Strawberry Lemonade Cake. A tender layer cake recipe brightened with lemon juice, lemon zest and fresh strawberries, frosted with a tangy sweet fresh strawberry buttercream frosting.
Last summer I shared my favorite Lemon Blueberry Cake and while it’s always been a hit in our house, it quickly became a reader favorite too. So many of you have given it a try and left your feedback. Thank you! Turns out, one of the most commonly asked questions on this recipe is about subbing strawberries, as in, can I substitute the blueberries with strawberries? And while I completely understand the desire for a lemon and strawberry combo, the truth is that swapping these berries is not as easy as making a straight substitution. So after our strawberry picking adventure (read about that here) I decided to make a strawberry version of the lemon blueberry cake!
Tart and sweet, tangy and fresh, this cake is summer at its best. The lemon cake is tender with a boost of lemon that’s pronounced but not too sour, with visible flecks of zest and extra lemon notes from a dash of extract. Then comes the strawberry frosting, the real star of this show. Fresh strawberries are simmered with a splash of lemon juice and some sugar, removing all of the excess liquid and creating the most intense strawberry reduction. When it’s added to our buttercream, the result is all the strawberry flavor you want without all the excess moisture that will ruin a frosting in no time flat. While I also love using freeze dried berries for an intense berry frosting (like in this recipe), today’s frosting is all about using the fresh berry bounty that summer brings. The tartness of the fresh strawberries tones down the sweetness of a classic crusting buttercream, creating the perfect balance that’s neither too sugary nor too sour. Plus, its natural color is pretty easy on the eyes.
Between the layers of cake, sandwiched right in the middle of the frosting, is an extra layer of sliced strawberries. They really enhance the fresh strawberry flavor and add that extra pop of red that visually reminds us… this cake is a celebration of fresh berries. The key to adding the strawberry slices without extra liquid seeping out and ruining the cake texture or presentation is simply a little planning.
Slice the strawberries a day in advance and lay them out on a baking tray lined with paper towels. Cover with another layer of paper towels and refrigerate overnight. When it comes time to assemble the cake, you’ll have beautiful fresh strawberry slices that won’t release too many juices. Simply spread a thin layer of frosting, top with the prepared strawberry slices, then cover with another thin layer of frosting. The strawberries will be completely surrounded by buttercream and not touching the cake itself, helping it remain as beautiful as it is tasty. If you don’t have time to dry the strawberry slices overnight, I suggest skipping them all together.
I hope you enjoy this one as much as we did! Cheers to the start of some summer fun!
Strawberry Lemonade Cake
Tender layer cake recipe brightened with lemon juice, lemon zest and fresh strawberries, frosted with a tangy sweet fresh strawberry buttercream frosting.
- Yield: One 8" Round Cake (3 layers)
- Skill Level: ✽ ✽ ✽
For the Lemon Cake:
- 3 cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon organic lemon zest
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup lemon juice
For the Strawberry Reduction:
- 32 ounces fresh strawberries
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the Strawberry Buttercream:
- 16 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup strawberry reduction, cooled
For the Assembly:
- 8 ounces fresh strawberries, sliced and dried between paper towels overnight
- 6 small strawberries, whole
- 6 slices of lemon
- 6 paper straws, trimmed to 3″ long
Make the Lemon Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350. Butter and lightly flour three 8″ round pans. Line with parchment paper circles.
- Sift together 3 cups cake flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine milk and lemon juice. Stir to combine and set aside for milk to curdle. This is similar to making homemade buttermilk!
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high using the paddle attachment. Beat until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
- With the mixer on low, add eggs one at a time. Mix well after each egg.
- Add vanilla extract and lemon extract. Mix to combine.
- Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Do not over mix. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and mixing blade.
- Divide batter evenly between the three 8″ round pans.
- Bake for 28-30 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
- Let cool in pans for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.
Make the Strawberry Reduction:
- Combine strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a sauté pan over medium heat.
- Cook 25 minutes until the juices are bubbly and the berries are soft enough to smash with the back of a spoon.
- Press the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl to remove the seeds. Use the back of your wooden spoon to really press as much pulp through as you can. Scrape the underside of the strainer to get all of the accumulated strawberry pulp. Discard seeds and return strained puree back to the pan.
- Cook on medium-low, stirring with a wooden spoon, until reduced to only ¼ cup remains, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Pour into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pushing the plastic down to touch the strawberry reduction so that a skin does not form. Allow to cool.
Make the Strawberry Buttercream:
- In bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and salt until creamy.
- Add vanilla extract and cooled strawberry reduction. Mix well.
- Gradually add confectioner’s sugar 1 cup at a time, mix and scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.
- Whip on medium-high for several minutes until smooth and fluffy.
- Remove ½ cup of frosting from the mixing bowl and reserve for decoration.
Assemble the Cake:
- Place one layer of cake onto serving plate or cake stand and top with ½ cup of strawberry frosting. Arrange a layer of strawberry slices on top of the frosting, leaving some space between each slice so that the slices are not touching. Spread another ½ cup of strawberry frosting on top, using your spatula to push the frosting down around the strawberry slices, so they are completely enclosed in frosting.
- Repeat with second cake layer, more frosting, strawberries and frosting. Top with the last layer of cake. Crumb coat and frost cake with remaining frosting.
- Pipe 6 swirls of frosting onto the cake using a French star pastry tip. Refrigerate cake for 5 minutes for the swirls to set. Decorate with lemon slices, whole strawberries and paper straws, if desired.
- Store in refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.
- You may bake this as two full-sized 8″ round cake layers. Alternatively, I baked it as three intentionally shorter 8″ round layers – this saves time and effort because the shorter layers do not need to be torted.
- If frosting loses air or becomes sparse while assembling the cake, whip it again to add air back in and increase volume.
- It is important to remove excess liquid from the strawberry slices used between the cake layers. Do this by slicing them and laying them out on a baking sheet between two layers of paper towels. Refrigerate overnight. Carefully remove strawberry slices from paper towels when ready to assemble your cake.
- For an even thicker or sweeter frosting, add additional confectioners’ sugar as desired.
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