Ginger and lemon is fantastic together, and this high altitude ginger lemon cake has so much delicious flavor. The cake is a brown sugar and buttermilk cake, lightly spiced with ginger. I baked three cake layers and split them into six thin layers, then filled them with tart lemon curd. Homemade lemon curd would be great, of course, but to save time, I used a store bought jar of lemon curd.
I sprinkled handful of crumbled gingerbread cookies over the lemon curd, before stacking the next layer of cake. The cookies soften so that they’re not really discernible as a crumble, but they add another layer of flavor that’s just so good. As the cake soaks up the lemon curd, it all becomes so moist and rich and beautiful.
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Ginger + Lemon
When I was a kid, I remember my mom making this gingerbread sheet cake. Sometimes it was dark and spicy, and other times she made a lighter, less spicy version with a crumb topping that we called “Pennsylvania gingerbread cake”. Either way, it was great, but the best part was the sweetly tart lemon sauce she’d pour on the side, which was just instant lemon pudding served warm. Together, they made something magical.
Ginger and lemon is just so good together, and when I make ginger molasses cookies for Christmas, I love pairing them with a tart lemon icing. They’re amazing. We couldn’t finish a batch of gingerbread cookies I made this past winter, so I put them in the freezer to save them for later, and as I was thinking of a way to turn the memory of that gingerbread cake with lemon sauce into a layer cake, I knew I would use those leftover cookies in it somehow.
To finish the ginger lemon cake, I frosted it with fluffy lemon buttercream made with lemon extract and plenty of fresh lemon zest. Since I didn’t fill the cake with buttercream – just the lemon curd and cookies – you can’t really see that there are six layers. But if you like, you can spread each cake with a thin layer of buttercream in addition to the lemon curd and cookies, which would make each layer stand out more visually.
Be sure to read all of my BAKING FAQs where I discuss ingredients, substitutions and common questions with cake making, so that you can be successful in your own baking! I also suggest reading these comprehensive posts on making Perfect American Buttercream, How to Stack, Fill, Crumb Coat and Frost Layer Cakes and How to Use Piping Bags.
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High Altitude Ginger Lemon Cake
All recipes on Curly Girl Kitchen are developed for high altitude at 5,280 feet. See FAQs for adjusting to higher or lower elevations.
- Stand Mixer with Whisk Attachment
- 2 ¾ cups cake flour or all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 1 ¾ tsp baking powder
- 1 ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 ¾ cups dark brown sugar, loosely packed
- 1 ¾ cups buttermilk, room temperature
- 3 large eggs
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp meringue powder, optional
- zest of 1 small lemon
- 2 tsp lemon extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ⅛ tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
- 2-4 tbsp milk or cream
- 1 jar (10 oz) lemon curd
- 1 ½ cups crushed or finely crumbled ginger cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350 and spray three 8-inch cake pans with non-stick spray.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger.In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, buttermilk, eggs, oil and vanilla.Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and whisk just until smooth and combined. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.
- Bake cakes for about 28 minutes, until a cake tester in the center comes out clean. Set the pans on a wire rack, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel, and cool completely.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for one minute.
- With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar and meringue powder, mixing to combine.
- Add the lemon zest, lemon extract, vanilla and salt, then increase speed to medium and whip for about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally, until very light and fluffy, adding the milk if needed to slightly thin the buttercream.
- Remove the cooled cakes from the pans and use a sharp knife to split each layer so that you have six thin layers. Handle the cake layers gently; when split, they can break apart very easily when you’re picking them up. Use a large cake lifter, if needed, to move them from your counter onto the cake.
- Place one cake layer, cut side up, on a cake board or cake pedestal. Spread thinly with 1/5 of the lemon curd and sprinkle with 1/5 of the crumbled cookies.Place the next cake layer on top, and repeat with the lemon curd and cookies until you’ve filled and stacked all the layers. The last cake should be placed on top with the cut side down. If you have any uneven areas around the sides, trim them with a sharp knife so that the cake is basically even and straight all the way around.
- Frost the sides and top with a thin crumb coat of buttercream. Chill the cake for at least 30 minutes.
- Fit a piping bag with Wilton tip 1M, and fill the bag with buttercream, then pipe the buttercream on in angled rows up the sides. Finish with a large spiraled rosette on top of the cake.