Triple Lemon Naked Layer Cake with Edible Flowers - Buttered Side Up

Triple Lemon Naked Layer Cake with Edible Flowers

Triple Lemon Cake with Edible Flowers
I have always wanted to make a cake decorated with flowers. I've admired many a blogger's gorgeous creation. 

So, when the folks at  Marx Foods contacted me and offered edible flowers for me to play with, I was quite excited. I agreed to participate in a little project they have going on because: A) What girl doesn't want to have flowers sent to her door? B) The farm that produces the flowers uses natural practices (like using garlic, clove, and rosemary oils to keep bugs at bay). C) I've been longing for flowers this spring - April in Minnesota is much too brown for my taste. And D) I thought you guys would really enjoy it!

Triple Lemon Cake
I knew I needed to make a cake to showcase the gorgeous blooms. Reuben is a huge lemon fan, so I settled on a triple lemon layer cake. Plus, lemon and mint pair well, and pansies have a mild wintergreen flavor. I flavored the cake and the frosting only slightly with lemon so the flavor wouldn't be too overwhelming. The lemon curd filling is quite assertive.

Triple Lemon Cake with Edible Flowers
The result was a delicious, moist cake with a rich, buttery Swiss Meringue frosting. I think it's the most beautiful cake I've ever created. 

When I served it to my family, they were a bit skeptical about eating the flowers (especially the guys). I made everyone take one. But they agreed that it made the cake extra special. My mom said it looked like a mini wedding cake! 

Triple Lemon Cake with Edible Flowers

Need more ideas for how to use edible flowers? Here are a few ways that I incorporated them into dishes:

  • * As a garnish for tea sandwiches (post coming with a recipe).
  • * Tossed into a salad (this definitely takes your salad up a notch in sophistication).
  • * Frozen into flower ice cubes (very cute).
  • * As decorations for cupcakes.
  • Mixed into butter (AKA compound butter).
  • * Added to flavored water for a gorgeous drink.

Let me know if there are any other ways to use edible flowers that I missed!

The project that I mentioned earlier that I am participating in is a food photography contest! 8 food bloggers and I have created dishes incorporating edible flowers. Each photo will be posted on the Marx Foods Instagram account. The top 3 photos that receive the most "likes" will advance to the finals. 

If you'd like, you can hop over to their Instagram and vote for your favorites. They will be posted on the 5th of May. I'll be posting a photo on my Instagram account once my photo goes live.

    I accidentally baked my cakes at 325 instead of 300, and they turned out fine, but they were domed. I recommending baking at the lower temperature so your cakes rise more evenly. 
    As I mentioned, I didn't flavor the cake and frosting very heavily with lemon so it wouldn't be too overwhelming. If you want a super bold lemon flavor, you can add more extract or some lemon zest to the cake batter and frosting.
    After photographing the cake, I decided to use op the remainder of the frosting and pipe rosettes onto the side of the cake. See photo below.

Triple Lemon Naked Layer Cake with Pansies

A gorgeous layer cake topped with fresh, edible flowers.

Recipe adapted slightly from Simple Bites and | Print
Serves 10

For the Cake:
2 cups organic cake flour (I made my own by mixing in cornstarch)
1 teaspoon baking powder,
3/4 teaspoon baking soda,
1/2 teaspoon salt,
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup buttermilk (I used milk that was a bit sour mixed with vinegar)

For the Filling:
1 cup of lemon curd (about 1/2 of this recipe)

For the Frosting:
6 large egg whites (180 grams) -- I think it's much easier and more accurate to measure using weight.
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/2 sticks (1 3/4 cups) butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract

For the garnish:
Mint leaves
Fresh Pansies (make sure your flowers are pesticide-free!) 


To make the Cake:
1) Grease, flour, and line with rounds of parchment paper three 6-inch cake pans. Place the racks in your oven in the middle position. Preheat to 300 degrees F (150 C).
2) Whisk the dry ingredients together in a small bowl.
3) In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until well mixed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
4) With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Add the buttermilk slowly while the mixer is running. It may look separated - this is normal. Add the rest of the flour and mix just until moistened. If needed, you can give it another gentle mix with a spatula.
5) Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned and a toothpick comes out mostly clean, around 30 minutes or so (it took less time for me because I forgot to use the lower temperature). Remove from oven and allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15-20 minutes before transferring to cooling racks. Make sure the cakes are completely cooled before frosting (you can place them in the freezer, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 10-15 minutes to speed up the cooling process).

