Lemon Honey Apricot Cake – lemon cake paired with honey buttercream and apricot jam filling to create a flavor palette that’s bright, fresh and slightly floral. A new layer cake recipe by our contributor, Tessa Huff.
While we wait in anticipation for longer days and sunnier skies, aka summer – aka berry season, I wanted to create a cake to withstand all the seasons. Robust, cinnamon-scented, and decadent desserts warm our souls in the fall once all the strawberries have been picked and pumpkin-everything begins to take over our lives. But for late spring, when we can’t hardly wait to hit the beach and have long stashed away our boots and scarves, I went for something delicate and fresh yet still extremely flavorful.
This cake is like perfect denim jacket weather – when it’s slightly crisp in the shade but perfectly warm in the sun without breaking into a sweat. The flavors – lemon, apricot, and honey – can be found all-year round, making this a great cake for in between seasons. With a flavor palette that is bright and fresh from the lemon, sweet yet tart from the apricot, and slightly floral from the honey, I think it’s the perfect cake for a Mother’s Day brunch, afternoon tea, or even a bridal shower. The pastel décor doesn’t hurt either.
What I love about this cake, besides the swirly pastel buttercream and fluffy boarders, is how well the flavors pair together. The zest and brightness from the lemon is subtle, but the cake layers also get a flavor boost by substituting some of the butter for tangy cream cheese. Apricot jam can be quite sweet, but when spread thinly between the layers, the burst of flavor and bit of tartness is welcoming in each bite. American buttercream, the kind made with powdered sugar, can be really sweet on its own. Flavor it with honey and it can be pretty overpowering. Instead, I’ve added honey to my favorite Swiss meringue buttercream for a silky, sweet, and slightly floral finish. As with most butter cakes, this one is served best at room temperature.
Lemon Honey Apricot Cake
Lemon Honey Apricot Cake – lemon cake paired with honey buttercream and apricot jam filling to create a flavor palette that’s bright, fresh and slightly floral.
- Category: ✽ ✽ ✽ ✽
For the Lemon Cake:
- 1 ½ cups cake flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 ¾ cup sugar
- zest of one lemon
- 3 eggs
- 1 egg white
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup lemon juice
For the Honey Buttercream:
- 6 egg whites
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 cups unsalted butter, softened
- ½ to ⅔ cup honey, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Assembly:
- ¾ to 1 cup apricot jam
- soft gel paste food color (optional)
Make the Lemon Cake:
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
- Sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add in the sugar and lemon zest. Continue to mix until light and fluffy – 3 to 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium-low, add in the eggs and egg white, one at a time. Add in the vanilla extract. Stop the mixer and scrap down the bowl.
- With the mixer on low, carefully add in half of the dry ingredients. Once incorporated, slowly stream in the milk, then the lemon juice. Add in the remaining dry ingredients. Once incorporated, mix the batter on medium speed for no more than about 30 seconds.
- Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 28 to 34 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
Make the Honey Buttercream:
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.
- Place bowl over a pan of simmering water to create a double-boiler. Whisking constantly, heat the egg mixture until it registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Carefully transfer the bowl onto the stand mixer.
- Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until the bowl is no longer warm to the touch and the meringue is fluffy, glossy and holds a stiff peak.
- Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low, add in the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, and mix until incorporated. Add in the vanilla extract. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until silky smooth.
- Add in the honey and mix to combine. At any point does the buttercream appear curdled, just keep mixing. If the buttercream appears soupy, try placing it in the refrigerator for about 10 to 15 minutes then mixing again.
Assemble the Cake:
- Once the cakes have completely cooled, carefully slice them in half horizontally with a long, serrated knife. Place the bottom layer on a cake board or serving dish. Spread on about ¾ cup honey buttercream. Slightly hollow out the center of the buttercream with the back of a large spoon. Fill the buttercream “bowl” with about ¼ to 1/3 cup apricot jam. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat.
- Crumb coat and then frost the cake with the remaining buttercream.
- To decorate as pictured, reserve about 1 cup of the buttercream. Tint it your desired color choice(s). I picked a soft pink and pale golden yellow. For the watercolor finish, frost the cake as normal. Just before the cake is completely smooth, dab on several small spots of color all around and on top of the cake. As you continue to smooth out the cake, the colors will begin to blend together. Add more color as needed. However, the more you smooth, the more blended the colors will become.
- Finish off the cake by piping fluffy shell boarders using a medium-large star tip, like a Wilton 1B.
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heather (delicious not gorgeous) says
lemon cream cheese cake sounds so good! and the hint of apricot jam looks like a good way to add a hint of fruitiness without adding too much sweetness (:
Jan M says
Cake fell in the middle. What did I do wrong?
Bon Vivant says
There are so many things that could go wrong. Oven temp, over mixing or under mixing. However, what fixed my falling problem was adjusting for higher elevation. I’m at about 5,000 ft so I adjust based on that. My cakes stopped falling as soon as I made that change. I haven’t tried this recipe but it’s worked on all the others I use.
Mine also broke down on 2 tries. There was a dip in the center of the cake when they baked, and the combination of soft moist cakes cut in half (which means a thinner layer) with the friction of applying the buttercream plus the center of jam which creates a sliding effect for each added layer lead to the cake breaking apart. Too bad because the cake itself does taste amazing. Any tips will be appreciated!
I know this is an old comment, but I thought the answer might help others. The cake likely broke apart because it wasn’t cool enough. I try to refrigerate my layer cakes overnight so they are pretty solid before frosting. If you don’t have time, an hour or so in the freezer will do the trick. Just bring back to room temp before serving. I also apply a crumb coat first then re-refrigerate for another hour so the buttercream gets hard before applying the final coat. It really does help create a smoother finish, plus the cake doesn’t crumble.
Also, be sure not to use too much jam, just a thin layer will suffice and keep it from sliding.
This looks lovely – perfect for a friend’s birthday! Quick question – will the buttercream keep at room temperature for a while? I have to transport the cake and would rather leave it deconstructed for that, which means the buttercream would probably be sitting in a bowl for a few hours before I put it on. Should I leave it in the fridge up until I want to put it on?
Vlad A says
Followed instructions. Middles fell in as well. Too much leavening? Wrong proportions?
After reading the comments i decreased the baking powsder to 1.5 tsp and it worked fine. This cake goes from jiggly to done very quickly.
I wish I would have seen Maggie’s reply sooner! I made the cake as directed and it fell in the middle as well. The only thing I can think is that there was too much baking powder. Such a bummer :/
Can I cover this cake with fondant? Just wasn’t sure about the buttercream.
Fantastic recipe – the cream cheese and butter together really made a lovely moist cake. The mix of flavours worked so well and impressed all of my family. Thanks so much.
Kimiko Zeimet says
Mine fell in the middle too! Can you believe out of the tons of cakes I’ve made (I bake A LOT), this is the first time I’ve ever had a cake fall. I’m also guessing too much baking powder, I should’ve read through these comments before baking. Next time I will adjust down, as Maggie suggested.
Liz R says
Very time consuming but it is worth it, I put the honey in the icing and it was amazing. I tried the food coloring but I’m not too good with that, it really didn’t look nice like the picture.