Today we have a simple Lemon Thyme Cake for you, that you can have as two single layer lemon cakes, or make as a Lemon Layer Cake. It’s inspired by the homemade cakes I have with my husband’s family. They’re often light and airy and usually closer to the angel food cake variety than something more rich and dense like chocolate. This lemon cake recipe is so light, but also packs tons of flavor. You get a pleasant burst of fresh lemon in your mouth and it finishes with a subtle hint of thyme. I really think lemon and thyme go hand in hand and if you know me, you know I’ll usually try to sneak a little bit of savory into my sweets any chance I get. I love the simplicity of this cake, after all, it is inspired by casual family dinners and it doesn’t need to be fussy or fancy.
Speaking of fancy, there are a couple of ways to take this cake. This lemon cake recipe makes two 8 inch rounds. You can either serve them individually with a single layer on top like below, or you can get crazy and serve them with these cute mini candied lemons on top! We love the slightly more intense decoration if you are using this cake to celebrate something. We think this lemon thyme cake the perfect mothers day dessert!
How to make lemon cake
- Preheat oven to 350˚F
- Combine some dry ingredients: Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl.
- Combine the rest of the cake batter ingredients. Sugar, butter and eggs. Whisk together.
- Combine flour mixture with sugar and butter mixture. Whisk until a thick batter forms.
- Whisk in the additional ingredients into the batter.
- Fold in lemon zest and thyme.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pans.
- Bake until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Make frosting. Place butter into a stand mixer and whip until light and fluffy. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until fully incorporated and most of the lumps disappear. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to whip until smooth.
- Frost cooled cake layers and serve!
How do you decorate a lemon cake?
There are a few different ways we love to decorate our lemon cake. Some are more labour intensive than others, but in all scenarios you are eating delicious cake!
If you want to keep things easy, you can serve single layers with a thick layer of frosting on top. We like to add fresh lemon slices or sprigs of thyme, it’s a really simple and beautiful way to add decoration. One of my favorite things to do with thyme on a cake is to create a loose wreath of thyme around the edge. It’s so beautiful and simple. We created this look with our Browned Butter Cake.
If you have the time – our candied lemon peel decorations are so cute! It’s just slightly more time consuming than some of the other decorations we are suggesting. You can also follow the directions for the candied peels and cut them in thicker strips or chunks and decorate your cake with a sprinkling of those as well.
For our mini lemon decorations on this Lemon Layer Cake, I prefer to get thyme from the section where it’s bunched as opposed to the section where they have herbs in the plastic clamshell packaging. I think the thyme in general looks better. I also find that in this section you are likely to find the variety with the larger thyme leaves. This really helps when you are putting little “lemon” leaves on the cake!
We also love just purchasing candied lemon peels and sprinkling them on the top of the cake in a pinch.
Tips and tricks for making Lemon layer cake:
- make sure not to over mix your batter. This will cause your lemon cake to be too dense.
- Be sure to let your cake layers cool completely before you frost them. It ensures the frosting will go on smooth.
- Bake in the center of the oven, it gives you the most consistent heat which is what you want when baking a cake!
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Lemon Thyme Cake
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups superfine sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh minced thyme
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 2 ½ to 3 ½ tablespoons heavy cream or milk
- zest of 1 lemon
candied lemon peels
- 2 lemons
- 2 1/2 cups superfine sugar divided
- 2 sprigs thyme leaves
- Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- For cake: Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl.
- Place sugar, butter and eggs into another mixing bowl and whisk together. Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture and whisk together until very thick and combined.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients except for the zest and thyme, until fully incorporated and the batter is smooth.
- Gently fold in the zest and thyme until just combined.
- Pour the batter into two prepared cake pans (bottoms lined with parchment and lightly greased) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
- Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 to 20 minutes before removing from pans and allowing to cool completely.
- For frosting: Place butter into a stand mixer, with a paddle attachment, and whip until light and fluffy. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until fully incorporated and most of the lumps disappear. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients and continue to whip until smooth. (the frosting should be on the thinner side…not firm enough to pipe, but not so runny that it can’t be spread onto the top and sides of the cake)
- For candied lemon peels: Scrub lemons to get rid of outer waxy coating. Trim ends of each lemon, then run a knife around the remaining peel, so you are left with "sheets" of peel. Remove the white pith from each sheet. Using a pairing knife, cut out mini lemon shapes from each sheet.