To make the Frosting:
1) Put a pan with about an of inch of water onto the stove and heat until simmering.
2) In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Place over the simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 160F (71C), or until the egg whites are hot and the sugar is dissolved.
3) Place the mixer bowl onto the base of the mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat the mixture until very stiff, glossy peaks form (it took about 10 minutes for me). The bowl should be cooled off at this point.
4) With the mixer on low, add the little butter pieces one at a time, mixing a bit before adding another piece. At this point the frosting may look curdled, but don't freak out. Keep mixing and it will become smooth.
5) Mix in the lemon extract.

To assemble the cake:
1) Place a bit of frosting onto your cake stand or a plate. Put the first layer of cake down. Pipe a ring of frosting around the edge. Fill the ring with half of the lemon curd. Place another layer of cake on top and repeat the filling process. Put the last cake on top, bottom side up. Put the whole cake into the freezer for about 10-15 minutes.
2) Crumb coat your cake, filling in any gaps between the layers, and put a good layer of frosting on top of cake. Scrape away some of the frosting from the side of the cake to make a pretty "naked" cake. Or you can use up the rest of frosting by piping on rosettes, or whatever you wish.
3) Top with mint leaves and pansies. Serve. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Triple Lemon Layer Cake | Buttered Side Up
Example of piped rosettes on the side of the cake.

Many thanks to Marx Foods for providing the flowers for this post. As always, all words and opinions are my own.

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  1. This cake is so gorgeous! I have always wanted to make a cake with edible flowers too! So pretty!

    1. Thank you, Katrina! Yes, this was kind of a dream come true for me. :)

  2. This cake is just so beautiful! I love the addition of edible flowers - they really make it so feminine, delicate and pretty. Pinned!

    1. Thank you, Thalia! Yes, the flowers just made it so special. I'll have to work with edible flowers more...

  3. Such a gorgeous cake! I love the edible flowers, have to try that type of decoration sometime :)

    1. Thank you! Yes, do it. It's so fun to decorate with flowers. :)

  4. Oooh, pretty! What a fun project!

    1. It was really fun to be able to work with edible flowers. I can't wait to share more of what I made with them...

  5. What a very pretty and I am sure tasty cake. Just a thought: when I create buttermilk (always who keeps that around all the time?) I have always used lemon juice because I don't like vinegar taste and it works great and tastes great too. :)

    1. Thank you, Patti! That's a great idea to use lemon juice - it goes with the flavor of the cake as well!

  6. This cake not only looks beautiful but I'm imagining the taste - ooh - I love lemon cake! Real, edible flowers really provide the finishing touch. Thank you for the recipe and inspiration. Sammie x

  7. I don't have 3 cake tins, only 1. Do I just 1/3 everything in the reciepe? How about cooking time?

    1. What size of cake tin do you have? If it's 6-inch, then yes, just 1/3 everything. The cooking time should be pretty similar - maybe check the cake a few minutes sooner.

    2. You could also make a full recipe, just cook the cakes in batches. :)

  8. Hi Erica
    Wanted to try your cake it looks deliciuos. I was wondering could I make the cake using two 9 inch cake pans instead o the whole recipe in a 9"x3" cake pan ?

    1. I think it would work, but the pans might be a bit full. And you'll definitely want to be checking on the cakes while they're baking - it may take longer to cook them. Hope that helps!

  9. Hi Erica, thank you for the nice recipe. I made this cake 3 days ago, for my boyfriend's birthday.

    I followed everything except that I used (10 inch tin) * 2, and I did decorate with flowers but black berries.

    I have a couple of comments/ questions.

    1. Cake looked beautiful, and your "curd recipe" is the best curd I have ever had!!! it was divine!!

    2. Somehow cake did not inflate well. I was wondering if this is supposed to be a dense cake, or I shouldn't have used 10 inch tin.. Any idea?

    3. I find the frosting extremely sweet and heavy(maybe too buttery for me). Maybe because I am not american and in general i find the most of american recipes are extremely sweet.. But I wasn't sure if I can reduce sugar in swiss meringue or not. I am not well expreienced with italian meringue nor swiss meringue frosting.. I personally love the frosting with cream cheese, but I find it difficult to make it as solid as meringue frostings.. It would be really nice if you can recommend me one of your cream cheese frosting which is not too runny and not too sweet?

    4. Am I supposed to keep this cake in the refrigerator? Somehow the frosting gets very solid in the refrigerator and bread parts and frosting parts get separated from each other as I eat.. So meringue cream become a little blocks of sweetened butter.. I guess I can let it sit outside for a bit, before I serve it.. But I was curious if it is normal, or if I did something wrong with meringue cream..

