recipe: lemon layer cake with lemon buttercream

February 09, 2018

recipe: lemon layer cake with lemon buttercream

We were just discussing cakes on Instagram recently, and many people requested the recipe for the lemon cake we always bake for birthdays.  I'm so happy that so many people love lemon cake as much as I do!  Lemon lovers, we gotta stick together, especially against the tyranny of chocolate.  

I'm very picky about my lemon cake - I like it rich, buttery and tart, and don't like lemon curd filling.  I finally found this recipe after a long search and can't even find the original source anymore, but it's definitely a winner.  You can skip the lemon syrup (we often do), but it makes the finished cake extra tart and adds moisture to the cake.

Lemon Butter Cake:

1 c. (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
2 1/2 C. all purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 T. lemon zest
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 c. lowfat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour two 8" round cake pans, tapping out excess flour. (9" pans work too, just shorten the baking time.)

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 c sugar until very light and fluffy, scraping the bowl.  (You can also use a hand mixer too but no matter what, make sure your sugar and butter reach a very light consistency.  This will make the difference between a fluffy cake and one that is heavy). With the mixer on low, beat in eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in 2 T lemon juice.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.  Add 1/2 the buttermilk mixture and mix until just blended.  Repeat, ending with the flour mixture. 

Divide the batter between the two pans, smoothing the top.  Bake until the cakes pull away from the sides of the pans, 32 to 35 minutes.  Let cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges of the pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack.  Let cool completely.  

Lemon Syrup (optional):

1/2 c. sugar + 1/4 c lemon juice

Heat until sugar melts.  Poke holes all over the cake with a toothpick.  Brush onto cake after the layers cool, allowing the cake to soak up all the syrup.  

Lemon Curd Buttercream:

12 oz (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 lb confectioners sugar, sifted (we usually use quite a bit less because we like a less sweet frosting)
1/2 c lemon curd (homemade or from a jar.  We always use the lemon curd from Trader Joe)
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. vanilla extract

Beat the butter with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium.  Add confectioner's sugar, 1/2 c at a time, beating well after each addition.  You will want a very fluffy consistency.  Taste as you go along until you reach the desired sweetness.  I like frosting that is less sweet, with a slightly salty edge, so I usually start with about half the amount of sugar and taste from there.  Beat in the lemon curd, vanilla extract and salt.  Adjust the amount of sugar, if you prefer.  

Many people like to trim their cakes, but it always feels like a waste of cake to me, so I usually frost to compensate for unevenness.  We sometimes decorate the cake with nasturtiums from our garden, though I think candied lemon peel would be the perfect special treat topper.