The sweet, tangy taste of lemon-buttermilk cake

If life gives you lemons, get baking! Today blogger Sandra shares her recipe for Mediterranean lemon-buttermilk cake. 

Whether driven by curiosity or as a dare, everyone remembers the first time they bit into a lemon as a child. But this yellow citrus fruit can do so much more than make you grimace. A squeeze of lemon juice adds a fresh edge to a range of sweet and savoury dishes, soft drinks and cocktails. As well as the juice, lemon peel is packed full of essential oils and is used to add a tangy flavour to all kinds of recipes.

Lemons belong to the citrus family, just like oranges, limes and kumquats. The yellow fruits grow all year round on evergreen trees, primarily in the US, Italy and Spain. The best time to pick them is when they feel heavy and full. Make sure the peel has an even colour to ensure the fruits are at their juiciest. 


One of the most traditional recipes is in a lemon cake – fresh, not too sweet and deliciously light, as demonstrated by Sandra from the German blog “Törtchen und andere Leckereien”. Sandra comes from Bonn and loves blogging about the sweeter side of life. Tarts, biscuits, cakes, pastries – baking is her hobby. After they’ve been lovingly decorated, she posts her creations online to inspire fellow bakers at home. 


A recipe starring the humble lemon is childsplay for Sandra. The basic lemon cake brief soon turned into a lemon-buttermilk cake with a hint of basil adding a unique Mediterranean twist. What’s more, Sandra’s idea is a naked cake, the latest baking trend where pared back cakes are left undecorated to show off the layers of sponge and filling. No frosting, no icing, no buttercream ruffles – just a stack of delicious tiers to marvel at.

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Ingredients for the sponge (diameter approx. 16 – 18 cm) 

  • 420 g flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 360 g sugar
  • 80 g soft butter
  • the pulp from one vanilla pod
  • 300 ml buttermilk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 60 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 150 g sugar
  • 180 g soft butter
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves



Lemon curd and slices of lemon or lime to decorate the top.





Here’s how to make it:

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl and mix.


Whisk the soft butter with the sugar in a second bowl. Then add the vanilla and the eggs. Continue to whisk and gradually add the flour with the baking powder, the buttermilk and the lemon juice. The grated lemon peel goes in last. Continue to whisk until the mixture has a smooth, even consistency. Divide the mixture evenly into three lined baking tins (diameter approx. 16 – 18 cm) and place in the oven to bake.


If you don’t have three baking tins, simply bake each layer separately. Test with a skewer after approximately 35 minutes. If the skewer comes out clean, the sponge is ready. Allow to cool before removing from the tin.


Purée the basil leaves with the soft butter until creamy and smooth.


Fill a saucepan with a 1/3 of hot water and simmer. Add the egg whites and sugar to a metal bowl and place over or in the saucepan like a bain marie. Stir with a whisk until the sugar dissolves fully. Make sure the water doesn’t get too hot or the egg whites will start to cook.


Whisk the warm egg mixture to a smooth, white, glossy mass using your mixer’s highest speed. Fold the egg white mass into the basil butter and continue to blend at a lower speed.


Take the first sponge base. Spread with lemon curd (optional) and then a 1 cm thick layer of basil cream. Place the next sponge layer on top and repeat the process. Use slices of lemon and lime to decorate the top of your naked lemon cake. Buon appetito!