This cake was inspired by a cookie!
Have you ever tried Lemon Meltaways? I suspect many of you have since it’s a familiar sight on holiday cookie trays (though I love making them in spring and summer). For those unfamiliar, they are powdered sugar-coated cookies with a huge lemony kick! When I first tasted this cake, I found the burst of lemon flavor so similar to those cookies that I immediately dubbed this confection “Lemon Meltaway Cake”. It’s a fitting moniker in more than one way, too. The cake layers are drenched in lemon glaze that makes the texture melt-in-your-mouth tender.
These swirls and kisses of buttercream almost look like meringues, don’t they? I think so. Everywhere I look (okay, mostly on Instagram) cake bakers and decorators are piling their cakes high with adorable baked meringue cookies. I decided to make some buttercream swirls instead. I froze them on waxed paper and then piled them high willy-nilly on top of the cake. After the buttercream garnishes come to room temperature, they still hold their shape! You can use this technique with almost any buttercream, just make sure it’s high butter ratio so the swirls will firm well when chilled. I love the look, and unlike baked meringues, these buttercream flourishes are so much easier to cut through when serving slices!
Check out that texture. It’s pretty darn special, if you ask me. The cake is filled with delicious lemon curd, which adds additional tang and moisture. I usually make homemade lemon curd for layer cakes, but to make this cake less of a production I used ready-made. I like Dickinson’s Family brand because it is tangy and flavorful, and if you look at the ingredients, well, there aren’t many. And that’s a good thing. If you’d like to make your own lemon curd from scratch, then you can find my recipe at the very end of this blog post.
I used two food colors for this cake: Wilton golden yellow and teal (both are included in this set). You may choose to omit the food color but the cake layers and frosting will be very pale (almost white) without it.
Lemon Meltaway Cake
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup powdered sugar sifted
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup lemon curd
- 1 teaspoon golden yellow food color optional (I like Wilton brand)
- 1 1/2 cups 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons cream
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1/4 teaspoon golden yellow food color
Buttercream rosettes and kisses
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 to 4 tablespoons milk or cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Teal gel food color I like Wilton brand
- Make the cake layers: Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with flour-based baking spray (alternatively, grease and flour the pans). In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and 3/4 cup butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Beat in the lemon extract. On low speed, alternately beat in the flour mixture and milk until blended. Add the food color and beat on low speed until a consistent color is achieved. Scrape down bowl as needed and re-mix briefly.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans (about 2 cups batter per pan). Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the cake pans and level with a cake leveler or serrated knife. Return the leveled cakes to their pans. With a skewer (or fork tines) poke the tops of the cake at 1-inch spaces. Whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice until smooth. Spoon the glaze over the cakes. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove from the cake pans; place the cakes on a cooling rack (glazed side-up) and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
- For the 8-inch triple layer cake, cover two cakes with 1/2 cup of lemon curd each. Stack the cakes, ending with the plain cake layer on top. If making the 9-inch double layer version, spread one cake layer with the lemon curd and top with the remaining cake layer.
- Make the lemon frosting: In a large bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups butter, 4 cups powdered sugar, cream, lemon juice and lemon extract on low speed until well blended. Beat 3 minutes on medium speed; scrape down the bowl. Add the golden yellow food color a little at a time until a light golden color is achieved. Beat on high speed until fluffy, about 2 more minutes. Cover the entire cake with frosting using an offset spatula. Chill the cake while you prepare the decors.
- Make the buttercream rosettes and kisses: Line a large baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment. Beat the unsalted butter and sugar in a large bowl; add the milk or cream a little at a time until the mixture is piping consistency. Add the vanilla extract and beat on high speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Transfer about 1/3 of the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip and pipe swirls of frosting onto the waxed paper. Paint the interior of a disposable piping bag with four stripes of teal gel food color. Transfer another 1/3 of icing to the piping bag; snip the end with scissors and pipe dollops (or kisses) onto the waxed paper, the icing will stripe as you pipe (a rhyme!). Tint the remaining icing with a small dab of teal gel food color. Mix until a light teal color is achieved. Transfer the frosting to another piping bag fitted with the large closed star tip and pipe swirls on the waxed paper. Soon after the garnishes are piped they can be decorated with your choice of sprinkles (I used some tiny yellow nonpareils on the teal swirls). Transfer the pan to the freezer and let chill until frozen solid, about 30 minutes.
- When the icing is well set, remove the cake from the refrigerator. Remove the pan of piped buttercream from the freezer and use a small offset spatula to lift the flourishes off the waxed paper and onto the top of the cake. Arrange them as you please, or do as I do and pile them high!
- Store the cake covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.