Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake

May 30, 2021
12 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Prep time 2 hours
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Makes one 8-inch layer cake
Author Notes

A lovely layer cake for special occasions. It boasts layers of light lemon cake, raspberry jam, and lemon Italian buttercream. For more on how to build a layer cake, be sure to check out the full article linked with this recipe (find under my username)! —Erin Jeanne McDowell

What You'll Need
  • Lemon Cake
  • 2 1/4 cups (271 g) all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (347 g) sugar, divided
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g)vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 g) lemon extract
  • 3/4 cup (6 fl oz) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 6 (212 g) egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon (<1 g) cream of tartar
  • Filling + Finishing
  • 6 (212 g) egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon (<1g) cream of tartar
  • 2 1/4 cups (447 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) water
  • 2 1/2 cups (567 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons (10 g) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) lemon extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups (468 g) raspberry jam
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together to combine.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, 1 ¼ cups sugar, and the lemon zest until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the extracts and mix to combine.
  3. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix to incorporate. Add half of the milk and mix to combine. Repeat, adding alternate additions of flour and milk until both are fully incorporated.
  4. Pour the batter into a large bowl, and wash and dry the bowl of your mixer, and fit it with the whip attachment. Combine the egg whites and the cream of tartar in the mixer bowl and whip on medium speed until frothy, 1 minute.
  5. Raise speed to medium and whip to soft peaks. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a slow, steady stream and continue to whip to medium peaks.
  6. Add about a quarter of the egg whites to the bowl with the batter, and mix to combine. You can mix this portion in a bit more vigorously, it will lighten the batter and make it easier to add the rest. Fold in the remaining whites in 2 to 3 additions, folding gently to avoid deflating the batter.
  7. Pour the batter evenly into the two prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 15 minutes, then unmold onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  8. While the cakes cool, make the buttercream. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment.
  9. Combine the sugar and water in a medium pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir the mixture until it begins to simmer, then stop stirring and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot.
  10. If any sugar has washed up on the sides of the pot, brush it away with a pastry brush dipped in cool water. Cook the sugar mixture until it reads 235° Fahrenheit on the thermometer.
  11. When the sugar reaches 235° F, begin whipping the egg whites on medium high speed. The idea is to get them to soft peaks by the time the sugar reaches 245° Fahrenheit.
  12. When the sugar reaches 245° F, carefully pour it into the mixer in a slow, steady stream while the mixer is running. Continue to whip the mixture until it’s very white, thick, and the bowl is no longer warm to the touch.
  13. Begin adding the butter to the mixer. If the meringue is still hot, the butter will just melt and the whole thing will be gloopy—so make sure it’s cooled off. Add the butter 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, letting each addition incorporate fully before you add the next. Sometimes, the mixture will look broken about halfway through—just keep whipping, it will come around!
  14. Add the extracts and lemon zest and mix to combine. Transfer 1/3 of the frosting to a disposable pastry bag and cut a 1/2-inch opening at the tip.
  15. To assemble the cake, use a serrated knife to cut the domed tops off of both cakes, then to cut each into two even layers. You’ll have four layers total.
  16. Place one cake layer on a turntable (you can use a cake stand or platter if you don’t have one). Pipe a ring of frosting around the edge of the cake - it's like a retaining wall for the jam, so it doesn't ooze out. Place a 1/2-cup scoop of jam in the center of the ring and use an offset spatula to spread into an even layer.
  17. Place another cake layer on top and press down gently. Repeat this process until you’ve used all the layers of cake. Chill the cake for 15 to 30 minutes.
  18. Apply a crumb coat to the top and sides of the cake using an offset spatula. Chill for 15 to 30 minutes.
  19. Frost the top of the cake, then the sides. Remove the excess “wall” of frosting from the upper edge of the cake by swiping across the surface with the spatula. Decorate the cake as desired. Refrigerate if not serving right away, but bring to room temp again before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • ezachos
  • Miss_Karen
  • Sugartoast
  • Urvish Tamakuwala
    Urvish Tamakuwala
  • Aurora Fonseca-Lloyd
    Aurora Fonseca-Lloyd
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

13 Reviews

nerderbirder July 23, 2023
I made this for a family wedding anniversary and it was a HUGE hit!

I did make a few adaptions to the size of the cake though: My test cake was a little flat, so I baked 3 round cakes and just left them whole (instead of 2 cakes then dividing them to make 4 layers). I also wanted a tiered cake, so I baked 6 total rounds, 3 slightly smaller and 3 slightly larger, doing some math to determine the adjustments to ingredients.

Baked the cakes and made jam (blueberry, by request) a day ahead, then made frosting, assembled, and decorated the day of. Wrapped the cooled cakes in foil and left at room temp; they were still nice and moist on the day.

