This luscious lemon lavender cake is a rich, dense cake bursting with bright lemon flavor and topped with buttercream frosting infused with hints of lavender for the ideal special occasion dessert.
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I initially learned to cook by learning how to bake. It has really always been one of my favorite things to do. So, you might ask why I don't have more dessert recipes on the blog. Well, first, I have been trying to focus on healthier eating and sharing healthier options, so I try not to make dessert too often. Also, as you know baking takes up a bit of time and I don't always have the time to test a recipe and make it multiple times, so I try to be selective about what I post. More recently, the fact that I moved to Denver last year has added the challenge of learning to bake at high altitude!
I've decided to try to post at least one dessert recipe a month starting with this lovely cake! I've tested it both at high altitude (see notes at the end if you happen to live above about 3,000 feet) and also lower altitudes, so you can rest assured it will come out just fine wherever you happen to live!
I love lemon desserts almost as much as I love chocolate desserts. Anyone else?? And lemon desserts just tend to scream spring and summer though I like to make this one at just about any time of year. And what is one of the best flavor pairings with lemon? Well, there are quite a few but lavender is a really unique one that you don't see as often as some others.
Other than the lavender, which you can find either online or at a specialty spice shop (see below for one option of where to order it), the rest of the ingredients are pretty standard things you probably have in your pantry or can find at any grocery store.
The recipe makes one 6 inch cake. If you like to bake cakes, I love the 6-inch version as it's still enough for 8 people and you won't be eating cake for days!
This is a rich, quite dense cake, which is what makes it perfect as a 6-inch cake. Using smaller pans also gives you slightly thicker layers, which makes cutting them in half a bit easier. You can skip that step if you like and just have a two-layer cake with thicker layers. One really key ingredient for this cake is cake flour. Cake flour keeps baked goods light and airy so if you like to bake it's worth keeping in your pantry. These days you can find it at most grocery stores.
Why sift the flour?
Cake flour is a finely ground flour that is low in protein. It gives cakes and baked goods a lighter, airer texture. If you've used it before, you'll notice most recipes call for sifting the flour before using it. For this recipe, you sift the flour prior to measuring it.
You want to sift cake flour to give it some extra aeration and make sure it doesn't clump together when you are mixing it into the batter. This helps to ensure a nice, smooth cake batter.
Frosting a naked cake
So if you haven't seen one, you might be asking "what is a naked cake?" Well, it's basically a cake with less frosting so you can see the cake through the frosting. I like this for two reasons. First, you use less frosting so slightly better for you. Second, I think it looks pretty!
So, how do you do it? You need a plate or cake stand with no edges and a large flat utensil, ideally a pastry scraper like the one I list below. Start by putting the first layer on the stand and adding some frosting. Use a knife followed by the pastry scraper to smooth the frosting. Repeat the same procedure with each layer. Use a long knife or spatula to add frosting the sides of the cake as you normally would. Then carefully use the pastry scraper to remove excess frosting and give the cake that naked look. You can be creative here - my cakes come out a little different each time.
You'll probably notice that my cake is a little lopsided. I thought about making it again so it would be perfect for the photos (of course it was the first three times I tested it but I didn't take photos). In the end, I decided not to because I wanted you to see that even if it's not quite right, and trust me sometimes things don't always come out quite right, the cake is still lovely and tastes amazing. It got lots of ohs and ahs when I served it despite it being a little off - and having a piece already cut out of it!! 🙂
The lopsidedness (is that a word?) comes from not slicing the layers quite straight, so try to be careful when you do that. Or you can just skip that step if you don't want to worry about it. Happy baking!
things you might want for this recipe
Culinary Lavender - While this is a rather unique ingredient, it is fairly easy to find and is a great flavor enhancer in desserts, especially when combined with lemon!
6-inch cake pans - I love this size cake pans for making smaller cakes. They are perfect if you are cooking for two or just don't want to have leftovers. Most standard 9-inch cake recipes can be adapted to a smaller pan by reducing the cooking time. You may have some batter leftover depending on the recipe.
Cake Flour - If you bake frequently you probably already have and are familiar with cake flour. Cake flour has a lower protein content and is more finely ground than all-purpose flour. This gives baked goods a lighter more airy texture.
Pastry Scraper - This is a really useful kitchen tool in general but is super key for getting the naked frosting look right. You use the scraper as you spin the cake and essential scrape the excess frosting off.
Lemon Lavender Naked Cake
- For the cake:
- 1 ¾ cups sifted cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 large eggs
- 1 egg white
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
For the frosting:
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- ¾ teaspoon culinary lavender
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven. Move the rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350°F.
- Line the cake pans. Line the bottom of two six inch cake pans with parchment paper and spray with non-stick baking spray.
- Mix the dry ingredients. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Whisk together. Set aside.
- Mix the wet ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest on medium low speed. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on medium high for 1 minute. Add the milk and lemon juice, beat on low speed until all ingredients are combined.
- Finish the batter. Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue to mix until the batter is smooth.
- Bake. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center of the cake clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove the cakes from the pans and continue to cool on wire racks while you make the frosting.
- Make the frosting. Add the butter and lavender to a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat on medium until combined. Slowly add the milk and beat on low speed until frosting is smooth.
- Assemble and frost the cake. Carefully slice each layer in two lengthwise. Place the first layer on a cake stand or plate with no rim. Add a spoonful of frosting on top and smooth with a long knife or cake froster. Repeat with the remaining layers, reserving frosting for the sides of the cake. Use a long knife to frost the sides of the cake and then carefully remove excess frosting with a pastry scraper to give the cake that naked look. Top with edible flowers or some lavender sprigs before serving.