- Bring 2 cups water to a boil and add lemon shaped peels. Simmer for 30 minutes to soften. Using a slotted spoon, remove peel pieces. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar to water and bring to a boil until sugar dissolves. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer. Add lemon peels into simple syrup and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, strain candied lemon peels from liquid and toss with remaining cup sugar. Line candied lemon peels onto a piece of wax paper. Top with another piece of wax paper and weigh down with a baking sheet, about 30 minutes (this will prevent the pieces from curling). Remove baking sheet and top layer of wax paper and allow pieces to dry completely.
- To assemble and decorate: Spread frosting over the top of one cake and stack other cake on top. Frost the top and sides of the cake. Arrange candied lemons around the top of the cake and finish the tops of each mini lemon with two thyme leaves.
- *Makes 2 (8”) cakes
Did you make this recipe? We want to see!
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So simple and so delicious! I just made mine with a little gin added for world gin day, best cake I’ve ever made!
Aw yay!! So glad you love it!
I try it!!! and i love it!!!! is sooooo good!!!!! is sweet but not too sweet, the thyme gives it a lovely scent i love it!!!!
Yum! I’m wondering if I need to put in the almond extract? I’m not a big fan of almond-flavored baked goods, although almond flour doesn’t bother me. Anyone tried it with or without the almond extract?
Okay, I am TOTALLY obsessed w/ that cake server! It’s gorgeous! May I ask where you bought it?
Beautiful photographs, and I am definitely going to try that recipe out. Looks divine! :)
What a yummy looking cake! Where are the plates and cake cutter from? I love them!
Oh wow, this looks gorgeous – herbs like thyme are so underused in baking, it’s great to see people using them!
Made this as a layer cake. The recipe made plenty of icing for this and it turned out really well. Didn’t really get the thyme flavour, but the lemon was exceptional.
Looks like a lovely cake! Slightly related to Nigella Lawson`s Rosemary Loaf – I love a sweet cake with an unexpected hint of a spice otherwise connected to savoury cooking!
Have you tried freezing this cake? I guess the frosting won`t freeze too well, but the cake itself? Sometimes I get the spirit and want to bake 3 cakes in a row, and I love the idea of having a lot of homemade, delicious cake ready in the freezer for unexpected guests.
I can’t wait to try this one. Anything lemon is for us! The thyme sounds wonderful with it.
Sounds lovely, but Please may I have metric measures and Australian terms for “cake flour” and “superfine sugar”?
Janice @Kitchen Heals Soul
I love this kind of cake: one layer, topped with a thick sweep of whipped cream or lemon curd, and then a garnish of berries or whatever’s in season.
I’ve never put thyme into a cake, but I bet it’s great. Martha Stewart had a rosemary cake recipe that I have been meaning to make for years too :)
Renee @ Awesome on $20
I love simple light cakes like this. They’re perfect in the afternoon with a cup of tea.
Laura (Tutti Dolci)
Beautiful cake, love the lemon and thyme pairing!
Emma @ Fork and Good
I read this and now I’m looking at some lemons meant for lemonade and wondering if they’d prefer going in a cake.
So now I’m giving my lemons personalities, I think I should probably go lie down.
Also, I really really love those plates.
This looks delicious!!! I’ll definitely make this recipe some time next week. :D
Samina | The Cupcake Confession
Okay, you’ve got me hooked! I love the look of this cake! Lemon and thyme??? DEFINITELY a combination worth trying! <3 I used to think the same way too! We would eat cake only on birthdays but since last year, that has changed, partially because of the blogging and more because we just need to sit down together as a family, at least on weekends! So , cake is more or less something we bond over after dinner! hehe!
What a gorgeous cake!! Love the styling too :)
We’re definitely not a dessert-every-night kind of family either, so I can totally relate. My mom never liked cooking or baking enough to go above and beyond every night! That has rubbed off on me now that I’m the boss in the kitchen. If I do have anything, it’s usually a little bit of dark chocolate.
This looks so perfect for spring!
Norma | Allspice and Nutmeg
This is so lovely. I can’t wait to try this.
What delicious!!! I love lemon cake and your recipe is perfect! your photos are very beautiful, full of light!!! :)
Kelsey @ Badger Kitchen
You’re not alone! IF we were having dessert with dinner, it was almost always cookies. Cakes were always for special occasions, and even then half the time we had brownies.
I feel like having friends over constitutes a celebration, but that’s hilarious you were confused :)
This cake looks delicious! Even if there’s no celebration, other than celebrating the fact that I’m about to eat cake.
I don’t even normally like lemon cakes but I’ve got to try this one!
Abby @ The Frosted Vegan
ahh this is gorgeous! Girl I’ll take this anytime!
This is very much my type of cake. Well, anything with lemon. We weren’t big dessert people either (yay fruit!), so sweets do still seem special occasion. Except when we go to Momofuku Milk Bar and I try to inhale as many goodies as possible. Oops.