I’ve been dreaming of the perfect lemon lavender cake for quite some time now. But while I have a lemon cake recipe that I already love, I was a little scared to try making lavender buttercream because of how easy it is to overdo the flavor. So in my best effort to not let the buttercream taste like soap, I tried something new. I infused some milk with culinary lavender, added it to the buttercream, and ended up with the perfect amount of flavor. It pairs so perfectly with this lemon cake and the whole concoction is a pure delight to eat!
This recipe starts with layers of my favorite zesty and moist lemon cake. If you’re wondering why there’s no fresh lemon juice in it, it’s just because that part of the lemon doesn’t tend to be powerful enough to flavor cake batter. Instead, this cake is flavored with lemon zest and lemon extract to give it the perfect punch. Cake flour gives this lemon cake an extra soft crumb while the sour cream adds plenty of moisture to make it the ideal texture. It’s tasty all on its own, but the lavender buttercream transforms it into something whimsical!
To give the buttercream just the right amount of lavender flavor, you’re going to need some dried culinary lavender. I found mine on Amazon, but you might be able to score some from your local natural grocery store. It’s important that the lavender is culinary-grade to ensure it’s been harvested at the right time, has a pleasing flavor profile, and has been processed in such a way that you can safely add it to edible goods. Trust me, it matters to get the culinary stuff.
You’ll be steeping the lavender in some simmering milk (just like a tea) to create lavender milk, which you’ll add to the buttercream at the end of the recipe. Making the buttercream purple is completely optional, but I love the color I created with a few drops of AmeriColor Regal Purple. It reminds me so much of lavender!
To decorate, I frosted the cake with lavender buttercream before using a small spatula to create diagonal swipes all around the sides. Then, I used Wilton Tip 2D to pipe swirls all around the top, spaced about ½ inch apart, before sprinkling more culinary lavender on top of the cake. I finished the look by placing some candied lemon slices in between each lavender buttercream swirl. I followed this recipe to make the candied lemon slices, but halved the recipe and used one small lemon for the slices.
However you choose to decorate, this cake is so light and refreshing, earthy, aeromatic, and just such a beautiful flavor pairing! It’s sure to make any spread stand out and I hope you love it as much as I do.
Lemon Lavender Cake
- 2 3/4 Cups (290g) sifted cake flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 2/3 Cups (355g) granulated sugar
- 1 Cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 Cup (120g) sour cream, room temperature
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest about 1 medium lemon
- 1 tsp pure lemon extract
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 Cup (240ml) whole milk, room temperature
- 1/3 Cup (80ml) whole milk
- 2 Tbsp (8g) dried culinary lavender
- 1 1/2 Cups (339g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 5 1/4 Cups (630g) powdered sugar
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
- 2-4 drops purple food coloring* optional
- 6 candied lemon slices**
- 1 Tbsp dried culinary powder
Make the Lemon Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/177ºC. Prepare three 6-inch or two 8-inch cake pans by spraying the sides with baking spray and fitting a parchment paper circle to the bottom of each pan. Alternatively, you can grease and lightly flour the pans.
- In a medium bowl, add the cake flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer (a handheld mixer works fine too!), beat the butter on high for two minutes until creamy. Add in the sugar and continue to cream on medium-high for another two minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed. Turn the mixer to low and add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add the sour cream, lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla extract. Turn the mixer to high and beat for 1 minute, scraping down the bowl and paddle once more.
- With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the milk slowly and mix until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and give it a few stirs to make sure there are no lumps. The batter will be slightly thick.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. They’re done when they spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for five minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack for an additional few hours of cooling. Make sure they’re entirely room temperature before applying any frosting.
Make the Lavender Buttercream
- Add the whole milk into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the milk begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the dried culinary lavender. Let the lavender steep in the milk for 15 minutes, then strain the milk through a fine mesh sieve set over a small bowl. Press all the excess milk out of the lavender buds before discarding them. Allow the lavender milk to cool completely before adding it to the buttercream.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (a hand mixer works fine too!) cream the butter on medium-high until it’s creamy and light in color, about 5 minutes.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a few cups at a time, scraping down after each addition and making sure each cup is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Add the lavender milk, vanilla, salt, and food coloring (if using) and continue mixing on low speed until fully combined and smooth, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed.
- Frost the cake with a layer of lavender buttercream and smooth the sides with an icing smoother until level (don't worry about creating an extra smooth finish for this one). Swipe a small icing spatula diagonally though the buttercream as you rotate the cake to create the texture pictured. Use the remaining lavender buttercream to pipe swirls on top of the cake with Wilton Tip 2D, leaving about 1/2 inch gap between each swirl. Sprinkle the swirls with more dried lavender and place a candied lemon slice between each one.
- The lemon cake can be baked ahead and stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 1-2 days. Alternatively you can store the wrapped cake layers in the freezer for up to two months. Thaw them at room temperature before you fill and frost them.
- The lavender milk (from Step 1 of the lavender buttercream recipe) can be made 2-3 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring it back to room temperature before adding it to the buttercream.
- The lavender buttercream can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature and re-whip in your stand mixer to bring back to smooth buttercream consistency.
Did you make this lemon lavender cake recipe? I want to know how it went! Let me know in the comments below and feel free to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram to show me. I love to see what you create with my recipes!