Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate

12069595563 29931f3503 b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate

I’ve never really been the sort for extravagant celebrations, not especially since the void created by my grandma’s death is still a bit fresh. I’m simply not the kind of person who acts extra special when it’s her birthday. It feels just like any other day to me. I don’t even recall wishing hard and blowing out candles for the last couple of years. But the thing I look forward to when there’s a birthday are definitely the lunches or dinners out with the whole family. Oh, and the chance to make another layer cake.

12069721044 fcf4ea4fd7 b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate

I shared before that my little brother Jason and I shared a birthdate. He was born 5 years after me, and I remember distinctly it was during my birthday dinner when my Mother was rushed to the hospital. Jason and I, we didn’t get along at first. But these days he has somewhat become one of my closest friends. I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve certainly come a long way in terms of our relationship as siblings. We have a lot of traits and hobbies in common, but it took us a while to jive. (He’s even a blogger too!) Oh if you could only see how insane we both used to be.

In recent years, Jason and I always jointly decided the restaurant where we’ll have the family get-together. And ever since I picked up this baking habit, I began consulting him about the cake as well. I guess that must mean I trusted his taste as much as I trust mine. We would pick the flavours of the cake together, and I would make it and watch in anticipation as he took a bite.

12069616403 127fa9f89a b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate

12069336795 502c0c403e b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate

I’ve always thought of Jason as more of a red velvet kind of kid. He loves the indulgent, bursting with flavour kind of dessert. As for me, I like classics such as plain old chocolate cake better. And then there’s lemon, which has always been one of my absolute favourite flavours in a baked good. I’d like to think Jason picked this cake on purpose because he knows I like lemon a lot. If so, it’s just right to commend him for picking out one of the best lemon cakes I’ve ever had!

I’m not exaggerating when I say I really think this lemon cake recipe- and by that I mean the cake itself sans the frosting- is a real keeper. I was simply blown away by how much lemon scent and flavour the cake layers packed in them. It smelled great going into the oven, and simply divine coming out.

The problem I’ve often had with “lemon cakes” is that they don’t have enough lemon in them. There’s a scent, sure, but I prefer them to have even a hint of tanginess. This cake is packed with zest and juice to make sure the lemon is represented as much as possible without having to soak the cake in some sort of lemon syrup.

12069948926 f025cd5cd2 b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate

My only issue with this whole recipe is actually the frosting. Despite my love for baking, I am uncomfortable with having to add more than 2 cups of sugar into the frosting. This recipe required 4 AND A HALF CUPS. I cut it down to 2 cups and added another half cup to get a nice spreadable consistency, but the frosting became already too sweet for me at that point. (I can just imagine what 4 1/2 cups taste like!!!)

I find frosting that is too sweet and piled on too much to be a major deal-breaker in any cake or cupcake, at least for me. I did find however that the lovely fluffiness of the frosting made it incredibly easy to handle. Meh. Maybe I’m simply not a frosting girl, but the next time I make this cake I will try it out with my favourite version of chocolate frosting so far.

Screen Shot 2014 01 21 at 10.41.49 PM - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate
Lemon Layer Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting
Screen Shot 2014 01 21 at 10.41.49 PM - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate
One of the best lemon cakes I've ever had paired with a very sweet, very fluffy chocolate frosting.

makes one 9-inch 3-layer cake
For the cake
  1. 3 cups cake flour
  2. 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
  3. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  6. 1 cup whole milk, divided
  7. 5 large eggs
  8. 4 teaspoons lemon zest (from 4 medium lemons)
  9. 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 4 medium lemons)
  10. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the frosting
  1. 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  2. 1 cup cocoa powder
  3. 2 ½ to 4 ½ cups powdered sugar*
  4. ½ to 3/4 cup heavy cream, more or less as needed
  5. 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Make the cake
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter and flour the bottoms and sides of three 9-inch round cake pans; or line with parchment paper and butter the parchment.
  2. 12069927856 22703752fa b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate
  3. 2. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix to combine.
  4. 3. Add butter and 3/4 cup of whole milk. Mix on low speed until flour is evenly moistened, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. 12069346715 476d13e374 b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate
  6. 4. In a small bowl, beat remaining 1/4 cup milk with eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Add to the batter mixture one-third at a time, mixing well after each addition. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.
  7. 12069763444 b47156cc13 b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate
  8. 5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking, until lightly golden on the edges and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
  9. 12069353755 b79da63960 b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate
  10. 6. Run a knife or thin spatula around the edge of the pan, then invert the cake onto a wire rack. It should come out easily and cleanly. Remove parchment from the bottom, if used. At this point the cakes can be wrapped tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap and freeze until ready to use.
Make the frosting
  1. 7. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cocoa powder and beat until incorporated.
  2. 12069358745 15d7b216cf b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate
  3. 8. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. As frosting thickens, add a few tablespoons of cream as needed. Depending on the temperature and consistency of your frosting, continue alternating adding cream and powdered sugar, then continue beating until frosting is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
  4. 12069776094 3b1d0cdde6 b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate
To assemble
  1. 9. Level each cake layer by cutting off the domed top with a long serrated knife.** Place one layer, flat side down, on a cake stand or serving platter. Spread on about 1/2 cup of frosting onto cake using an offset spatula. Position second layer on top and press to adhere. Repeat with another 1/2 cup of frosting, and then position final cake layer, flat side up.
  2. 10. Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting to act as a crumb coat. This will keep the stray crumbs in place and make frosting the cake easier. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes to allow this crumb coat to set.
  3. 12069926276 917be22bb4 b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate
  4. 11. Remove cake from refrigerator and cover with remaining frosting, reserving some for piping decorative details if desired. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes before serving.
  1. * The original recipe calls for 4 ½ cups of sugar. I used only 2 ½ cups and found it a bit too sweet for my taste. Next time I make this cake I will pair it with my favourite Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting.
  2. ** I did not level my cake but it still turned out fine.
Adapted from Love & Olive Oil blog
The Tummy Train

12069638323 6c47043fcc b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate

12069368065 428c37ddcb b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate

Birthdays, they don’t have to be loud. As long as the company and the food are great, I don’t think there’s any other thing I could wish for more.

12069672503 77694fedf7 b - Simple birthdays and lemon cakes with chocolate

Happy birthday to us indeed! 🙂


  1. huntfortheverybest
    23 January, 2014

    it looks delicious!

  2. […] The birthday cake for 2014– Lemon layers smothered with chocolate (a.k.a. two of my favourite flavours) […]

  3. […] backstory for how this recipe actually came to be made: It was actually Jason’s request for our birthday. I told him I’d make him whatever he wanted as a birthday gift, and immediately he announced […]


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top