Food can define every season. For me, Spring means a shift away from the rich, comforting stews of Winter for lighter dishes and brighter flavors like artichokes, peas, rhubarb, and new berries.

I think the best way to showcase the season is with a show-stopping dessert, and this citrus cake delivers. Moist, lemony cake gets covered in a tart, berry buttercream before being coated in white chocolate ganache and citrusy, crunchy meringue cookies. And, then to celebrate the season, decorated with cherry blossoms.


Happy Spring.

Citrus and Berry Cake
Citrus and Berry Cake
Citrus and Berry Cake
A Spring Cake of Citrus and Berry
Citrus and Berry Cake
Citrus and Berry Cake

Recipe Breakdown

There are a lot of components to this cake, but they don’t have to all be prepared at the same time. To break it up, you can make the cake, buttercream, simple syrup, and meringues the day before and assemble it the next morning.

Cherry Blossom Citrus and Berry Cake

By Evan Kalman
Yields one 6-inch cake with 3 layers

Citrus Meringues

  • 198 g (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 5 g dried, powdered citrus (optional)
  • Pinch of cream of tartar

Yellow Cake

  • 227 g (1 cup) unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 396 g (2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs – room temperature
  • 10 oz (1 and 1/4 cups) whole milk – room temperature
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 384 g (3 cups) cake flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Lemon Simple Syrup

  • 198 g (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) water
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) lemon juice

Mixed Berry Buttercream

  • 396 g (2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 454 g (2 cups) cold unsalted butter – cut into 1” cubes
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) vanilla extract
  • 45 ml (3 tablespoons) berry jam

White Chocolate Ganache

  • 75 g finely chopped white chocolate
  • 50 g (a little less than 1/4 cup) heavy cream

Steps

Make the Meringues: Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Add the egg whites and cream of tartar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Bring the sugar and 1/4 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the side and cook until the temperature reaches 238°F.

While the syrup is cooking, whisk the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Once the syrup reaches 238°F, quickly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl keeping the motor running. Whisk the meringue on medium-high until very stiff, glossy peaks form and the bowl cools down, about 8 minutes. Fold in the powdered citrus.

Spoon the meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip and pipe “kisses” onto a silicon baking mat, leaving 1-inch spaces. Bake until the meringues are dry to the touch and can be lifted from the baking mat, about 2 hours. Cool completely in the oven before using.

Prepare the Simple Syrup: Combine the sugar, lemon juice, and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 3 minutes. Let the syrup cool before transferring to a container. Cover and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Bake the Cake: Bring the cold ingredients to room temperature. The butter should be soft where you can easily press your thumb into it, about 60°F.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Grease three 6” circular cake pans and line each with parchment paper. Grease the paper and dust lightly with flour. Tap the pans to dump out the excess flour.

Sift to combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Mix the milk, lemon zest, and vanilla together in a large measuring cup.

Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter and sugar on low until blended, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium (a 6 on a KitchenAid stand mixer) and beat until pale and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl down as needed.

Staying at medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating for a full minute after each addition. Scrape the bowl down after each addition.

With the mixer on low, alternate adding 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by 1/2 of the liquid mixture, beating until combined after each addition. Scrape the bowl with a spatula between additions.

Divide batter between cake pans and smooth with a spatula. Bake until golden and the internal temperature of the center of the cake reads 210°F, or a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Cool the cakes for 30 minutes and then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Buttercream: Add the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Bring the sugar and 1/3 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the side and cook until the temperature reaches 238°F.

While the syrup is cooking, whisk the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Once the syrup reaches 238°F, quickly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl keeping the motor running. Whisk the meringue on medium-high until stiff peaks form and the bowl cools down, about 8 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat in each piece of butter one at a time until emulsified. Once all the butter is incorporated, beat on high until the meringue becomes smooth and fluffy, about 8 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract, about 1 minute more. Reserve about 1 cup of the plain, vanilla buttercream.

Mix 2 or 3 tablespoons of your favorite berry jam into the remaining buttercream, about 1 minute.

Level the Cake: Place the cake on a cake stand dome-side up. Using a serrated knife, move the knife back and forth in a sawing motion to remove the crown. Keep the knife level as you cut. Repeat with the other cakes.

Frost the Cake: Fill a large piping bag fitted with a 1-inch tip with berry buttercream.

