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Desserts

Lemon Sponge Cake with Vanilla Frosting

I know this looks like blog post where I share a delicious lemon sponge cake recipe (which I still do, just scroll down). But it’s really an excuse for me to just rant about frosting. Are you ready?

pouring vanilla frosting on lemon cake

The frosting debate starts with my husband—shocker. I’m not exactly sure when I was first introduced to his strong opinions about frosting—probably at some point in our early dating years—but I do remember the context vividly. We were out at some kind of coffee shop on a date, and he saw some kind of dessert covered in powdered sugar. I’m pretty sure it was a brownie, but don’t quote me.

He pointed at the dessert and told me how despicable it was that people serve any kind of dessert with just a mere dusting of powdered sugar on it. “You’re so close to frosting at that point,” as he famously said (and still does). 


At the time, I thought his little frosting charade was cute, so I simply laughed. It was trendy to add powdered sugar to the top of desserts for cosmetic effect, so I didn’t think much of it.

lemon cake with frosting on a table

Slowly but surely, his constant nagging about the tragedy of powdered sugar on desserts started to get to me. I would bite into desserts with powdered sugar and felt incredibly dissatisfied with how the sugar just stuck to the roof of my mouth. It made me wonder, what monster thought adding powdered sugar to the tops fo dessert would actually taste good? And why wouldn’t you just add a bit of milk and turn it into frosting?

I know it looks pretty, I get it. But come on. Do people actually think a brownie with powdered sugar is really better than a brownie with frosting? Debate me. Seriously. The comments are below.

pouring frosting on a cake

Now I do believe that some desserts should have powdered sugar, like beignets and fried dough, because those treats are meant to have it. It’s the circle of life. 


But adding powdered sugar to cake, brownies, or pastries? I know it looks pretty, but let’s be honest. It tastes better with frosting on it. So give those desserts the topping they truly deserve.

So when I decided to make a lemon sponge cake, I wanted to cover it in a thick homemade vanilla frosting. Because a good lemon sponge cake deserves a vanilla frosting—none of this powdered sugar nonsense.

Need a bundt cake pan?

While this recipe does not require you to make this lemon sponge cake in a bundt cake pan, it does make a beautiful looking cake. If you’re in the market for a new pan, I highly recommend this Nordic Ware 12 Cup Cast Aluminum Steel Bundt Pan. It’s much sturdier than other bundt cake pans I’ve held, and it’s non-stick!

Not a fan of lemon cake?

Don’t worry, I have a chocolate cake recipe for you.

slice of lemon sponge cake on the table

Lemon Sponge Cake with Vanilla Frosting

The perfect cake when you're in need of a dessert for a crowd, or something fancy to close out a holiday celebration.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Resting Time15 mins
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Dessert
Keyword: bundt cake, cake, cake recipe, frosting recipe, lemon bundt cake, lemon cake, lemon sponge cake, vanilla frosting
Servings: 12 servings

Equipment

  • Bundt cake pan (or regular cake pans)

Ingredients

Lemon Sponge Cake

  • 3 eggs yolks and whites separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 lemon zested & juiced
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Vanilla Frosting

  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp milk

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
  • While waiting for the water, mix together the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest.
  • If you haven't already, separate the egg yolks and the egg whites.
  • Add the egg yolks to the bowl of sugar and whisk together.
  • When the water is boiling, add in 1/4 cup of boiling water. Whisk until combined, then let it sit and cool for a bit (about 5 minutes).
  • Once cooled, whisk in the lemon juice (should be about 4 tbsp of juice). Sprinkle in the flour and the baking powder.
  • Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites until they are pillowy and forthy (like frosting).
  • Using a spatula, stir in (also known as folding in) the egg whites to the cake batter. Mix until combined—do not over mix.
  • Grease the cake pan (or bundt pan) with extra butter or cooking spray. Add the cake mix.
  • Bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
  • When the cake is finished, let it sit in the pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
  • While the cake is cooling, whisk together all of the frosting ingredients in a bowl. If the butter isn't softened, warm it in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Release the cake from the pan using a rubber spatula onto a cooling rack with a baking sheet under it. Pour the frosting on top of the cake, letting the extra frosting fall into the baking sheet.
  • Remove the cake to a plate and serve. If you want the extra frosting, this would be the time to add it.

Notes

This lemon sponge cake recipe is an adaptation from the sponge cake published in Joy of Cooking. 

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lemon sponge cake pin

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