Lemon Raspberry Cake

Willow Bird Baking is the namesake of my darling little noodle (read: poodle), Byrd. As I sit here writing this post (and listening to the cooing of mourning doves outside my window), she is at the veterinary hospital recovering from a double knee surgery. Judging by her exuberance about riding in the car yesterday morning, she wasn’t really expecting it.

Apparently both her little kneecaps were popping out of place, and she couldn’t do some of her favorite things (fetching, jumping) without limping. Poor puppy pumpkin. The vet tech just called and said she is standing, but won’t try to walk, and won’t eat a thing. No wonder, since she’s in a strange place without her mama. We go pick her up at 12:30 today, so keep us in your prayers.

Get it? It’s decorated to look like a lemon.

Because of this unexpected $2,400 surgery, my finances have not been my friends lately. I’ve been cutting back: we haven’t been eating out, I’ve been trimming my grocery budget, and the last time I got my hair cut or colored was last August — I’m about ready to pick up some scissors myself. In addition to limiting my spending, another issue needed to be addressed: waste!

I’ve been a bad steward of my kitchen for too long. Buying a bag of cheese with the best intentions, but letting it mold. Buying a bag of fresh herbs, using them once, and letting them brown in the back of my fridge. Buying expensive ingredients (hello, pancetta, I’m talking to you) with the intention of using every last hunk, only to open my fridge drawer a month later and guiltily remember that broken resolution.

So, I’ve been trying to be better. Leftover creams, frostings, and doughs from one pastry become the basis for the next. I survey the fridge for unused ingredients before deciding what to make for Saturday dinner. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it was!

This past weekend, leftover raspberry curd, nine egg whites left from making the curds, and some extra lemons provided my inspiration.

After buying only some butter, some fresh raspberries, and some white chocolate bark, I whipped up this cool, bright, summer dessert: Lemon Raspberry Cake. The cake itself is my favorite white cake recipe because it’s moist with the perfect crumb. Each layer is brushed with lemon syrup for moisture and tang before being coated in a luxurious raspberry curd. The frosting is rich and decadent, and even the white chocolate decorations added a nice dimension to the overall flavor of each slice.

My “lemon” decoration broke as I was trying to release it from the wax paper I piped it on, so I pieced it together on top of the cake. It’s a little crooked! I’m sure you can do better. I also completely forgot the poppy seed until I made the third cake layer (I mixed it separately), so you’ll notice that only my middle layer has the seeds. Oh well! Crooked citrus or not, seeds or not, we all loved the refreshing taste of this layer cake! Happy eating!

Lemon Raspberry Cake

Recipe by: compiled from adaptations of The Way the Cookie Crumbles (white cake), Notes from my Food Diary (frosting and raspberry curd), Bon Appétit (lemon syrup)
Yields: 12 servings

Cake Ingredients:
3 3/8 cups cake flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 1/2 cups + 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
9 large egg whites, at room temperature
3 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
18 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks and 2 tablespoons), softened but still cool
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seed (optional)

Lemon Syrup Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Raspberry Curd Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Two 1/2-pints ripe raspberries or one 12-ounce package frozen raspberries, thawed
5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Lemon Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (I opted for a teaspoon or two of lemon extract instead)
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions: Make raspberry curd: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the raspberries, egg yolks, sugar, and salt and cook, mashing the berries and stirring frequently at first and them constantly at the end, until thickened, about 10 minutes (this took longer for me — about 15+). Pour this mixture through a coarse strainer, pressing to get out the maximum amount of liquid. Add in lemon juice to taste. Allow this to cool and then cover (with plastic wrap touching surface of curd to prevent skin from forming) and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Cake: Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour. (I brush my pans with Wilton’s cake release, then add the parchment circle and brush again. Be sure the parchment circles reach to the edges of your pan to ensure easily release).

Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.

Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, poppy seed, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.

Add all but ½ cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1½ minutes. Add remaining ½ cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.

Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes.

Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1½ hours.

Make lemon syrup: Place sugar in small metal bowl. Add 1/2 cup boiling water; stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in lemon juice.

Make frosting: Beat the butter and zest with an electric mixer on medium speed in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and beat for 1 minute longer.

Assemble the cake: I love Smitten Kitchen’s Layer Cake Tips — especially the one about freezing your layers before working with them. It makes it so much easier.

When cakes are completely cool, level each layer using a long, serrated knife. Use a little frosting to attach your bottom layer to a cake board or serving platter. Brush layer generously with lemon syrup. Spread a scant 1/2 cup raspberry curd on the layer (I may have used a little more). Continue building the layers this way, with syrup and curd, until all three layers are stacked. Frost with lemon buttercream frosting. I used white chocolate to create decorations for the sides and top of my cake. Cut into wedges and serve with fresh raspberries. Store in refrigerator.


