This lemon and raspberry cake is packed with lemon in the cake layers, filling, and frosting! Juicy raspberries are baked into the cake layers and placed on top of each slice for maximum flavour.
How to make lemon cake layers
Making the cake layers for this cake is very straightforward. Cream the butter and sugar together until they're fluffy, which makes a light cake that rises well. Then grate lemon peels with a zester or the fine side of a cheese grater. This makes thin slivers that don't add texture to the cake but they do provide lots of flavour.
Add the lemon zest to the butter and sugar while you’re creaming them to infuse them into the base of the cake batter. This will make the cake layers really lemony.
Add the eggs one by one, mixing for about 30 seconds after each one so that they incorporate properly. Add vanilla and mix that in, too. Whisk together the flour and baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add half of that to the batter, mixing only until it’s just combined. When you don’t see any flour in the batter anymore, stop mixing! Then add the milk and sour cream, mix those in, and then the rest of the flour mixture.
Divide the batter between three greased baking pans. I like to line my pans with parchment paper for this recipe to make sure the cakes come out easily. Set aside 8 raspberries and divide the rest between the cake pans, nudging them into the batter with a spatula. I like to add the raspberries now instead of mixing them into the batter in the mixing bowl for two reasons. You won't break the raspberries down this way, so you'll see beautiful whole raspberries in each slice. Also, you can put the same number of raspberries into each pan for an even distribution throughout the cake.
Bake the cake layers at 325F or 160C for 30 minutes. When the centers don’t wiggle when you jiggle the pan, the layers are ready. As a double check, a toothpick pushed into the middle should come out clean. The recipe listed below makes a three layer, 6 inch cake but you can scale the recipe by clicking the "X2" or "X3" buttons. Double the recipe to make a three-layer 8 inch cake.
Let the cakes cool completely while you make the filling and frosting.
How to make lemon curd
Lemon curd is easy to make if you’re patient enough to let it cook slowly. The ingredients are simple: lemon juice, lemon zest, butter, sugar, and eggs. Put all of the ingredients into a small saucepan over a low or medium low heat, depending on your stovetop. By cooking lemon curd very slowly and gently you’ll prevent lumps so your lemon curd will be beautifully smooth.
It takes about 30 minutes to cook lemon curd over a low heat. If you’re in a rush, buy a jar of lemon curd instead! But homemade lemon curd is one of the best tasting things I’ve ever had so if you have time, I really recommend making it from scratch. You’ll notice the curd thicken gradually and your whisk will start to leave texture behind in it. To test it, dip a spoon into it and check the back of the spoon. The lemon curd should cling to the spoon and if you run your finger through it, it will leave a clear trail.
Pour the curd through a sieve into a bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap, pushing the plastic down onto the surface to prevent a skin forming on the curd. Put it in the fridge and it will thicken as it cools.
How to make lemon buttercream
Now make lemon buttercream to frost the cake. Mix together room temperature butter and powdered sugar or icing sugar on the lowest speed setting of your mixer. After about 5 minutes it will be smooth but very thick or stiff. Add vanilla and salt and mix those in. Normally you’d add milk or cream to thin it out but instead, add the cooled lemon curd. Start with two tablespoons and mix that in and check the consistency. Continue adding a tablespoon of lemon curd at a time until the buttercream is easy to stir and your spatula leaves soft peaks in it. If you add too much liquid you’ll make the buttercream runny and it will slide down the cake when you frost it.
Spoon some of the buttercream into a piping bag without a piping tip. You’ll use this for the filling in the cake in a moment.
How to assemble this lemon and raspberry cake
To assemble your cake, pipe a dot of lemon buttercream on the middle of a cake board. Press your first cake layer into that and the dot will hold it in place when you frost it later. Spread a thin layer of buttercream onto the cake and then pipe a ring of buttercream around the outer edge.
This is called a buttercream dam and it holds the lemon curd in place. This way it won't ooze out from between the cake layers. If you love lemon curd, try my Lemon and Blueberry Cake, too!
Place the next cake layer on top and repeat. The thin layer of buttercream on each cake layer stops the lemon curd absorbing into the cake. Instead, it will sit on top and you really notice it when you bite into the cake.
How to frost this lemon and raspberry cake
Cover the cake in a thin layer of lemon buttercream to trap any crumbs that come off the cake. Then put the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 15 minutes to set that layer of frosting. Spread another layer of frosting on top, which will be crumb free. Since this is the final layer of frosting, it’s worth taking your time to get the sides smooth and the top flat and level. I teach in LOTS of detail how to frost a cake in my online courses The Basics of Cake and also The Basics of Buttercream. Sign up on my cake school or join my ClubPLUS for access to every MasterCourse, MiniCourse and Live Workshop!
