Lemon Drop Cake

Intensive Cake Unit
by Intensive Cake Unit
1 cake
1 hr

Have you ever tried something for the first time and thought ‘Wow, I was wrong and this is amazing?’ I remember feeling that way the first time I tried my first drink at a bar at 21 years old – prior to that the only alcohol I’d encountered was a tiny sip of my dad’s champagne at a friend’s wedding (it was awful to my 16ish-year-old memory) and the smell of beer…..which I can’t stand. Still can’t stand, actually.

I tried a lemon drop out of curiosity, but expecting to be disappointed and kinda grossed out. Was wrong! All alcohol is definitely not created equal ;) and while I still dislike beer and can only handle limited amounts of champagne, that one drink at least made me more open to trying new ones. (I know, unpopular opinions. If you like champagne and/or beer, please feel no need to send me any hate mail. I know most people love them and I’m the weird one here. Just not my preference. Fair?)

Well, as with all amazing drinks….my brain went instantly to working on a way to incorporate those flavors into a cake! Result is below….give me a shot (lol, pun not intended but I’m leaving it anyway) and let me know how it goes!

(Note: many of my in-post links don't copy correctly into my Foodtalk posts. If there's an ingredient or product you'd like a link to email me at sarah@intensivecakeunit.com or see IntensiveCakeUnit.com/lemon-drop-cake!)

Recipe details
  • 1  cake
  • Prep time: 30 Minutes Cook time: 30 Minutes Total time: 1 hr
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  • 3 1/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 3 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) room temperature
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs 
  • 3/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • ½ c vodka (I used Pinnacle whipped vodka)
  • 2 T lemon extract
  • 2T lemon zest
  • 3-4 drops yellow food coloring, if desired (I wanted a little deeper yellow to my cake layers)
Frosting / Decorations
  • 8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
  • 8 Tablespoons (one stick) butter, softened
  • 6-7 c powdered sugar
  • 2-4 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon vodka
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • (decorations)
  • - 1 8- or 9-inch cardboard cake circle
  • - 2-3 small lemons + small knife/cutting board
  • - small piping bag & tip (for frosting)
  • -1 cup white chocolate chips + 1/4 whipping cream + 1 drop yellow food coloring, melted together to make ganache for cake drip
  • - additional small piping bag or drip bottle (for decorating with white chocolate ganache)
  • - martini glass – these cake layers bake dense enough to hold a real one, but feel free to use a plastic martini glass if you’d rather
  • - (optional - about ¼ c corn syrup + 1/4 c sugar – this is the easiest way I’ve found to rim martini glasses. You can also add a bit of lemon zest!)
  • - Cake leveler, cake turntable, offset spatula, and bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! 
  • - I also used a Wilton icing comb on the sides of this cake – optional, but I really liked the decorative effect that it added! 
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans (for taller layers) or three 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.
Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined. Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
Pour in eggs and mix until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk, vodka, and lemon extract in two installments on a low speed. Add in lemon zest, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8-inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7-inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.
Once the layers have fully cooled, the caramelized bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart. (This is a great time to make your frosting!)
Frosting / Decorations
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt and beat until well combined.
(Optional – I removed about 1 c of frosting and added another 2 T each of both lemon juice and vodka, along with a couple drops of yellow food coloring to add a bit more kick and color to the inside of the cake. Recommended, but optional!)
Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired; these cakes usually bake fairly flat so I didn’t trim much from the tops). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. I wanted a bit more of a liqueur kick to the cake layers, so I used a jigger to infuse each one with about 30mL/2T of a mix of vodka and a bit of lemon juice. Optional but recommended! Pipe a rim of white frosting around the edge, and fill with lemon filling. (Or if you’re not using a lemon filling, spread the layer with frosting). Zest a bit of lemon over the frosting, and add your next cake layer on top. Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer ;) 
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place the icing comb on the cake circle against your cake and run the comb around the cake to texture the frosting. Place the cake into the freezer for about 20 minutes to set the frosting and get the cake cold enough to set the white chocolate ganache decoration. 
(Optional: Pour corn syrup onto a small plate, and sugar onto another. Tip the martini glass upside down and dip the rim into the corn syrup, letting any excess drips fall off. Then dip the rim into the sugar and lemon zest to coat it evenly.)
Place heavy cream and white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on 50% power in 30-second intervals until smooth, stirring in between. Add food coloring and stir until smooth.
I used small zip-lock bags to pipe this drip since my drip bottles were full of chocolate ganache from another project. A drip bottle would work well also!
When your ganache has cooled to a moderate temperature – it should feel slightly warm and still be fairly liquid – transfer it to your piping bag or squeeze bottle. Squeeze about ¼ c of the ganache into the martini glass, and then quickly invert the glass over the cake, pressing the glass into the cake at an angle (check out my video for an extra guide on this step). Slowly drizzle ganache away from the glass, letting it fall down the edge of the cake to create drips.
Pipe a few frosting swirls around the glass and add a few spiraled lemon slices and a bit of zest if you’d like. Add a few quartered lemon slices around the edge of the cake too, if you’d like. 
That's it! Stand back and admire your cake!
  •  Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Pinterest or Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!  
Intensive Cake Unit
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  • Della Della on Aug 16, 2022

    Is the peppermint extract in step 7 a mistake?

    • Intensive Cake Unit Intensive Cake Unit on Aug 16, 2022

      Lol fail! YES, I'd started trying out a peppermint/white chocolate recipe based on this cake and must have accidentally edited my draft file. It should just say to add the food coloring and stir until smooth in step 7, and I fixed the instructions. Sorry about that!

  • Tanisha Tyson Tanisha Tyson on Aug 23, 2022

    Sounds delicious and is a gorgeous cake 😁 thanks for the recipe, will try soon!!