    Sorry for asking so many questions.. I hope this is not too bothersome!

    Liebe Grüße aus Berlin.

    1. So glad you tried my cake! Thanks for the great questions!

      Hmmm...the only things I can think of for the cake not rising is perhaps your baking soda/powder is out of date? Or perhaps your buttermilk wasn't very acidic, so it didn't react with the baking soda. Also, did you use cake flour?

      I find most recipe to be too sweet as well, and usually decrease the sugar right off the bat. I think you could decrease the sugar a bit in Swiss buttercream. Yeah, cream cheese frosting doesn't hold up to piping as well, but it's sure yummy! Here's a cream cheese frosting I used on carrot cake: If you like you could cut back on the powdered sugar, or leave it out entirely.

      Yes, the cake should be stored in the refrigerator. To serve, leave it out a room temp for a while so the frosting softens again.

      Hope that helps! Don't hesitate to ask for clarification or if you have more questions!


  10. Hi, I made your cake yesterday for a wedding cake trail. Just wanted to make sure it was what I was looking for before the big day. It baked beautiful and staked amazing. However when I severed it, me and my guest found it to be on the dry side. Any suggestions on what when wrong? Thoughts on adding more butter? Or pudding mix? Sour cream?

    I did double the recipe and divided into two 10" round pan. I soaked cloths a wrapped the pan to make sure they cooked well.


    1. Hey, Emily!

      Thanks for your questions! First off, this cake is a little on the denser side. One thing I can think of that could have made your cake dry: how long was it baked? I recommend only baking it until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. If it comes out completely clean, maybe it was baked too long.

      You could definitely experiment with more moisture in the batter. Maybe an extra egg yolk. Of course, this would affect the baking time!

      Let me know if it works out for you, or if you have any more questions!

  11. This cake is absolutely divine! It looks delicious and the flowers are such an added beauty bonus! We have been think of adding edible flowers to some of our creations but haven't tried it yet. We live and blog in Paris and it's hard to find edible flowers here!

    1. That's super amazing that you live in Paris! You should definitely try cooking with edible flowers - so fun! You could always grow your own if you have a green thumb (unlike me). :)

    2. It's a great idea to try growing our own! I have to look into that! Thank you! :)

  12. Hi Erica,
    I am from New Zealand and I have been asked by my niece to make her wedding cake :) her fiancé is gluten free, would I be able to use this recipe and replace flour with gluten free flour?

    1. Hey, Sandie! How exciting to make a wedding cake. :)

      I'm sure you could play around with a gluten-free flour until you got it just right, but I would suggest finding a cake base recipe that calls for GF flour, add some lemon extract as in my recipe, then fill with the lemon curd and top with the lemon frosting I have here. Hope that helps!

      Let me know if you have any questions! Good luck with the wedding cake. :)

  13. This is perfect for a birthday cake for a friend! When you say crumb coat the cake, do I apply a thin layer, chill it, then do the rest of the frosting?

    1. Yes, that's exactly what I mean! Hope your friend enjoys it. :)

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  15. This looks so good! I want to make this for my mom's birthday. How much cornstarch do you add to the flour to make it cake flour, and how much vinegar to the milk? I want it to turn out perfectly because I don't have time to practice, plus we live in the same house, so then it wouldn't be a surprise ☺

    1. Oh, another question. The sugar you used in the frosting, can that be any kind (I use raw granulated)... Instead of 10x, since it gets heated?

    2. To make the cake flour substitute, simply replace 2 tablespoons of flour with cornstarch per cup of flour. So for this recipe, use 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup organic cornstarch.

      To substitute vinegar + milk for buttermilk, place 1 tablespoon of vinegar in a 1-cup measuring cup and fill the rest of the way with whole milk.

      Yes, you can use just about any sugar as long as it will dissolve. Raw granulated should work, though it will have more of a caramel flavor than regular granulated sugar. :)

      Hope your mom enjoys the cake!

    3. Thank you so much, Erica, for your quick response, and also for this wonderful recipe! My mom loved the cake. It was so delicious, real tasting, and satisfying. I did leave out 1/2 a cup of sugar from the frosting. And I didn't have any edible flowers. I sprinkled a bit of unsweetened coconut on top. Also, I used two of these 9" stainless steel pans that I love:

    4. I's so glad y'all enjoyed the cake! Thank you for letting us know your adjustments. :)


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