8-Layer Lemon Cake with Blackberry Italian Meringue Buttercream
Layer after layer of buttery yellow cake doused in Limoncello are stacked tall, separated with lemon curd, and iced with Blackberry Italian Meringue Buttercream. This 8-layer cake is spring on a plate and as delicious as it is impressive.
8-layer cakes are awesome because they are both impressive AND allow a much more even distribution of cake to filling. In cakes with two or even three layers, there is a lot more cake than filling. This is often how it should be - especially if you are filling the layers with frosting.
But sometimes I want the ratio of cake and filling to be a bit more even - like it is in this cake. In this lemon cake, I wanted every single bite of cake to also include some lemon curd, and with 8 thin layers, that's exactly what you get.
You might think that you'll need mad knife skills to get 8 even layers of cake, but you won't. To avoid having to cut layers of delicate cake in half, each layer of this cake is baked individually. (Don't worry - you won't need 8 cake pans.)
Even better, the layers will keep perfectly well, wrapped individually, at room temperature, for up to two days. So, you can bake the layers of cake one day, and assemble and decorate them the next.
About Blackberry Italian Meringue Buttercream
If you've made Italian Meringue Buttercream in the past you might want to just skip to the recipe and dive in because you just KNOW the blackberry version is going to be fantastic. If you've never made Italian Meringue Buttercream, I hope you'll give it a whirl for this cake.
Here's what I tell people who are new to Italian Meringue Buttercream:
Make it once, and you might never go back to any other kind of frosting. It's that good.
At first glance, Italian Meringue Buttercream appears complicated because I've written a long post about it and included very detailed instructions in the recipe. This can be deceptive because the process isn't actually complicated at all. There are a few things that are important to get right, and so I've erred on the side of giving you too much information rather than not enough.
Think of the long instructions as having me there beside you looking over your shoulder while you make it, offering advice. (Ok. That sounds creepier then I mean it to be.) But the process itself can actually be boiled down to a few steps:
- Cook some sugar and water in a pan to create a sugar syrup.
- Beat 8 egg whites until stiff.
- Pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites to cook and stabilize them.
- Then beat in a lot of butter. (It's called buttercream for a reason.)
That' really it. Read all the way through the instructions so that you understand how the ingredients come together and how important temperature is to the process, then just go for it.
One of the greatest things about Italian Meringue Buttercream (besides it's silky taste and texture), is how easily it incorporates a wide variety of flavorings. For this lemon blackberry cake, I've added in blackberry jam, which makes it taste like blackberry frozen custard or gelato. You'll want to eat it by the spoonful. (Or, maybe that's just me. But I doubt it.)
Tips and Tricks for making a perfect Lemon Layer Cake:
#1. Prepare your cake pans.
One of the most important steps in baking layer cakes is knowing how to properly prepare the cake pans so they don't stick. This is especially true when baking thin layers because there's less margin for error if the cake sticks to the pan. To ensure each layer comes out of the pan perfectly intact, grease and flour your cake pans and line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.
If you're a new baker and not entirely sure what I mean by "grease, flour, and line your cake pans with parchment paper", click here for a step-by-step tutorial.
If you're baking the layers of this cake in batches (which, unless you have 8 cake pans and a very large oven, you most certainly are) wipe out your pans with a paper towel and re-grease, flour and line them with parchment in-between batches. You can reuse the same piece of parchment paper but be sure to re-grease and flour it.
If you get all in a hurry and think this isn't necessary, you're probably going to end up with ragged layers of cake that have at least partially stuck to the pans. I speak from experience here friends.
#2. The secret to baking light, fluffy cake layers.
One of the challenges of baking thin cake layers is achieving a light, fluffy consistency while maintaining enough structure so that the thin layers don't fall apart. In this cake, that delicate balance is largely achieved with eggs. Beautiful, magical, wonderful eggs.
Eggs are one of the most important ingredients in baking, because the whites and yolks serve very different purposes. Egg yolks add richness and structure to cakes while the whites have the ability to trap air, creating a light, fluffy consistency. To maximize the unique qualities of the egg yolks and the egg whites in this cake, we're going to separate the eggs and incorporate them into the batter differently.
In this recipe, the egg yolks are whisked into the other liquid ingredients (buttermilk, butter, olive oil, and vanilla), then combined with the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt) to create a rich, smooth batter.
