Raspberries, with their vivid color and their beautiful balance of sweetness and tartness jostled with the faintest note of flowers, bring me back to summer time when everything – the sky, the grass, the garden, and the trees – seems joyously and vividly alive. As this winter inches far too slowly into spring, and the persistently gray, overcast days and impossibly long nights of the Pacific Northwest wear me down, I find myself rattling away in the kitchen on those darkest of mornings doing what I can with pots and a spoon to bring summer back.
With a few vibrant yellow lemons, like little balls of sunshine, and a few bags of frozen raspberries that, when you open them, bring that gorgeous aroma of summer back in one instant whiff, I found a little something that will combat the wettest and grayest of winter days: Lemon Cake with a Raspberry Cream Frosting. It sounds decadent, and it is, and yet it’s not.
It’s an ethereally light cake, absent of heavy, sugary sweet-tooth frosting, and, instead, it’s enveloped in airy billows of raspberry-infused whipped cream. It’s this pale pink frosting that gives the cake its festive and celebratory charm, but without the shortening, without the cups and cups of powdered sugar and without food dye. Instead, it’s simply a pretty cake, not too sweet, which makes it particularly good for a child’s birthday party – or – for beating away the winter blues, if you’re me.
The Goodness of Raspberries
I treasure cooking whole foods from scratch, and, perhaps its the mother in me, but I even want to dessert to have some redeeming quality. Raspberries do just that: They’re potently rich in antioxidants like ellagitannin and anthocyanin which not only support good health, but also give raspberries their vivid red-purple color. When it comes to whole foods: where there’s color and flavor, there’s nourishment.
Raspberries are also particularly rich in vitamin C and their seeds are an extraordinarily good source of dietary, fiber too, and, from a a culinary perspective, they can give foods, like the filling for this cake, a nice texture.
How to Get The Frosting Just Right
When making the frosting, it’s important to cook down the raspberries until lusciously jammy and thick so that you concentrate their flavor into a small volume. Then, when you whip them into the cream that forms the bulk of the frosting, it will still whip well enough to hold its shape, infuse the cream with its summery flavor and lovely pink color.
Raspberry blossom honey, if you happen to find it in your local farmers market or natural foods store, is a particularly nice touch in sweetening the frosting as the honey reinforces the flavor of the raspberries, but any honey will do.
Lemon Cake with Raspberry Cream Frosting
For the Cake
For the Honeyed Raspberry Cream Frosting
- 2 frozen raspberries
- ½ cup honey preferably raspberry blossom honey
- 1 Tablesooon lemon juice
- 2 8-oz containers mascarpone cheese
- 1 pint heavy cream
For the Cake
- Line three 8-inch cake tins with parchment paper, and heat the oven to 350F.
- Whip the egg whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar and lemon rind together with the lemon extract until they become voluptuously creamy.
- Beat one-third of the flour into the egg yolks, then fold in one-third of the egg whites. Continue working the flour and egg whites into the batter one-third at a time, until they're fully incorporated, taking care not to deflate the egg whites too much.
- Distribute the batter evenly among three pans, and bake the cakes until the center is set and springs back when you touch them - about 35 to 30 minutes. Cool the cakes in their pans for 5 minutes, and then turn them out onto a wire rack to continue cooling.
For the Frosting
- Toss the frozen raspberries, honey and lemon juice into a saucepan. Bring berries to a boil over medium-high heat, allowing the raspberries to release their liquid. Continue boiling the raspberries until thickened to a jam-like consistency, about ten minutes.
- Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl, and pour the raspberries into the sieve, pressing down to strain as much juice away from the seeds as possible, until you have about ¾ cup strained raspberry juice. Reserve both the raspberry juice and the pulpy seeds separately, allowing them to cool in the fridge.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a wire whisk, whip the mascarpone with the heavy whipping cream, slowly drizzling in the strained raspberry puree, until the frosting is fully whipped, fluffy and thoroughly pink with no pockets of juice remaining.
To frost the Cake
- Set a single layer of cake on your cake stand, and top it with one-half of the reserved, seeded raspberry puree. Set a second layer of cake on top of the first, and spread it with the remaining seeded raspberry puree. Place a third layer of cake over the second, and then frost the cake as you normally would with the Raspberry Cream Frosting.
- The cake will keep up to 3 days, refrigerated, and overnight without refrigeration.
Change up your sugar! You can substitute whole, unrefined cane sugar as well as coconut sugar for the granulated sugar in this recipe on a 1:1 ratio; however, your cake's crumb will be darker than the cake shown here.
Why Frozen Raspberries Work Best in this Frosting
This frosting is very delicate in both sweetness and flavor which is why frozen raspberries work particularly well. Frozen raspberries are flash-frozen at the peak of the harvest season at their most ripe, meaning that the berries offer the most pronounced color, sweetness and flavor – all of which are critical in executing this very delicate and light cream-based frosting.
Our Other Favorite Raspberry Recipes
With their sweet-tart flavor, raspberries easily blend with both sweet and savory dishes. Raspberries are also spectacularly nutrient-rich, and are particularly rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and dietary fiber. We worked with the National Processed Raspberry Council to develop this recipe. I’ve included links to some of my favorite frozen raspberry recipes below.
Raspberry Pickled Onions are fun to make, and you can serve them on top of salads, or over burgers.
Raspberry Ginger Glazed Salmon is positively brilliant and super easy to make.
Raspberry Coconut Panna Cotta is an easy dessert to make that combines antioxidant-rich raspberries with protein-rich gelatin.