Lemon and Lavender Make a Heavenly Combination in this Cake
Lemon lavender cake is a great addition to any sunny celebration from Mother’s Day to Labor Day. Its tartness from lemon and floral notes from lavender pair perfectly in this fork-tender cake.
Lavender is an underrated herb in the culinary world. It's not just for scents and soaps; it's a beautiful, floral flavor that melds wonderfully with lemon. This lemon lavender cake is bright and flowery. If the perfect summer day had a flavor, it would be this.
The tart lemon and the sweetness of the cake play off each other like any classic sweet-tart lemon dessert. But the subtle amount of lavender adds a whole new dimension. It’s just enough to add herbaceous hints that will transport you to blooming lavender fields, rather than an overpowering soap store. The cake is fluffy and tangy and feels as natural on a bright day as a glass of lemonade.
An Easy Butter Cake With Lemon and Dried Lavender
This lemon lavender cake is as easy to make as a butter cake but flavored with fresh lemons and dried lavender. First, infuse the sugar with the lemon zest and dried culinary lavender. I find the fastest and easiest way to do this is to blitz them all together in a food processor.
Then, beat the butter, infused sugar, and oil with a mixer until almost tripled in volume. I like to use both butter and oil for cakes: butter gives the best flavor, and oil makes a moister cake. Add the eggs, one at a time. Then, alternate adding the dry ingredients with the milk and lemon juice. Divide the batter evenly between two cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Baking with Lavender
Lavender is a beautiful and underutilized flavor in cooking and baking. It has a relaxing floral scent and, in the right amount, a flowery taste that can be reminiscent of mint or rosemary. Lavender is strong, and a little can go a long way; if you add too much, it will taste soapy.
To use lavender in your baking, you can either infuse liquid ingredients by steeping or grind it into a powder and add it directly into the batter. For this cake, I chose to grind the lavender.
Generally, when I use lemon zest, I like to combine the finely grated zest with the sugar to infuse it with the zest's essential oils. So here, I did essentially the same thing and combined it into one step by blitzing the sugar, zest, and lavender in the food processor. This is faster than heating the milk to infuse the lavender and waiting for it to cool, and there's less risk of over-flavoring the batter.
How to Frost a Layer Cake
Assembling and frosting a cake has a reputation for being difficult and scary. But I think of it as the fun (and sometimes messy) step that turns a cake into a cake. Here are a few tips for a smooth experience and embracing mistakes:
- Make sure the cakes have cooled completely before frosting, otherwise the frosting will melt and your layers will slide around.
- I love my offset spatula for the amount of control it provides while frosting cakes. But you can also use a spoon, a large butter knife, or the straight edge of a rubber spatula.
- A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that seals the cake and traps any loose crumbs, so the final layer of frosting doesn't have any red specks of crumbs in the outer layer of white frosting.
- Chill the cake in the fridge to set the crumb coat before adding the final layer of frosting.
- If you're having difficulty getting perfectly smooth sides, embrace the look by decorating the cake with a swirl, swoops, or waves instead.
Making Lemon Lavender Cake in Advance
It's easy to make components of this cake ahead of time and assemble closer to serving time. After baking the cake layers, allow them to cool completely, wrap them in plastic, and store them at room temperature overnight or freeze them for longer storage. The cake layers can be frozen for up to 3 months.
You can also make the frosting in advance and store it for later. Cover the frosting tightly and store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let the frosting thaw in the refrigerator then beat it on medium speed for a few seconds until satiny. It may be helpful to add another tablespoon of milk if it’s too thick.
More Cake Recipes to Enjoy this Season!
- Lemon Pound Cake
- Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Vanilla Buttercream
- Key Lime Cake
- Whole Clementine Cake
- Marmalade Pound Cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Prepare the pans:
Grease 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with butter. Line the pans with parchment paper and grease the parchment. Dust the bottom and sides of the pans with flour and tap out the excess.
Combine the dry ingredients:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Infuse the sugar:
In the bowl of a food processor, add the sugar, lemon zest, and dried lavender. Process the sugar mixture until the lavender is finely ground and the zest and lavender are distributed throughout the sugar, 1-3 minutes.
Beat the butter, oil, and sugar:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, vegetable oil, and lemon-lavender sugar on medium-high speed until very pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. The mixture will have doubled or nearly tripled in volume.
Add the eggs and vanilla:
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully combined after each addition. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Combine the wet and the dry:
Add one half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Pour in the milk and lemon juice and continue mixing on low speed until combined.
Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until incorporated. It’s okay if there are a few lumps, you don’t want to overmix the batter. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl in between additions to ensure the batter mixes evenly.
Bake the lemon lavender cake layers:
Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. The edges of the cake will have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, and the center of the cake should spring back when gently poked with your finger.
Cool the cakes:
Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
Beat the butter for frosting:
To make the frosting: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 2 minutes.
Add the powdered sugar, milk, and lemon extract:
Add the powdered sugar, half of the milk, and the lemon extract and continue beating on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. If the frosting is too thick, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency.
Assemble the cake:
Place one of the cake layers right-side-up on a large plate or a 10-inch cardboard cake round. Use an offset spatula or a butter knife to spread a thick layer of frosting, 1/2 to 1 cup, evenly over the layer. Top with the remaining cake layer, placed up-side-down, so the top of the cake is smooth and flat. Check that the cake layers are centered and that the top of the cake is level. Gently adjust accordingly.
Apply the crumb coat:
Spread a generous amount of frosting over the top and sides of the cake using an offset spatula or the straight edge of a large butter knife. Use the spatula to spread the frosting into a thin, even layer. You should be able to see the cake through the frosting.
Refrigerate the cake and frosting:
Place the cake in the refrigerator for 20 minutes for the frosting to set. Cover the bowl of frosting.
Frost the cake:
Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Stir the frosting a few times to smooth it out again.
Spread a generous amount of frosting over the top and sides of the cake as before, this time leaving a thicker layer of frosting. Use the offset spatula, a large spoon, or the back of a butter knife to smooth the sides.
The cake will keep for up to 4 days in a cake saver on the counter. Cake slices can be saved on a plate covered with plastic wrap for up to 4 days.
When storing leftover cake with slices missing, I like to cover the exposed cake layers with a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper to prevent them from drying out.
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