To decorate this cake, use those 8 raspberries you set aside earlier. Arrange the raspberries around the cake, placing them opposite each other to space them evenly. Scoop up the last little bit of lemon buttercream and put it into a piping bag fitted with a star tip like a 1M tip. Now pipe swirls or ruffles in between the raspberries.
By counting the number of times you go back and forth and keeping that number the same for each ruffle, all of your piping will be the same height.
How to store this lemon and raspberry cake
Lemon curd needs to be refrigerated so keep this cake in the fridge if you make it the day before. Take it out 2-4 hours before your serve it so that the cake and frosting comes to room temperature, when it tastes the best! I LOVE the cross section of these slices! The pairing of the sweet lemon buttercream with the tangy lemon curd filling and juicy raspberries is absolutely perfection!
This lemon and raspberry cake has lemon in the cake layers, filling, and frosting, with juicy raspberries baked in and placed on top!
For the lemon cake layers:
1 1/2cups granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2cup sour cream
A punnet of raspberries
For the lemon curd filling:
1/3cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/3cup white sugar
1/4cup unsalted butter
2 large eggs
For the lemon buttercream:
2 sticks butter
2 2/3cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons of lemon curd
To make the lemon cake layers:
In a mixer with a beater attachment, mix butter with sugar on medium speed until pale and creamy, about three minutes. Scrape down to the bottom of the bowl once during mixing to make sure no butter or sugar is stuck at the bottom.
Meanwhile, zest the lemons using a zester or the fine side of a grater. Add to the butter and sugar mixture and mix to combine.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on the lowest speed after each egg until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
Add vanilla and mix on lowest speed for about 30 seconds to combine.
In a bowl sift and whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add half of this mixture to the mixing bowl and mix on the lowest speed to incorporate.
Add milk and sour cream and mix into the batter. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix only until just combined. The batter will be runny and pale in colour.
Grease three 6" pans and optionally, line with parchment paper rounds to prevent sticking. Divide the batter between them. Set aside 8 raspberries and divide the rest between the cake pans. Nudge the raspberries under the surface of the batter with a spatula.
Bake at 160ºC or 325ºF for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Let cakes cool in their pans for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to loosen cake from the edges of the cake pan and then turn onto a wire cooling rack. Leave to cool completely.
To make the lemon curd:
Put all of the lemon curd ingredients in a small saucepan over low or medium-low heat (depending on your stovetop). Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until it thickens, which will take about 30 minutes. To test it, dip a spoon into it and it should coat the back of the spoon. Run your finger through that coating and you should leave a clear trail behind in the curd.
Pour the lemon curd through a sieve into a bowl, pushing through the sieve with a spoon if necessary.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pushing it down to sit on the surface of the curd. Refrigerate for at least two hours and the curd will thicken more.
To make the lemon buttercream:
Using an electric mixer, mix butter and powdered sugar on the lowest speed until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla and mix to combine.
Add two tablespoons of the cooled lemon curd and mix into the buttercream. Continue adding a tablespoon at a time until the buttercream is easy to stir and your spatula leaves soft peaks.
Fill a piping bag 3/4 full with the lemon buttercream.
To put it all together:
Pipe a dot of buttercream onto the middle of a plate or cake board and press your first layer of cake onto it. Spread a thin layer of lemon buttercream on top and then pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge to act as a dam or wall. Spoon lemon curd into the middle and spread it around to fill the buttercream dam.
Place your next layer of cake on top and repeat the filling: spread lemon buttercream, pipe a dam, and spoon lemon curd into the middle.
Place your final cake layer on top and then chill the cake for 30 minutes in the fridge or 15 minutes in the freezer.
Frost the cake with a thin layer of lemon buttercream (a crumb coat) and then a final layer.
Place the 8 raspberries you set aside earlier onto the top of the cake, arranging them opposite each other to space them evenly.
Spoon the rest of the lemon buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a 1M or 2D piping tip. Pipe a swirl or a ruffle in between each raspberry.
If you don't have sour cream or milk you can omit both and substitute them with buttermilk.
You can refrigerate this cake for a week in an airtight container like a tupperware.
This cake is best served at room temperature! If you refrigerate it, take it out of the fridge two hours before serving it.
For a three-layer 8" cake, double this recipe (click "X2" at the top of the recipe).