do better than that, so I used an authentic Italian ingredient, Mascarpone!

Slicing a piece of cake from the Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake

Lastly, while I love Olive Garden’s cake, I know I prefer it with a little extra lemon punch. Not too much now, because the beauty of this cake is its soft cake layers and subtle lemon flavor.

If you’re going for a more authentic taste, reduce the lemon zest to 1 teaspoon in the filling recipe below.

A close-up of a piece of Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake on a plate

Now, I wouldn’t call this a replica of Olive Garden’s Lemon Cream Cake because, in all honesty, I think it tastes better than theirs!

A close-up of a slice of Copycat Olive Garden Lemon Cake on a cake

Copycat Olive Garden Lemon Cake Tips

  • This lemon cake will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • If you want the authentic look of Olive Garden’s cake, then using a springform pan like the recipe indicates will help give you the cake’s signature domed shape. If you do not have a spring-form pan, then two 9-inch cake pans can be used instead. Just reduce the cooking time to 20-25 minutes.
  • If you make this cake ahead of time. Wait to dust it with powdered sugar until right before serving.
  • I used mascarpone cheese for the filling of this lemon cream cake. However, if you’re unable to find it or don’t like the taste of it, then you can use cream cheese instead.
A top view of a slice of Copycat Olive Garden Lemon Cake on a wooden serving plate

Lemon Italian Cream Cake Tools

  • springform pan
  • mixing bowls
  • whisk
  • hand mixer
  • wire rack
  • cake board
  • icing spatula
  • fine mesh strainer                                         

Italian Lemon Olive Garden Cake FAQs

How do you increase the flavor of lemon in a cake?

Here are some ways to increase the flavor of lemon in a cake:
Use more lemon zest. The zest is the outermost layer of the lemon peel, and it contains the most concentrated lemon flavor.
Use lemon juice. Lemon juice also adds flavor to a cake, but it is essential to use it sparingly. Too much lemon juice can make the cake sour.
Infuse the sugar with lemon zest. Before adding the sugar to the batter, mix it with lemon zest. This will help to distribute the lemon flavor throughout the cake.
Add lemon extract. Lemon extract is a concentrated form of lemon flavor. It can be added to the batter or frosting to give the cake a more intense lemon flavor.
Use lemon curd or lemon glaze. It can be drizzled over the cake after it is baked.

What brings out lemon flavor?

A few things can bring out the lemon flavor.
Sugar: Lemon is a sour citrus fruit, so adding sugar can help balance the acidity and make the lemon flavor more pronounced.
Salt: Salt can also help to bring out the flavor of lemon, as it can help to enhance the sweetness and tartness of the fruit.
Fat: Fat can help to round out the flavor of lemon and make it more complex.
Other citrus fruits: Other citrus fruits, such as orange, lime, and grapefruit, can also help to bring out the lemon flavor. This is because they share some of the same flavor compounds as lemon.

This Italian Lemon Cream Cake is a bit labor-intensive but SO worth it. Especially for special occasions, birthdays, or holidays like Easter!

While this cake is a bit labor-intensive, the baking skills needed to make it are pretty standard.

This Copycat Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake is completely homemade, and is every bit as good as the original—and dare I say, even better!
3.98 from 91 votes

Copycat Olive Garden Italian Lemon Cream Cake

Prep Time 5 hours
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 5 hours 50 minutes
12 people
This Copycat Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake is completely homemade, and is every bit as good as the original—and dare I say, even better!

Ingredients
 
 

FOR WHITE CAKE:

  • 1 cup whole milk room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cups cake flour
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 24 pieces, softened but still cool

FOR CRUMB TOPPING:

  • ½ cup + 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour heated in 350 degree oven for 5 minutes
  • ½ cup + 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ½ Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 4 tablespoons butter cut into 8 pieces softened
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR FILLING:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 oz container mascarpone cheese softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

FOR GARNISH:

  • Sifted powdered sugar

Instructions

MAKE WHITE CAKE:

  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Line with parchment round, and lightly spray entire pan; set aside.
  • In a large measuring cup whisk together milk, egg whites, and vanilla; set aside.
  • In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed until combined. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix with an electric mixer until only pea-sized pieces of butter remain about 1 minute.
  • Pour in half of the milk mixture, and mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low, and add remaining milk mixture, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.
  • Cool cake cool on a wire rack in the pan for 20 minutes. Remove cake from pan, discarding parchment, and let cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours.

MAKE CRUMB TOPPING:

  • Mix together flour, powdered sugar, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Cut in butter and vanilla until mixture is crumbly. Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill.

MAKE FILLING:

  • Whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form; set aside. Beat mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest on medium speed until smooth. Fold in whipped cream until combined.

FINISH CAKE:

  • Split cake horizontally, and place 1 layer on cardboard round. Reserve ½ cup of filling, and use the rest to fill the cake. Place the second layer on top of the filling. Use reserved ½ cup filling to frost just the sides of the cake. Press crumb topping into sides of the cake, and chill at least 1 hour. Dust top of the cake with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 676kcal | Carbohydrates: 89g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Cholesterol: 88mg | Sodium: 285mg | Potassium: 245mg | Sugar: 62g | Vitamin A: 1055IU | Vitamin C: 2.2mg | Calcium: 131mg | Iron: 0.8mg

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Recipe Rating




45 Comments

  1. Can you recommend a healthy substitute for the 2 cups of powdered sugar?

  2. I made this yesterday. I didn’t make the cake, used a box white cake in two 8″ cake pans instead. I made your crumbs and icing. Delicious! There was enough frosting to ice the whole cake, so I did and covered it with the crumbs. I had a lot of crumbs left over. I took this to our mother’s day celebration and the entire cake was eaten. Thanks for the recipe. I’ll make it again.