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34 responses to “Lemon Raspberry Cake

  1. Christina

    I am DROOLING at the site of that… omnomnom. I have some lemon and passionfruit curd just waiting to be used and something like this would be perfect I think 😀

  2. This looks beautiful and delicious. I love the server!! It’s gorgeous!

    I hope your puppy recovers quickly and can run and jump without any pain. Poor little guy!!

    • Julie

      Thanks Maranda! I actually just picked up that server at Goodwill the other day — good find! Byrd is home right now and feeling not-so-hot, but resting beside Mommy and Daddy seems to be making it better 🙂

  3. Tried this and it was great!

  4. What a beautiful cake! I love the lemon decoration. I’m definitely going to try this white cake recipe. Currently I don’t have one that I like. They are always too dense.

  5. mary beth

    the waste issue is SO my problem as well (right down to commiseration about herbs and cheese and pancetta!), and i’ve been working really hard to tackle it right around now too, funny enough. i’ve been growing herbs indoors to prevent wasting store-bought ones in the fridge (my biggest downfall), using leftover kinda-stale bread in salads and casseroles and bready desserts or as crouton bases, and condiments, whoo boy…we have an embarrassing number of jams and preserves because R. can’t resist weird sounding flavors he sees at the store, so i’ve been trying to make jam tarts etc. to use them up. man.

    and i need a haircut too! mine hasn’t seen a salon since we got married in september…we should go at the same time. (:

    this cake is so lovely. it’s weird to see how fast your skills improve (i hope that doesn’t sound like a backhanded compliment; i sincerely mean it in super positive terms). i feel like if i blink next week you’ll be out-martha-ing martha. ha.

    • Julie

      Mary Beth, It’s so sweet that you worry that you will offend me when you’re actually being totally flattering! Thank you so much 🙂

      We should totally do a salon-trip at the same time. Ugh, wonder when I’ll feel I have the funds to go do that!

  6. mary beth

    d’oh, and i meant to say i am glad Byrd is doing better. poor girl. ❤

  7. Cathene

    My little five pound poodle, Mya, had this surgery done when she was very young as she would walk on just her front legs like a circus dog. It was expensive, painful to watch her recovery, but worth everything. She totally recovered and now seven years later you would never know anything was wrong. Good luck with her recovery and keep your spirits up! Everyone who loves your blog and your recipes is thinking of you!

    • Julie

      Thanks so much!! This comment is just what I needed to hear right now! I keep telling myself that in a couple of months, this will all be so worth it! So glad that little Mya is doing well seven years post-surgery! 🙂

  8. I hope your little baby is okay! Give her a hug for all of us!

    For a leftover cake. Hell for a CAKE. This looks amazing.

  9. I hope your puppy is recovering nicely. The cake looks fabulous.

  10. Cathy

    Get well soon little Byrd!

    I’ll have to try this cake, it looks beautifully delicious 🙂

  11. Adorable! I love this cake – looks super delish!

  12. Wow! That looks amazing! I want it to be my wedding cake! Yum! I am a new follower to your blog!


  13. Sue

    This looks stunning, and so delicious!

  14. The lemon decoration on top is clever. I’d love a “slice” of that!

  15. Darling you are the queen of layer cakes! I love the lemon decoration on top too! I hope Byrd is ok and healing well too 🙂

  16. cakeeeeeeeeee, yummy…..

  17. Suzanne

    Question: We are making this today and don’t see that you add the lemon juice to the raspberry curd directions. Is there a typo??

  18. Katie

    question: in the cake directions it says to prepare 3 9in pans and then later on it says to divide the batter into the 2 prepared pans.. does this recipe make all 3 layers or just two because above it also said you mixed the the middle layer separately? i was making this cake for my husbands birthday which is saturday or at least i am going to try. thank you

    • Hi Katie — just a typo! If you have 3 cake pans, go ahead and bake them all at once. I did mix my middle layer up separately and bake it after the other two, but just because I ran out of cake pans that were the same size 🙂

      Hope he loves it!!

  19. Pingback: Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes | The Waking E-Zine

  20. Jake

    Hey Julie

    I was wondering if this is a dense cake. I just made a coconut layer cake the other week for my fiancee’s side of the family and it was awesome, but quite dense. I’m looking for something more light I guess you can say.

    • Hi Jake! It’s not pound cake dense, but as layer cakes go, the crumb is pretty dense! Have you tried an angel food cake? They’re light as a feather and there’s one in the recipe index with a tunnel of cherry mousse running through it 🙂

  21. Hi there. I have a bit of a dumb question. When you strain the raspberry curd, do you keep the liquid that flows through? And if I didn’t have 9in cake pans, can I just bake all the batter in a 9x13in pan? Thanks!

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