This beautiful lemon cake contains layers of lemon mascarpone filling and is topped with a lemony Swiss meringue buttercream. You can always add some lemon curd if you want to make it even more lemon-y!
My best skating friend had a milestone birthday earlier this month. Sadly, I was out of town so I wasn’t here to celebrate with her in person. Instead, a few of us got together last week for dinner and drinks. Of course, I made a cake.
K’s favorite desserts involve lemon. In fact, her all-time favorite dessert on this blog are these whole lemon bars. When I asked K what dessert she wanted me to bake, she said that she always likes the lemon bars. However, I didn’t want to celebrate a milestone birthday with just bars. So that’s where this cake came in.
A few of us went to dinner to celebrate K’s belated birthday. Since this cake was a gift, I did not cut into it and don’t have a photo of a slice for you. But you can imagine it: 3 layers of a light lemon cake, sandwiched between layers of lemon mascarpone filling. The exterior is a lemon Swiss meringue buttercream that I attempted to make an ombre color, but obviously I did not do so well on that front.
K and the rest of the dinner crew all enjoyed this cake, and even our server commented on how pretty it looked. I actually think it could have used more lemon flavor (like a lemon curd) but still thought it was a solid cake.
Happy belated birthday to best skating friend friend ever!
Husband’s rating: N/A (he did not have any)
Addie’s rating: N/A (she did not have any)
My rating: 4 out of 5
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 and ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 and ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup milk I used 1%
- ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice from about 1-2 lemons
- 8 ounces mascarpone room temperature
- ½ cup heavy cream cold
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 Tablespoons lemon zest
Swiss meringue buttercream
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 and ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 pound (4 sticks / 16 ounces) unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon zest
Make the cake
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and line three 6-inch round cake pans and set aside (if you use 8 inch round pans, you can either bake for less time or double the cake recipe above).
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a small bowl, add the milk and lemon juice together and set aside.
- In a food processor, pulse the sugar and lemon zest together. Alternatively, you can mix the sugar and lemon zest together in a medium sized bowl using your fingers and pinching until you get little clumps of lemon sugar.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and lemon sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the vanilla and eggs and mix well. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next.
- Turn the mixer down to low and alternatively add in the dry ingredients and milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
- Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared baking pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool while you prepare the filling and frosting.
Make the filling
- In a large bowl, mix the mascarpone, lemon zest and powdered sugar together. Set aside.
- In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a separate large if using a handheld mixer, whip the cream on high speed until you achieve stiff peaks. Add the vanilla and mix well.
- Gently fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture until everything just comes together.
Make the buttercream
- In the bowl of a clean stand mixer or in a heatproof bowl, whisk the egg whites with the sugar. Set this over a saucepan filled about ¼ of the way with water (make sure the water does not touch the bowl with the egg whites). Turn the stove on so the water simmers. Keep whisking the egg white mixture (try to make sure no steam from the water below escapes) until it reaches 165°F.
- Take the bowl off the stovetop and move to your stand mixer. Mix on high speed with the whisk attachment until it starts to fluff up. Turn the mixer to medium speed and slowly add the butter one piece at a time. Add in the lemon zest at the end and whisk until the frosting is thick and spreadable.
Assemble the cake
- Place one layer of the cake on a stand stand or plate, flat side down.
- Add a layer of the mascarpone filling on top. Top with another cake layer, more mascarpone and then the final cake layer (flat side facing up).
- Cover the top and sides of the cake with the buttercream. If desired, you could color the buttercream using a yellow gel color to give it a sunny hue.
- If desired, add decorations on the top of the cake, along with some lemon wedges. Slice and serve.