Full of fresh strawberry and lemon flavors, this Strawberry Lemonade Cake recipe is a delightful dessert perfect for a summer gathering. Filled with a delicious pink buttercream and strawberry reduction, you won't be able to get enough of this cake!
In a small saucepan, combine the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook stirring frequently until the mixture is thickened and jammy, 20 to 30 minutes. For a smoother reduction, blend the mixture or press it through a sieve. Transfer to a bowl, loosely cover, and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
For the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Add the sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stop and scrape down the bowl occasionally during mixing. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in a third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the milk. Repeat, alternating with the remaining flour and milk. Scrape down the bowl. Add the lemon juice and beat just until combined. Divide the batter among the prepared baking pans.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the center of the cakes are springy to the touch and the sides are just starting to pull away from the pans. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 20 minutes. Remove and finish cooling on wire cooling racks.
For the Buttercream:
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until very pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the speed to low and gradually add in half of the powdered sugar. Beat in the strawberry reduction. Beat in the remaining powdered sugar. Stop occasionally during mixing to scrape down the bowl. Once combined, add the lemon juice and heavy cream and beat on medium-low speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
For the Assembly:
Place 2 cups of frosting in a piping bag with a decorative tip.
Place a cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread ½ cup frosting over the top of the cake layer. Pipe a border on the edge. Spread 3 tablespoons of strawberry reduction in the middle of the frosting border. Top with another cake layer and repeat with frosting and reduction. Top with the remaining cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the sides and top of the cake, and pipe decorations on the cake as desired. Garnish with fresh strawberries and lemon zest if desired. Chill the cake for 2 hours before slicing. The cake can be store at room temperature for up to 4 days ungarnished or in the refrigerator for up to a week.
The strawberry reduction is essentially a quick jam. If you have any leftover, you can spoon a bit on a plate before placing a slice of cake on top for serving, or spoon it over ice cream for a fresh and tart topping.
If the tops of the layers are domed, use a serrated knife to cut off the top of the domes so you can stack them evenly. For perfectly even layers, you can use cake strips. Cake strips work by keeping the outside edge of the pan cooler to ensure that the entire cake rises at the same rate, preventing a dome from forming in the middle. If you don’t want to purchase cake strips, see my guide on how to DIY cake strips.
I highly recommend using a scale to measure your flour as it’s the most accurate method and will prevent you from ending up with dense cake layers. If you don’t have a scale, fluff your flour with a spoon and spoon it into your cups before leveling it off with a knife. This method prevents you from overpacking the measuring cup.
If the ingredients were refrigerated, such as the eggs, milk, and butter, it’s best to bring them to room temperature before using them to prevent having to overmix the batter. Overmixing the batter will lead to a tough cake.
Did you know that cold cake layers are easier to assemble? If you’re worried about the cake breaking as you assemble it, make them ahead of time and place them in the refrigerator to chill them.
Give the cake pans a few gentle taps on the counter to burst any air bubbles in the batter.
When zesting a lemon, be careful not to zest the white parts. The white layer is the pith and tastes bitter.
Always zest the lemons before juicing, as it’s much easier.
Try adding a drizzle of my homemade lemon curd for more tart, lemony flavors.