Lemon cake is one of my favourite types of cake – I love the zingy zesty flavour and light fluffy sponge that’s paired with even more lemony and sweet icing.
But sometimes you just want to change things a little and make lemon cake with a different frosting. So, if you like me are looking for an ideas on how to make your lemon cake a bit different, here are my top lemon cake frosting ideas for you.
I’ve tested these whilst I was baking cakes for a lovely little tearoom in Down House, Kent, making cakes for our local farmer’s market and baking cakes to order for my customers.
My baking courses students have also tasted my bakes and gave me honest feedback on what they loved the most. I’ve now, combined the best ideas for lemon cake frosting for you.
11 best flavours & types of frostings for lemon cake, including cream cheese, lemon curd, meringue frosting, buttercream, elderflower icing or blueberry compote.
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Fresh Lemon Icing
There is nothing easier than to mix some fresh lemon juice with icing sugar and drizzle it on your lemon cake! The sharp lemon flaour is amazing and it doesn’t make the lemon cake to taste too sweet either.
You can make more fresh lemon icing and cover the whole cake or choose to just drizzle the top with a few teaspoons worth of icing.
To make your fresh lemon icing, simply mix together lemon juice with icing (fine powder) sugar to get a runny consistency and drizzle over the lemon cake. I find that 1-2 tablespoons (1/2 lemon) combined with 2-3 tablespoons of icing sugar is about right consistency.
Buttercream Icing – Lemon, vanilla or other flavours
The traditional buttercream icing is also great topping for lemon cake. You can make it plain or with vanilla, lemon or other flavours.
Whip together some unsalted butter and icing sugar (about 1 portion of butter to 2 portions of icing sugar) and teaspoon of water with tiny pinch of salt using electric whisk. Once you combine all the ingredients, carry on whisking for at least 5 minutes to get very light and fluffy buttercream icing.
You can leave the icing as it is, or add other flavours that go well with lemon, such as vanilla, lemon, lavender, elderflowers, champagne or prosseco flavouring.
Dark Chocolate Ganache Icing
When I make my chocolate truffles I often combine zingy lemon white ganache with dark chocolate chocolate truffle shell and coating. The contrast is amazing and the flavours really work together.
To recreate this combination as a frosting on a lemon cake, I make dark chocolate ganache icing as a fairly runny consistency and drizzle it over the cake.
To make dark chocolate ganache, simply break up about 100 grams (1 chocolate bar) of dark chocolate (ideally over 50% cocoa solids) and pour over 100 ml (slightly less than 1/2 cup) of hot double or single cream (full fat or light). Leave the chocolate to melt, then slowly stir and drizzle over the lemon cake.
You can use dairy free alternatives instead of cream.
Leave to set in the fridge for 30 minute or so, before serving.
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Cream Cheese Frosting
Oh, the beautifully slightly tangy flavour of cream cheese frosting combined with the lemon flavoured cake is a great combination. Make sure that you use full fat cream cheese as the low fat version often turns runny on the cake and can spoil all your work.
To make cream cheese frosting, simply mix or whip together the cream cheese with a little bit of water or milk, 1-2 teaspoons of icing sugar and vanilla essence (or lemon one if you prefer). Spread on the top of your lemon cake and serve.
White Chocolate Ganache Icing
Similarly like the dark chocolate ganache, white chocolate goes beautifully well with lemon flavour. It’s much more subtle, but the sweetness of the white chocolate still contrasts the lemon flavour and works well together.
To make white chocolate ganache, simply pour 100 ml of hot cream or double cream (heavy or regular cream – dairy free or regular) on chopped up 100 grams (one chocolate bar) of white chocolate bar. Leave the chocolate to melt, carefully stir and drizzle over your lemon cake.
Meringue frosting is light and fluffy and goes so well with lemon cake base. It’s perfect on it’s own but it can be also infused with more lemon essence, lavender or elderflower, which would all go well with the lemon flavour of the cake sponge.
Meringue frosting is a little more complicated than a regular frosting. You will need some eggs whites, caster sugar, water and a pinch of salt (about 1 egg white to 1/2 cup of of caster (fine) sugar with 1 tablespoon of water ratio). Whisk everything together in a large heatproof bowl (glass or stainless steal) until it’s just combined. Place the bowl over saucepan with simmering water and continue whisking for 5-10 minutes or until the egg whites form stiff peaks. The heat of the simmering water will cook the eggs, so you don’t have to worry about eating ‘raw’ eggs.
Once the eggs have formed hard peaks, remove the bowl from the simmering heat and carry on whisking until the bowl and eggs have slightly cooled down.
Once cold, spread or scope on to the top of the lemon cake and leave to set. You can also heat up the top with a heat torch to caramelise the tops of the meringue frosting. Decorate with fresh zest from a lemon if you have it or cut up pistachios and rose pettals.
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Lavender Infused Frosting
Lavender and lemon is a fabulous combination, although I know a lot of people might need some convincing! The thing is that lavender smells completely differently than it taste – it’s flowery and intense but not as strong as the aroma of dried lavender, which can be very overpowering.
To make lavender frosting, just make your regular frosting (basic icing, cream cheese, whipped cream or meringue frosting) and add a few drops of essential lavender oil (for cooking and baking). You can also use culinary dried lavender and add a few lavender buds into the frosting.
Lavender essence (or dried lavender) is usually very strong, so make sure that you only add a little and and more after you’ve taste it first.
To make the lemon base cake and the lavender flavour work best together, don’t make the lavender flavour too strong, just suble enough to know that it’s a lavender flavour.
Lemon Curd or Lemon Curd Frosting
Lemon curd works great as a quick topping for a lemon sponge cake – simply spread it on the top of the cake, sprinkle some lemon zest and you are ready to serve your cake.
I sometimes find, that lemon curd could be a little bit runny.
If that’s the case, I whip together first some unsalted butter and icing sugar (about 1 portion of butter to 2 portions of icing sugar and a teaspoon of water). I then add as much lemon curd as I need (or as much as the butter and icing sugar mixture will take) and slowly whisk it in. This results in lighter flavoured lemon curd icing, but it’s much firmer because of the extra butter.
For a slightly different flavour, you can also try my homemade Banana & Honey Curd recipe, which would go well with the lemon sponge base.
There is nothing much simpler than to whip some cream and spoon it on to your lemon cake! You can add a little bit of icing sugar as you are whipping the cream and also a little bit of lemon flavouring if you have it.
Either way, plain whipped cream or lightly infused with extra lemon is a great topping for a lemon cake.
You can also infuse whipped cream with a little bit of spiced sugar syrup, such as my homemade recipe for Cardamom Simple Sugar Syrup, Earl Grey or Pear Sugar Syrup. All flavours work great with lemon cakes.
Blueberry or Raspberry Compote
Blueberry or raspberry goes really well with lemon flavour and because of that I often make blueberry or raspberry compote to drizzle over my lemon cake.
If you want to make the cake extra luxurious, spreading a layer of cream cheese frosting or whipped cream is a great way to elevate a humble lemon cake into an amazing dessert. Add some fresh blueberries or raspberries on the top and you have a great version of lemon cake to serve.
Other fruits that work with lemon cake base are: blackberries, blackcurrant or morello cherries.
Lemon and elderflower goes beautifully together. Whilst lemon is zesty and strong as a flavour, elderflower is subtle and compliments the lemon flavour.
Make any kind of plain icing, whipped cream, cream cheese or meringue frosting and add elderflower flavouring to it.
If you don’t have elderflower flavouring, you can also use elderflower syrup (don’t add any too much sugar into the icing itself) or use fresh elderflowers to infuse water first and then add to the frosting.