Lemon Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Just in time for the long weekend - lemon cake with chocolate ganache! If you're a fan of lemon desserts, this is a perfect dessert idea for you! With bright lemon flavor in the cake, homemade lemon curd and fresh lemon buttercream, what's not to love?? Then we top it with rich chocolate ganache because why not!

I feel like spring and summer just scream all things citrus. I'm always looking for delicious lemon dessert ideas. I love that this cake is super moist, super lemony and not overly sweet. For this cake recipe I chose to do a semi-naked frosting, so the frosting is super light.

Looking for some more lemon recipes? I've listed all my favorites at the bottom of the post!

When I'm baking cakes, I make it super easy on myself by splitting the task into two parts. One day I bake the cakes, and then the next day I frost them. I just store the baked and cooled cakes by wrapping them very well in plastic wrap, and keeping them in the fridge so they're cold to frost.

This cake just looks like a bright, sunny summer day, don't you think? I love how happy it is! A perfect cake for BBQs, picnics and summer birthdays.

Cake Ingredients: 

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
Juice and zest of 3 lemons

Lemon Curd Ingredients: 

1/2 cup sugar
Juice and zest of 3 lemons
4 egg yolks
6 tablespoons butter

Lemon Buttercream Ingredients: 

2 cups butter, softened
5-6 cups powdered sugar
Zest of two lemons
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients: 

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I always use Ghiradelli)
1/3 cup heavy cream

Cake Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line the bottoms of three 6" cake pans with parchment paper. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, flour through salt.

In your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated, and scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Add the sour cream, lemon juice and zest, mixing until all ingredients come together.

Pour batter into the three prepared cake pans, and bake in the preheated oven for 22-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs.

Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for about 5-10 minutes, and then turn them out on a wire cooling rack to cool the rest of the way. I like to turn my cakes upside down to help them flattten. When the cakes are room temp, I freeze them for 30 minutes to make frosting them easier.

Lemon Curd Directions: Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Be sure to whisk constantly so the mixture doesn't burn. Cook about 10 minutes, or until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remember that the curd will continue to thicken as it cools! Remove the curd from the heat, and melt in the butter. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Lemon Buttercream Directions: In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until light and fluffy. Add 5 cups powdered sugar one cup at a time, starting your mixer on low and increasing to high with each addition. Add the lemon zest, juice and extracts, mixing on high speed for about 3-4 minutes. Add the additional cup of powdered sugar if necessary. Taste! If you'd like the frosting to taste even more like lemon, add additional zest!

Chocolate Ganache Directions: Combine the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a small mixing bowl. Heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds, and stir well. Add a few more seconds if the chocolate chips aren't fully melted. Drizzle the chocolate ganache over the sides of the cake with a spoon, or using a squeeze bottle. Then drizzle the chocolate over the rest of the top of the cake and smooth. For this cake I did an inverted drip, which just means that I frosted the cake, did the drizzle, and flipped it over!

Assembly tips:

  • If necessary, cut the top of each cake so that they're flat. This will make frosting easier! I like to do this with cold (refrigerated) cakes and a sharp bread knife. 
  • Cover the top of the first layer of cake with the lemon buttercream. Pipe a border of frosting around the circumference of the cake. Spoon lemon curd into the well you've created. Top with the second layer of cake, and repeat steps. Then top with the third layer of cake, and frost the cake lightly for a semi-naked cake like mine, or completely for a fully frosted cake.
  • If you want to decorate with lemon slices, this is my trick - toothpicks! I push toothpicks through the lemon rind, far enough in that you can't see them. Voila! Obviously remove all the picks before serving.

My daughter Charlotte couldn't resist diving into this cake - literally haha! I made this same cake for her second birthday last weekend, decorated in a Disney Cars theme! You can see it on Instagram here.

More Delicious Lemon Recipes:

Kirsten Bell

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