    1. I’m glad it works for you using a boxed white cake mix. Thanks for stopping by to let me know!

    2. Not the same maybe ok for some people but definitely better if you follow the recipe verbatim.

  3. Jenn aka the picky girl says:

    This year for each family birthday (including my own) I’m making homemade desserts based on that person’s favorite sweets or flavors. My sister requested lemon or strawberry, and I stumbled across this recipe. Start to finish, it was very clear, and while I haven’t put it all together, I cut the top of the cake to make it flat and slathered a bit of the filling on…oh my…I plan to slice some strawberries when I serve it tomorrow, but thank you, thank you!

    1. Oh yum! I beth sliced strawberries will go nicely with this cake!

      I’m like you, I like to make a special cake for each family member’s birthday…there’s just something a little extra special about a homemade birthday cake. 🙂

      1. Can I substitute salted butter for unsalted if I leave out the salt

        1. Yes, that will work.

      2. The truth more homemade flavors please! The difference is worth the effort.

  4. Kara Jones says:

    Is there anyone I could the cake and filling ahead of time and then assemble it the day after?

    1. You bet, that’s usually what I do when I make this cake!

  5. Hi looks delicious, can’t wait to make it. Seems like it might be easy to mix the crumble with the set aside filling before icing the sides? Also, if im making it in advance before assembling, the cake should be out on the counter, not in the fridge, correct? Otherwise it dries out?

    1. Either in the fridge or the counter is fine. Just wrap the cakes in 2 layers of plastic wrap and they’ll be fine. 🙂

  6. Hello, I would like to make this for my Dad, he Loves Olive garden lemon cake however I only have AP flour will this work?

  7. Hi. When you say to reduce the lemon zest for the filling to one teaspoon – not sure I see that on the recipe. I see three tablespoons of lemon juice and half teaspoon zest. Let’s me know.
    Thanks!!

    1. Hi Patty. For the filling it calls for 1/2 Tablespoon of zest, not teaspoon. 🙂

  8. I made the cake twice today with the same (sad) results. The middle of the cake didn’t rise. The first time, I used a 10 inch springform pan. Thought that might have been the problem so bought a 9 inch pan and tried again. Same fail. I want to try again. Any thoughts? I did not have cake flour. z. Used the cornstarch added to AP flour but didn’t sift it. Could that be it? My oven temp is accurate.

    1. Hmmm, without me being there it’s hard to say. How old is the cake flour and baking powder that you’re using?

  9. Arlene B Hill says:

    Can you use ricotta cheese instead of Mascarpone cheese?

    1. I’d use softened cream cheese instead of mascarpone. Ricotta cheese will be too loose.

  10. This dessert was a huge success last night when I hosted a dinner for eight. It was so perfect and delicious that 2 people actually had second pieces…and that was right after a full meal….that never happens! I followed all directions and ingredients exactly. Thank you so much for this great recipe!

    1. Cora, I’m so glad you loved this recipe!

  11. Randall B says:

    I can’t wait to try this. I have searched through so may recipes looking for one making the cake from scratch. And mascarpone cheese, YES! Thank You!

    1. So glad this recipe will come in handy, enjoy!

  12. I lovbbbbe this recipe but the filling didn’t turn out to lemony…I did all the measurements right…any thoughts

    1. Tressa,
      SO glad you loved the recipe! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Briannna Lloyd says:

    So good! Not crazy about the crumb layer— something about eating raw flour bothers me. So I’d love to teak it. However without tweaking that, it’s such a good cake. Thanks!

  14. Made this for Thanksgiving, it was delicious. My husband said it was the best dessert I’ve ever made. I made it exactly as instructed with the mascarpone.

    1. I am so glad you both loved it! Thanks for stopping by to let me know!

  15. Hi there
    Can I bake the crumb n than put it on the cake?
    Thank you

  16. Hi Jillian,
    I made this cake last night for my daughter’s birthday.
    The middles did not rise and the cake texture was like cornbread.
    What could I have done wrong?

    1. Hi Wendy, I think the problem was with the butter. It could have gotten too hot and/or over-mixed.

  17. I like the receipt and have made it twice both times the cake is a bit dense and the filling a bit loose. Great flavor and suggestions? I will admit the first time I could have baked for a few minutes less. Does anyone place a sheet pan under the form pan to help the edges from being to tough?

  18. Christine Coradi says:

    When I made this batter it came out very liquidy. I had to add 3/4 more of cake flour. I followed the recipe exactly. Any idea what the problem could be. I actually made it twice with the same result. Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Christine,

      Without being there it’s hard to say. Were the milk and eggs at room temperature? Was your butter softened but still COLD? If I had to guess, I’d say your butter wasn’t cold enough.

  19. Hi! Do you think this recipe would work with coconut/oat milk and monk fruit sweetener instead of whole milk and granulated sugar? The person I want to make this cake for is lactose-intolerant and is trying to limit sugar intake

    1. Hi J,
      I’m so sorry, I haven’t made this recipe with these adaptations so I’m not sure if they’ll work. 🙁