Lemon-Berry Shortcake Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Baking a cake is like taking a leap of faith.

Remember those trust falls that you had to do on class bonding wilderness trips? That’s what baking a cake is like. You’re hoping that it’ll be there to catch you when you fall backwards off the table, but what if it doesn’t?

Cue scene in Mean Girls.

It sounds dramatic. But it’s true.

Cookies you can sample before you subject others to them. Brownies can be tried before handed out. I’m a big fan of making sure that baked goods are edible before you force them on your friends.

But a cake?

How awkward would it be to bring out a cake at dessert time and there was a slice missing? The rest of the cake was totally intact, there was just one piece gone?

Super awkward. That’s how awkward. And don’t get me wrong, I’m really REALLY good with those kinds of situations. Hint: just make a joke about how uncomfortable you are. At least then you might get a laugh.

The problem is, cakes are just so DARN pretty. There’s something about the layers and the icing and effort that you know went into it. I’m a girl obsessed when it comes to cakes. I like to fix and fuss over it and I will spread that damn buttercream until I’ve deemed it perfect, even if no one else knows the agony that I experienced trying to get the swirls just so.

Cakes make me slow down. My over-active, thinking, planning, constantly GO GO GOING brain that focuses on fifteen thousand and a half things and ideas and wonders about everything needs to just STOP when making a cake. Real talk time? It’s kind of nice to have a reason to stop.

But cakes are a commitment. You have to have enough people to eat one. You have to have an occasion to bake one. Muffins can show up unannounced. But cakes need fancy stationary and calling cards. They’re kind of demanding like that.

But! I had a reason! I had hungry people! I had an opportunity, and I jumped on it. I think I’ve heard something about not looking a gift horse in the mouth. Which sounds like a good idea to me, because I’m not sure horses’ mouths are particularly sanitary or pleasant to see. They have large teeth and I bet they’re smelly. So I didn’t ask too many questions, I just baked. Sometimes you just need a cake.


Lemon-Berry Shortcake Cake

Cake recipe adapted from Piece of Cake, frosting my own recipe

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

For the cake filling:

8 ounces frozen or fresh berries, any kind you want (I used fresh strawberries. If you’re using frozen, thaw, and reserve the juices)

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the frosting:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

8 oz. (1 package) cream cheese, room temperature

2-3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray, line with parchment paper, then spray the bottoms again.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.

In a larger bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla extract for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Add the sour cream and mix until smooth. Stir in the dry ingredients until well-blended.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans for about 10 minutes, then invert on cooling racks and peel off the parchment paper on the bottoms.

Place the berries for the filling in a bowl and sprinkle the granulated sugar on top. Stir so the sugar is coating the berries then let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes. Mash some of the berries slightly.

To make the frosting, mix the butter and cream cheese together with electric beaters for about 3 minutes, or until very smooth. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Beat in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. You may need more/less than the recommended amount to get the spreadable consistency that you need for the cake. Stir in the lemon zest.

To assemble the cake, place one cooled cake on the serving plate. Make fork holes all over the top of the layer. Spoon the berry mixture on top of the layer. Use your judgement when it comes to how much of the berry juice you include. You want the layer to have some moistness, but you don’t want it to be soggy. Glop some of the frosting on top of the berries, and spread it over them so that they’re covered and the layer is smooth. Carefully place the other cake layer on top. Spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake.

The original author noted that, if you’re having difficulty spreading the icing on top of the berries, try freezing the first layer of cake for 15 minutes after you’ve placed the berries on top of it (but before you’ve iced it). That way there’ll be a little more stability. I was fine, but just an idea.

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