The egg whites are beaten separately (with a bit of cream of tarter and sugar to help stabilize them) until stiff peaks form when you lift up beater, then folded gently into the batter to preserve as much air as possible. The air in the beaten egg whites will give the baking soda plenty of little pockets to expand in the oven so that the cake layers rise evenly and have a lovely light and fluffy texture.
*This recipe calls for 9 egg yolks and only 5 egg whites, so save the extra 4 egg whites and use them in the Blackberry Italian Meringue Buttercream.
#3. Use room temperature ingredients.
In this recipe, as in most cake recipes, you’ll notice the words “at room temperature” after the butter, eggs, and buttermilk. This is important. Please don’t ignore it. At room temperature, eggs and dairy form an emulsion that traps air. This is a good thing because all that trapped air expands in the oven, producing a fluffy consistency. Without this process, you’d end up with something more like a hockey puck than a cake.
The easiest way to bring eggs and dairy to room temperature is to just leave them out on the counter for a couple of hours. While many sources say that it’s safe to leave eggs out of the refrigerator for up to 8 hours, 2 hours is enough to bring them to room temperature and on the conservative side of the safety question.
But, what if you don’t want to wait two hours to bake that cake? I don’t blame you one bit. Here's how to bring eggs and dairy to room temperature lickity-split.
#4. Stacking all those layers into a gorgeous cake.
The layers of this cake can be wrapped and stored for up to 2 days before assembling and decorating the cake. If you are making the layers in advance, brush them with limoncello before covering them in plastic wrap. The limoncello will help preserve the layers and keep the cake nice and moist.
To stack the cake layers, position the first layer on your serving platter (brush with limoncello if you haven't already done so) and spread a few tablespoons of lemon curd over the cake so that it comes to within about 1-inch of the edges. Top with another layer and repeat until all 8 layers are stacked.
As you stack the layers, gently press down on each layer with your hands to compress them slightly. Do this very gently so you don't smash the cake.
#5. Frost the cake with Blackberry Italian Meringue Buttercream
Once all 8 layers of cake have been stacked, it's time to ice and decorate. The key to covering a layer cake with buttercream without knocking over all those layers is to use a LOT of buttercream.
Start by scooping a large amount of buttercream on the top of the cake. Use a spatula to gently smear the buttercream over the top and onto the sides of the cake.
Using an icing smoother makes the process so much easier. Use the smoother to scoop more and more buttercream onto the cake, gently pressing it onto the cake as you do. Using a lot of buttercream means you can begin to press and smooth the frosting over the cake without accidentally scrapping the cake itself or pressing too hard and toppling the layers.
Once every inch of cake has been covered in frosting, begin smoothing it out, removing excess buttercream as you do. Using a revolving cake decorating stand is ideal because you can slowly spin the top of the stand while holding the smoother against the sides of the cake.
What kind of lemon curd should you use?
If you have a good recipe for lemon curd and want to make it, go for it. If you're planning on purchasing it, like I did for this cake, give it a taste before you use it and consider how tart it is. Having a tart lemon curd between the layers of this cake is pretty important, in my opinion, because it balances out the sweetness of the cake and blackberry buttercream.
If your lemon curd doesn't have a pronounced tart lemon flavor, adding in a bit of lemon extract can make a big difference in the finished flavor of your layer cake.
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Scroll down to rate this recipe and leave a comment for me, or take a picture and tag it @ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
FOR THE CAKE:
- 1 ½ cups (355ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
- 16 tablespoon (225g/ 8oz)butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
- ¼ cup (59ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ tablespoon (19.5g) pure vanilla extract
- 9 large eggs, separated. You'll need 9 egg yolks, but only 5 egg whites. (*Save the extra egg whites and use them in the Buttercream.)
- ½ teaspoon (1.69g) cream of tartar
- 2 ⅔ cups (536g) granulated sugar, divided
- 3 ¼ cups + 2 tablespoon (422g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoon (45g) cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon (2.4g) baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoon (8.85g) salt
- ½ cup (118ml) Limoncello (optional; see notes below), to brush over the baked cake layers
FOR THE FILLING AND FROSTING:
- 1 recipe Italian Meringue Buttercream
- 1 tablespoon (13g) vanilla extract
- 10 oz seedless blackberry jam
- 30 oz lemon curd (See note below)
- 1 - 3 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon lemon oil (optional; see note below)
MAKE THE CAKE:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C) and prepare two or three 9-inch round cake by greasing and flouring them, and lining the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. (Here's how to prepare cake pans.)
