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Strawberry Lemon Cake

What makes this Strawberry Lemon Cake special:

My version of strawberry lemon cake consists of lemon-flavored white cake layered with a velvety strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream. This is not your typical strawberry buttercream! Not cloyingly sweet, think of this as more of a sophisticated, European-style buttercream. It’s the perfect Spring dessert but can easily be made year-round since it utilizes freeze-dried strawberries for a deep, concentrated flavor.

The lemon cake

The base of this lemon cake is a white cake that omits egg yolks. After extensive testing, I decided on a white cake for multiple reasons pertaining to flavor and texture. This cake recipe started out as a yellow cake flavored with lemon juice and lemon zest. I found this to be too heavy (and too similar to a lemon pound cake) for my liking. Omitting egg yolks and lemon juice removes a lot of density from this cake which allows it to pair perfectly with the Swiss meringue buttercream. Rather than adding lemon juice directly into the cake batter, a thin coat is brushed on each baked layer before the buttercream filling is added.


The Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Swiss meringue buttercream is my preferred favorite for many reasons. It offers a mildly sweet, buttery flavor that is light and creamy without being overly sugary. For the sake of texture and stability, I use freeze-dried strawberries in place of fresh strawberries. Using freeze-dried strawberries might feel like cheating, but they actually consist of 100% strawberries and offer a much more concentrated flavor than their fresh counterpart.


Prepare in advance

The lemon cake: Set out the following ingredients to bring to room temperature:

  • Zest 6 large lemons, setting aside 25 ml of freshly squeezed lemon juice for assembling the cake
  • 7 large egg whites (275 g)
  • 432 ml whole milk
  • 72 g full-fat sour cream

The strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream: Set out the following ingredients to bring to room temperature:

  • 6 sticks (678 g) unsalted butter
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Strawberry Lemon Cake


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  • Author: Amy @ The Pastry Blog
  • Yield: 1216 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

For the lemon cake:

  • 432 ml whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 450 g unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 275 g egg whites (from 8 large eggs), at room temperature
  • 266 ml vegetable oil
  • 480 g granulated sugar
  • 72 g full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • Grated zest of 6 large lemons
  • 25 ml fresh lemon juice

For the strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream:

  • 500 g granulated sugar
  • 378 g egg whites (from 12 large eggs)
  • 678 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 75 g freeze dried strawberries
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

For assembling the cake:

  • 25 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions

For the lemon cake: 

  1. Zest 6 lemons and set aside, saving 25 ml of freshly squeezed juice for assembling the cake.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (3) 8-inch round cake pans, lining the bottom of the cake pan with parchment and greasing and flouring the parchment as well. 
  3. Combine the milk and vanilla and set aside.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer using a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on medium high speed until soft peaks form (about 2 minutes). The egg whites should be glossy and soft, but not overly stiff. Transfer the beaten egg whites to a separate bowl and set aside.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer using a whisk attachment, whisk the oil and sugar on medium speed until incorporated.
  7. Whisk in the sour cream and mix until fully incorporated.
  8. Add sifted flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  9. Add in the lemon zest and mix until incorporated.
  10. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites by hand.
  11. Evenly distribute the batter into (3) 8-inch round cake pans and bake at 350°F for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry.
  12. Allow the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack.
  13. If baking the cakes one day in advance, cover the cake pans with cling film and store at room temperature. Prior to making the buttercream, use a cake leveler to level the top of each cake, then horizontally slice each cake into two even layers.

For the strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream:

  1. Place the sugar and egg whites into a bain-marie over simmering water, whisking constantly until all of the sugar has dissolved and the temperature of a candy thermometer reaches 140°F.
  2. Transfer the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk the meringue for 5 minutes on medium-high speed. Before proceeding to the next step, it is crucial be sure the meringue is fully cooled, or the meringue will flatten with the addition of butter. After whisking for 5 minutes, the sides of the bowl should be cool, but the base of the bowl may still be warm to the touch. If it is, place the bowl in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. Avoid refrigerating it for longer or the meringue will be too chilled to properly blend with the butter in the next step. Even if you’ve never made a Swiss meringue before, this is a time when you’ll need to trust your best instincts. If you’ve refrigerated the meringue and still find the base of the bowl to be too warm, let the meringue sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so before proceeding.
  3. Once the meringue has been cooled, gradually whisk in the room temperature butter on medium high speed, 2 tablespoons at a time, waiting until it is incorporated before adding more. 
  4. Whisk the freeze-dried strawberry powder until blended.
  5. Add in the vanilla extract and lemon juice and mix until just blended.

To assemble the cake: 

Note: Half of the strawberry buttercream will be used to fill the cake, and the other half will be used to frost the outside of the cake. For precise, even layers, weigh and separate the buttercream into 2 separate, equal parts of 700 g each. Each of the 5 cake layers are to be topped with 140 g of the buttercream frosting. 

  1. Place one of the split bottom layers of cake on a cake stand. Brush the cake with a thin layer of the freshly squeezed lemon juice and top with a layer of strawberry buttercream. Spread the buttercream with an offset spatula to make an even layer.
  2. Repeat the steps above, topping the cake with another split bottom layer of cake. 
  3. Frost the cake with the remaining 700 g of buttercream. Store the cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Remove the cake from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to serving. 

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