Place the first layer on a cake stand cut side up. Using a pastry brush, apply a generous layer of simple syrup. Create a dam of buttercream about 1/4-inch from the edge of the cake. Fill the circle with about 1/2 cup of frosting, and top with the second layer cut side up. Gently press down to ensure the cake stays level. Apply another layer of simple syrup and buttercream before topping with the final layer bottom side up.

Crumb coat the cake to “glue” any crumbs down. Start by thinning about 1/2 cup of berry buttercream with a teaspoon or two of water. Spread a thin layer of icing onto the cake, and let it firm up in the refrigerator, about 30 minutes.

When the buttercream is firm, pipe about 1/3 cup of frosting on the top of the cake. Next, fill in the gaps between the layers with buttercream. You want to pipe enough frosting so that the buttercream overflows a bit.

Use an offset spatula to smooth the top working any extra buttercream onto the sides. Dab the reserved, vanilla buttercream around the top and sides of the cake. Add more berry buttercream if needed.

To smooth the sides, hold the spatula in place positioned straight up and down against the cake at a 45-degree angle. Spin the cake stand to remove any excess buttercream. Continue to smooth as necessary.

Decorate the Cake: Place the frosted cake in the refrigerator while you make the white chocolate ganache.

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream just to a boil and pour over chopped chocolate. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let the ganache come to room temperature giving it the occasional stir until thick but still pourable.

Use an offset spatula to spread the ganache on the top of the cake just to the edges. The excess will flow down the sides creating drips. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes. Top with the meringues, fresh fruit, and flowers.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Jen says

    Hi Evan,
    The cake looks beautiful and the additional of the blossoms and berries makes it feels like Spring. Thanks for sharing the lovely recipe.
    – Jen –

    • Evan says

      Many thanks. Enjoy!

    • Evan says

      Thanks 🙂

  2. Shinee says

    Absolutely gorgeous cake, Evan!! I’ll totally win the beauty contest! I wish someone can make this for me. I used to enjoy making cakes and elaborate recipes, but with a newborn it’s so not visible. 🙁 One day though…

    • Evan says

      I make my cakes in stages to minimize the time commitments. I bake and freeze the cakes one day, make the and freeze the buttercream another day. Then when I have some time I can pull everything together much faster.

  3. Grace | eat, write + explore says

    This has to be one of the prettiest cakes I’ve ever seen! Going to give it a go for my friend’s birthday – I doubt mine will come out as pretty as yours but I’m sure it’ll taste good 😉

    • Evan says

      What kind of cake are you making?

  4. Claudia | The Brick Kitchen says

    Such a gorgeous cake! In love with the pink icing and how you have decorated it – I never seem to be able to get my frosting that smooth and perfect. And the drips! Absolutely stunning <3

    • Evan says

      Ugh, let me tell you how many hours I’ve spent trying to get smooth frosting! I found The trick is to lightly crumb coat it, pop it into the fridge for 20m, and use a large bench scraper that has been run under HOT water. Longer strokes work better than lots of small ones!

  5. Sarah says

    I have read your recipe through and through and am currently making it. What do you use the simple syrup for? I for some reason can’t see it in the assembly.

    • Sarah says

      Just kidding. Found it

      • Evan says

        Glad you found it! I would love to hear how the cake turned out or if you had an issues. I’m always looking to improve my recipes.

        Shoot me an email at [email protected]

        Happy baking,
        E

  6. Ruth says

    I just made this cake for my mum’s birthday, 1st June (Yes, that is toorrow, and yes, I am a very late person!).

    The only mistake I found in the recipe, or I thought I found, was that you said 2 lots of 4oz. lemon juice for the simple syrup, but in the method you said lemon juice and water. I assume you meant 4 oz. lemon juice and 4 oz. water? I hope so as this is what I did (it worked anyway so must have been okay).

    It turned out great, the only thing I did differently was I used normal buttercream with jam in it, and didn’t make the meringues, as I did not have enough eggs, and my mum can’t eat raw egg for whatever reason anyway. It still turned out perfect and hopefully it will go down well tomorrow!

    To decorate, I used berries and crushed some meringue I got from the corner shop 🙂

    Thank you for the recipe!

    • Evan says

      Yes, you are correct! It should be 4 oz of water and 4 oz of lemon juice. Simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar. I subbed out half the water for lemon juice. I’ll update the recipe.

      Glad to hear the cake turned out great. Buttercream with jam sounds awesome!

      I’m always looking to improve my recipes so let me know how it goes and how it tastes!!

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