In the kitchen: Lemon Ginger Cake

My electric oven exploded in a shower of sparks the day before Easter. But unlike Jesus, it didn’t rise again.

It was quite spectacular. I had just broiled a burger and sweet potato fries for dinner, and thought I’d just, you know, lower the heat about 150F and then pop in the carrot cake I had promised to bring to Easter dinner at the farm.

But alas, that’s when the heating element in the bottom of the oven ‘sploded. I admit I watched for a bit as the element, having been in contact with the ill-fitting drip pan for far, far too long, spat out sparks and charred stuff then (after I finally shut the door) burned itself out. When I opened the door again, the element had melted in two places and I had a half-baked cake. At 11 at night and church at 7 the next morning. Yikes.

After a few desperate phone calls, I stomped and growled for a bit, then popped the pans into the fridge. Next morning I slept through church, but I managed to get myself over to my aunt’s in enough time to finish the cake off in her wonderful, lovely convection oven.

The other day I baked the first cake in the new Kenmore- a lemon ginger cake with a lemon vanilla frosting I finished off with a spoon. It went over very well at work. I had a sliver and then went off to get my press pass renewed, and when I got back the plate was empty.

The only change I’d make to this recipe is taking 10 minutes off the baking time. Also, I love lemon, so I added a layer of lemon curd over the frosting between the two layers for a bit more kick.

Lemon Ginger Cake with Vanilla Lemon Frosting

The cake recipe is from Epicurious, tweaked with a bit more lemony goodness (1 tbsp instead of 1 tsp of lemon peel and an extra tsp of juice). The cake is even better the next day- if preparing a day in advance, wrap in plastic and keep at room temperature. For juicing lemons, I find that old trick of putting the lemon on the counter and rolling it with your palm makes the juicing easier.

Frosting ingredients and directions follow.

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
4 large eggs (let come to room temp before using for best results)
3 tbsps and 1 tsp fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk


  1. Place rack in center of oven, and preheat to 350F. Butter 2 9-inch cake pans with 2-inch high sides. Line pan bottoms with parchment paper and either spray with cooking spray or butter paper.
  2. In large bowl of electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
  3. Add lemon juice, lemon peel and vanilla. Mixture may appear a bit curdled- deep breaths, this is okay. It will be alllll riiiiight.
  4. Sift the six dry ingredients together into a small bowl, then add to butter mixture- begin with dry mixture and alternate with buttermilk in three rounds each.
  5. Pour batter into pans and bake until golden brown or testing straw comes out clean. About 45 minutes.
  6. Cool cake in pans on rack for 10 minutes, then turn layers out onto racks to cool completely, using small knife around the sides of pan if necessary to loosen layers. Peel off waxed paper.

Vanilla Lemon Frosting

This is a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen for vanilla frosting that I tweaked with lemon juice and lemon peel (can you believe they don’t have a lemon variation?). This stuff is amazing- as delicious as the buttercream you’d find at any upscale patisserie.


2 tbsp heavy cream (I used whipping cream)
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon peel


  1. In a small bowl, stir together cream, vanilla and salt together until salt dissolves.
  2. Using the electric mixer, beat butter on MED-HIGH until smooth (30-60 seconds).
  3. Reduce speed to MED-LOW and slowly add confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth (2-5 mnutes).
  4. Beat in the cream mixture, then increase speed to MED-HIGH and beat in lemon juice and grated peel until mixture is light and fluffy (4-8 minutes).

This can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the fridge. Let stand at room temp before spreading.


2 responses to “In the kitchen: Lemon Ginger Cake

  1. >awYEAH that sounds goodnow I need a cake occasion and I’m soo gonna make this. What about using fresh ginger instead though? I just made a carrot cake with fresh ginger and it was really good.

  2. >You know, I was on my way home from work after the cake’s debut and stopped in at the local supermarket and discovered that, low and behold, there was such an animal and I’m planning to try this again and adjust it accordingly.I’d imagine that it would probably be a good idea to reduce liquid somewhere else if you used fresh grated ginger. Maybe take out the extra tsp of lemon juice I added? Let me know if you get a chance.And this cake IS an occasion. Bake it and folks will come running. 🙂

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