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!
Hungry for more?
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
Recipe instruction visual controls:
- 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