As I was perusing the freeze dried fruit section of my local Trader Joe’s, I stumbled upon a bag of freeze dried blueberries and just had to add them to my cart. It’s no secret that I love adding freeze dried fruits to buttercream (case in point: this delicious Raspberry Buttercream Recipe), and could imagine how amazing both the color and the flavor would be with these bluebs added. With my buttercream flavored set, I started thinking on cake flavors to pair it with, and that’s how this lemon cake recipe was born.
I’ll admit, I’ve never ever made a lemon cake from scratch before. I thought it would be easy: just add some freshly squeezed lemon juice and zest into my vanilla cake batter, bake it up, and all would be good. Well, it wasn’t. I learned some valuable baking lessons in my recipe testing sessions, mainly that the acidity of lemon interacts with rising agents like baking soda and baking powder in such a way that it creates too much rise, and the cakes will fall in the center if there isn’t the right balance of acidity. After a few fallen cakes as a result of my recipe testing, I realized that decreasing the amount of baking soda in this recipe yielded a beautiful rise and a cake that is perfectly packed with fresh lemon flavor. Science, y’all.
For flavoring the cake, I initially thought fresh lemon juice would create the most authentic flavor but learned another valuable lesson: the most powerful flavor comes from the zest of a lemon, while fresh lemon juice only bakes off in the oven and doesn’t contribute much to the overall flavor. So I ended up ditching lemon juice completely and opted for the zest combined with a little lemon extract to create that powerful zing you’d expect to taste in a lemon cake. Extract is much more concentrated than fresh lemon juice, so you don’t have to use a ton to get a powerful lemon flavor that tastes totally pure. In addition to the perfect amount of lemon flavoring, using cake flour and sour cream in the recipe makes this cake super light, fluffy, and moist. Just look at this beauty:
With my perfect lemon cake recipe finally squared away, I topped it with the blueberry buttercream I’d been dreaming about ever since I saw that package of freeze dried blueberries at Trader Joe’s. I’m happy to report that it’s as heavenly as I imagined! The little flecks of blueberry are so pretty and since they’re freeze dried, you don’t get all the excess liquid from fresh blueberries messing up the frosting consistency. It’s my favorite way to flavor fruit-based buttercreams!
To decorate, I frosted a smooth layer of blueberry buttercream, then used Wilton Tip 1M and 4B to pipe a diagonal set of rosettes and stars that continues partially around the top of the cake. I popped a few fresh blueberries and these Yellow Solid Sprinkles into the buttercream piping for some additional color and texture. So easy and pretty to look at!
I ended up taking my final cake to work (yes, still rocking my day job) and it was gone before lunch time. Now that’s a true sign of a great cake! If you’re a lover of lemon cake, this recipe is sure to please. The best part is, you can pair it with a berry-flavored buttercream or try it with this lemon buttercream or this cream cheese buttercream for an alternate flavor palette. Whatever you choose to do, I can promise this cake will rise beautifully and will be packed with the perfect amount of zing!
Update 2022: I slightly changed the measurements of the lemon cake to yield less batter because it made too much for the cake pictured, which is a 3-layer 6-inch cake. Same amazing recipe, scaled down to just the right size!
Lemon Layer Cake With Blueberry Buttercream
Lemon Layer Cake
- 2 3/4 Cups (290g) sifted cake flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 2/3 Cups (355g) white sugar
- 1 Cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream, room temperature
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest (about 1 medium lemon)
- 1 Tsp pure lemon extract
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 Cup (240ml) whole milk, room temperature
- 2 cups (452g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 package (34g) Trader Joe's freeze dried blueberries
- 6 Tbsp (90ml) whole milk, room temperature
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 7 cups (840g) powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
Make The Lemon Layer Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/177ºC. Prepare three 6-inch or two 8-inch cake pans by spraying the sides with baking spray and fitting a parchment paper circle to the bottom of each pan. Alternatively, you can grease and lightly flour the pans.
- In a medium bowl, add the cake flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer (a handheld mixer works fine too!), beat the butter on high for two minutes until creamy. Add in the sugar and continue to cream on medium-high for another two minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed. Turn the mixer to low and add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add the sour cream, lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla extract. Turn the mixer to high and beat for 1 minute, scraping down the bowl and paddle once more.
- With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the milk slowly and mix until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and give it a few stirs to make sure there are no lumps. The batter will be slightly thick.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. They’re done when they spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for five minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack for an additional few hours of cooling. Make sure they’re entirely room temperature before applying any frosting.
Make The Blueberry Buttercream
- With a food processor, grind the freeze dried blueberries into a fine powder and set aside. Whip the butter using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed until it’s creamy and light in color, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla, milk, and blueberry powder and continue to mix on medium for 3 minutes.
- Add the powdered sugar in two additions, mixing on low until fully incorporated. Add the salt and continue to mix on low for another 30 seconds.
- After torting the cake layers, fill and frost them with the blueberry buttercream. To replicate the look of the cake design pictured, frost the cake with a smooth layer of blueberry buttercream, then refrigerate it for about 20 minutes to let it firm up.
- Prepare two piping bags by fitting the first with Wilton Tip 1M and the second with Wilton Tip 4B, then fill both with blueberry buttercream. Pipe rosettes and stars in a diagonal design on the front of the cake, then continue the pattern partially around the top edge. Add some fresh blueberries and yellow sprinkles onto the piping wherever you desire.
Did you make this recipe? I want to know what you think! Let me know in the comments below or tag me on Instagram so I can see what you’re caking!