- Add buttermilk, melted butter, oil, vanilla, and 9 egg yolks to a bowl or large measuring cup and whisk with a fork to combine.
- Add 5 egg whites to a seperate bowl and set aside. (*Save the 4 extra egg whites to use in the Buttercream.)
- Add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and 2 cups (402g) of sugar to the bowl of the electric mixer. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on low just to blend the ingredients.
- With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the buttermilk mixture to the flour, mixing just until it's incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat for 15 seconds.
- Scoop the batter into a large bowl and rinse out the bowl of the mixer, being sure to dry it completely.
- Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and beat the egg whites and cream of tarter on medium-high speed until soft peaks form when you lift the beater from the bowl. With the mixer running, gradually sprinkle in the remaining ⅔ cup (134g) of the sugar and beat until glossy, stiff peaks form.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold about ⅓ of the egg whites into the cake batter until incorporated. Fold in the remaining egg whites as gently as you can, mixing until just barely combined.
- Add about 1 cup of batter to each pan and use the back of a spoon to gently spread it in an even layer across the bottom of the pan.
- Bake the layers for 15-18 minutes, until the edges are golden and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. The cake should spring back when touched. Watch carefully - thin layers can over bake quickly. Remove the pans from the oven and place on wire racks. Let the layers cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pans before flipping the pans upside down on the wire racks to remove the cakes.
- Re-grease, flour and line the pans with parchment paper. (You should be able to reuse the same piece of parchment paper.) Fill the pans with 1 cup batter, and continue baking until you have 8 layers of cake.
- Once all the cake layers are baked and cooled, brush the tops of each layer with about 1 tablespoon of Limoncello. (Optional; see note below.)
FILL AND DECORATE THE CAKE:
- Make one recipe of Italian Meringue Buttercream. Once complete, beat in 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract and 10 oz good quality blackberry jam.
- If your lemon curd is on the sweet side and you want it to be a bit more tart, stir in a bit of lemon extract or lemon oil.
- Gently unwrap one of the layers of cake and lay it on a serving plate. Spread 4-5 tablespoon of lemon curd in an even layer across the cake, leaving about 1-inch gap around the edges of the cake round. Top with another layer of cake and more lemon curd. Repeat until all the cake layers have been used.
- Frost with a generous amount of Blackberry Italian Meringue Buttercream and decorate with flowers and fresh blackberries if desired.
What Limoncello does for this cake:
Brushing each layer of cake with a bit of Limoncello increases the amount of lemon flavor in the cake and keeps the cake moist and fresh. I highly recomend it. Having said that, the Limoncello is optional. This cake is also delicious without it.
Lemon Curd and adding Lemon Extract or Lemon Oil:
Regardless of what brand of lemon curd you use or whether you make it from scratch, adding a bit of lemon extract or lemon oil gives the filling a stronger lemon flavor. The amount you use is completely up to you - start with a little, taste, and add more if you like. Remember that lemon oil has a stronger flavor than lemon extract.
Making this cake in advance and storing the cake:
The cake layers can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days before filling and decorating. If you plan to brush the layers with Limoncello, do so before wrapping them in plastic wrap. The Limoncello is optional, but will help the layers of cake stay moist and fresh tasting.
The Italian Meringue Buttercream can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. See notes in the recipe for how to thaw and reconstitute Italian Meringue Buttercream after it's been refrigerated or frozen.
Once the cake is assembled and decorated, serve it within 4 hours or store the cake in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
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Puroma Rotating Cake Turntable with 3 Angled Icing Spatulas and 3 Icing Combs
KitchenAid 6 Qt. Professional 600 Series Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer
Wilton Aluminum Round Cake Pan, 8 x 3-Inch
Boyajian Pure Lemon Oil, 3.4 Fluid Ounce
OliveNation Pure Lemon Extract - 4 ounces
Dickinson's Lime Curd, 10-Ounce (Pack of 6)
Tiptree Lemon Curd, 11 Ounce Jars (Pack of 6)
Nutrition Information:Yield: 18 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 736Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 178mgSodium: 467mgCarbohydrates: 106gFiber: 1gSugar: 84gProtein: 7g
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