It took me 30 years to find the recipe for the most perfect, fluffy Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting. It’s been worth the wait. Despite feeling more unsettled than I care to admit about turning The Big 3-0 today, I can cling to one comforting certainty: if the next year of my life is 1/30th as good as this lemon birthday cake, I am in for an excellent 365 days.
I realize that the online image-appropriate thing to do is to tell you that I’m typing this post with such unwavering confidence in my own security as a woman in her 30s, the firm clicking of my laptop keys is drowning out the sounds of the espresso machine at the hip, urban coffee shop where I’m currently hanging out with other hip, urban 30-year-olds.
The less image-appropriate truth is…I’m typing this from my couch while eating chocolate chip cookies and drinking an $8 bottle of red wine I bought at Trader Joe’s.
I’ve been watching May 1st approach on my calendar the way one watches an ex-boyfriend or irritating co-worker in public: furtively, without eye contact, and with the desperate hope to escape before he or she walks over and starts a conversation. Avoidance is a delicate art, and my 30th birthday is tenacious. It’s arrived, taken its place at my table, and pulled out its fork. I may as well as well sit down with it and pull mine out too.
Please come and join us, my three decades of life and me, for a giant slice of the most luscious Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting. It’s the best lemon cake recipe I’ve ever tasted, anywhere, and quite possibly the best cake I’ve ever baked.
It’s also just one of the many things I want to celebrate today.
Although I’m feeling a little funky about turning 30, I have an incredible amount of blessings in my life that I want to honor and appreciate today.
Thirty doesn’t look like I thought it would when I was in high school. If you had asked 17-year-old Erin what 30-year-old Erin would be doing, she would have told you that at 30, I would be a happy stay-at-home mom with four well-dressed, angelically-mannered children, living in or near my hometown.
She also would have assumed that the people I call family and see the most often would be the same people as my family in high school, and that my friend crowd would be similar too. Overall, my world as a 30-year old wouldn’t look much different than my world at 17. I would just be smarter, prettier, and have everything all figured out.
FOR THE LEMON CAKE:
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour*
- 1 tablespoon baking powder (I recommend aluminum free)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/4 cups low fat buttermilk
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
FOR THE LEMON CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1/2 a large lemon)
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 8×2-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then butter the parchment.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate, medium bowl or a large measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites.
- Place the granulated sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a standing mixer or a large mixing bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and beat on medium speed for 3 full minutes, until very light and fluffy. Beat in the lemon extract.
- Beating on medium speed, add one-third of the flour mixture, then half of the egg/buttermilk mixture and beat until combined. Still beating on medium speed, add the next third of the dry ingredients, then the remaining eggs/buttermilk. Beat until the batter is smooth, then add the remaining dry ingredients. Beat for 2 additional minutes on medium speed, ensuring the batter is very well combined and plenty of air has been beaten into it.
You can find complete recipes of this Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting in wellplated.com