Based on another comment here, I subbed in lemon extract instead of zest in the frosting. I noticed the frosting was brighter before I added the vanilla, so I left vanilla out of the final batch of frosting so the outside of the cake was a little brighter white (wedding theme). The inner crumb coat still had the vanilla, so we didn't miss it on the outside.

Baking 3 round cakes for each tier worked out great for me. I think my cakes were a smidge flatter than intended because a) I'm not great at folding in egg whites, and b) I was juggling pans in oven, so opening oven & moving them around likely deflated the cakes a bit. The final two layers I baked got to sit still with no shuffling, and they turned out the best.

I will definitely make this again, and hopefully if I sort out my deflating issues, I can make it as intended.
ezachos September 8, 2022
Many steps, but easy to follow, and impressive to look at. BUT it wasn’t nearly as lemony tasting as I’d expected. Both the cake and the frosting had a very delicate lemon flavor, and I found myself searching for it. Using lemon curd to fill two of the layers helped fix that, but then of course we didn’t have the beautiful raspberry punctuating all 3 layers. Also, the lemon zest in the frosting was visible, and I’d expected a pristine white frosting, from the pictures—which, admittedly, didn’t have a close up. So my bad. All in all, a win, but also a few important caveats.
ktb August 2, 2021
What about cooking this recipe in altitude? Standard adjustments?
CBubbBake April 6, 2021
Sponge came out great, had issue with the flour measurement though.

The weighted amount (271g) was no where near 2 1/4 cups for me (when weighed it was about a 1 1/2. I ended ignoring the weighted amount because it just seemed to be too little Any idea why?
Susan G. July 22, 2018
This cake was delicious. It was a tiny bit flat--my layers didn't sink, but they didn't dome, either. I got a little bit lazy (I was making my own birthday cake, so I was allowed) and made an Epicurious lemon cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream. I loved it! So did the rest of the family. Such a tasty combination. I'll definitely make this one again, probably trying the buttercream next time.
maureen May 1, 2018
This cake came out great. I followed the directions exactly, using the weight method. Don't overthink the process. Just make the cake!
I had thought the lemon flavor would not be pronounced enough but it was perfect. I followed the steps to finish the cake with the raspberry jam. I did, however, use Natasha's Kitchen's recipe for Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting. It used less butter and looked easier. Delicious! RAVE reviews and beautiful when cut!
Urvish T. April 9, 2021
Was Natasha's frosting enough for the whole cake? It does seem much easier..
Miss_Karen January 18, 2018
'For more on how to build a layer cake, be sure to check out the full article linked with this recipe (find under my username)! —Erin McDowell'
- -I am unable to find this article. Help....!?
Aurora F. April 6, 2018
If you search for "layer cake" in Articles, you'll find it. It's "How to Build a Lofty Layer Cake"
Kiley D. June 20, 2017
Erin, please help! I want to make this cake for my mother's wedding this summer, but I've done 3 test cakes and had the same problem each time: the cakes shrink away from the edges and sink down once I remove them from the oven. While they're in the oven, they look like they're rising well and they'll form a slight dome above the top of the cake pans. But when they come out, even though a toothpick comes out clean, as they cool they shrink away from the sides and sink in at the top, so I'm left with essentially trapezoidal cakes that lack sufficient height for cutting into 2 layers each. People say they're very tasty, but pretty dense - more like pound cake. I've been using two Williams Sonoma Goldtouch 8" cake pans.

I've done some troubleshooting of my own, to no avail:
- absolutely no opening the oven during baking
- mixing flour & milk into creamed butter/sugar until just incorporated, not overmixing
- making sure to fold the egg whites very gently into the batter so as not to deflate
- using cake flour instead of AP flour
- getting an external oven thermometer to make sure my oven is really at 350 (turns out it does run cool, so I adjusted for that, but it didn't change the shrinkage problem)
- making sure butter and eggs are completely at room temperature before beating

Is it possible that I'm not beating the egg whites enough? I struggle a little with deciding what are soft vs. medium vs. stiff peaks. Or that I need to adjust the heat of my oven lower or higher? Different cake pans? I'm at a total loss! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!
Delores A. June 4, 2018
Try using cake pan "even strips" (offered by Wilton brand & others too) which you dampen in water &wrap around the outside of the cake before you put into the oven. The syrups help to insulate the pan & distribute the heat throughout the cake while out bakes allowing it to rise all over instead disproportionately in the middle. Found them on Amazon. LLovvee the results with my cakes! No more wasting 1/3 of my batter that I have trim from a cake "dome"! So glad I found these!
Anita F. May 29, 2016
I can't wait to make this cake too! I'm going to check out your website for tips on layering cakes and keeping the filling from seeping through. Thank you for sharing!
Sugartoast May 17, 2016
Lovely, can't wait to try. And thank you the "retaining frosting wall" tip. I always have trouble with my fruit filling seeping through the outside frosting layer but will be sure to incorporate this beautiful yet practical step next time. Thanks.