Sometimes, I’m really craving a slice of lemon cake. And sometimes, I make a lemon cake so that I can use the itsy bitsy gray cake stand I bought a long time ago but haven’t had the chance to use yet. Yes, I’m a food photographer who is sometimes ruled by my prop collection. But if it took a long-neglected cake stand to get me to bake something this delicious, then so be it.
There’s another secret about this cake, too. I’m calling it a “Cake for Two” because you know, it’s tiny and adorable. But if you just cut it in half and served it as two pieces, those would be some really big pieces of cake.
So, let’s just say that it serves two, a few times. Because who doesn’t want a slice of cake with their Valentine’s dinner, and then another slice the next morning for breakfast, right? I’m all in for that. Everybody deserves cake for breakfast once a year.
Yes, this is my idea of a Valentine’s cake. While my husband would probably prefer the more traditional chocolate approach for Valentine’s, lemon is more my love language. We’ll go back and forth on this, some years baking deeply chocolate brownies, and some years brightening up a cold February night with something lemony fresh, like this Lemon & Raspberry Cake for Two.
This year is one of those “lemony fresh” years. I’ve whipped up a classic white cake batter with the addition of fresh lemon zest and a spoonful of lemon extract. I divided the batter between three 6-inch cake pans and baked them right up. The frosting is a lemony variation of a classic Swiss meringue buttercream, meaning it’s easy to work with but not overly sweet. Finally, hidden between each layer is a little pool of raspberry preserves. Because a secret pool of raspberry preserves sounds dreamy to me.
Lemon desserts for Valentine’s Day. Let’s make this a thing.
For the Cake Layers:
- nonstick baking spray
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large egg whites
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1/2 cup whole milk
For the Frosting:
- 2 large egg whites
- 7 tablespoons sugar
- pinch of sea salt
- 13 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
For Assembly :
- 2/3 cup raspberry preserves, divided
- 1 cup fresh raspberries
To Make the Cakes:
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray three 6-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.
- In small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
- In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
- Add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add lemon zest and extract; mix until just combined. In alternating additions, add milk and flour mixture; beat until just combined.
- Divide batter between prepared pans (if scaling, each pan will take approximately 6.9 ounces of batter).
- Transfer pans to oven and bake 17 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, rotating pans halfway through.
- Transfer pans to cooling rack; let cool 5 minutes before turning cakes out of pans onto rack. Let cakes cool completely before assembling cake.
To Make the Frosting:
- In heatproof bowl of standing mixer set over pan of simmering water, combine egg whites, sugar and salt.
- Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm and sugar has dissolved (when you rub the mixture between your fingertips, it should be completely smooth with no sugar granules still noticeable).
- Attach bowl to stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing speed to medium-high, whisk 8 to 10 minutes or until stiff peaks form, and mixture is completely cool.
- With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Add extract, beat until just combined.
- Switch to paddle attachment; continue beating on low speed 3 to 4 minutes or until frosting is completely smooth, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally.
To Assemble the Cake:
- Place one cake layer on turntable or cake stand. Using piping bag, pipe a ring of frosting around outer edge of cake (this frosting ring will hold the preserves inside the cake).
- Spoon 1/3 cup preserves into center of ring; gently spread until you have an even layer.
- Repeat process with second cake layer.
- Place third cake layer on top. Use remaining frosting to thinly frost outside and top of cake. Garnish top of cake with raspberries.