Whole lemon cake

Whole lemon cake & mascarpone frosting

Looking for a lemon cake that is out of the ordinary? Or even out of this world? Then this whole lemon cake is just what you’re looking for! As the title suggests, the recipe uses whole lemons to give the cake its flavour and, surprising as this may sound, the result is actually far more subtle than, say, a lemon drizzle cake. Not only that, the whole lemons lend the cake an incredibly soft texture and a moistness that is hard to beat. But the best has yet to come … the icing on the cake (quite literally) is a mascarpone/lemon frosting. It is so unbelievably good, you’ll be lucky if there’s any left to put on the cake!

Whole lemon cakeWhole lemon cake

Citrus kicks

If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool lemon drizzle lover and the mascarpone frosting doesn’t quite satisfy your citrus needs, you can always pour a lemony drizzle over the top (also provided in recipe below).

Whole lemon cakeWhole lemon cakeWhole lemon cake

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy

Although there are a quite a few steps to this recipe – particularly with the icing and the crystallised blossoms or candied lemon zest – it really is worth the effort. In terms of the level of difficulty, it’s not actually all that hard. I recently gave the recipe to a friend who doesn’t bake at all. She was throwing a party and badly wanted to make a cake herself, rather than buy one. She was so nervous beforehand, but it turned out really well and everyone loved it … and they all begged her for the recipe, too! I honestly have yet to meet someone who doesn’t get hooked after the first mouthful. One added bonus is that it keeps really well in the fridge for a few days – should it last that long, that is.

Now to be fair, this recipe is not my own. I wish I could claim it as such, but alas, no. This is a Mary Berry cake. And if you know Mary Berry, you’ll know that her cakes never fail. So don’t let the length of the recipe put you off – try it out and see for yourself! Your friends will thank you!

Whole lemon cakeWhole lemon cake

Primroses and promises

I know that, in my last post, I promised my next recipe would be my circular soda breads, but then spring came to Switzerland and the fresh primroses in our garden beckoned. I just couldn’t resist their call and thought they’d look super pretty – crystallised – on top of the cake. Normally, I decorate with candied lemon zest, but the primroses add a real of touch of spring, don’t you think? (And yes, they are edible!)


Whole lemon cake with mascarpone frosting & crystallised primroses

Adapted from: Mary Berry
Serves: 12 slices
Preparation time: 1 hour (and 24 hours if crystallising)
Cooking time: 1 hour
Oven temperature: 180°C (160°C fan)
Baking tin: Two 20 cm round sponge tins (greased and lined)


  • Decoration 1 (optional)
  • 10-15 primroses
  • 1 egg white
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • Decoration 2 (optional)
  • 1 organic lemon
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • Sponge
  • 2 organic lemons (thin-skinned if possible)
  • 275 g softened butter (room temperature or softer, but not melted)
  • 275 g sugar
  • 275 g self-raising flour (see note below on substituting with plain flour)
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 medium to large eggs
  • Frosting
  • 50 g softened butter
  • 175 g icing sugar
  • 250g mascarpone (room temperature)
  • Drizzle (optional)
  • 175 g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (from the lemon used to make the candied zest)


– Start with the decoration, as it needs a long time to dry. It should ideally be done the day before it’s needed, or at the very least, several hours beforehand.
– For the primroses (decoration 1), pick the blossoms immediately before you start. If they are picked too early, they will wilt. Whisk the egg white very lightly, just enough to break up the albumen. And have the sugar ready in a bowl. Using a fine brush (pastry brush or paintbrush), gently coat each petal of each blossom with egg white. Don’t forget the underneath part. Gently lay the blossom into the sugar and sprinkle all sides with sugar then place it face down on some baking paper to dry.
– For the lemon peel (decoration 2), take a zester and peel long strips of lemon rind. Alternatively, use a vegetable peeler to peel strips and then cut these into fine strips. Place the peel in a saucepan and cover with a little boiling water and half of the sugar (25 g) and boil for one minute. Remove the peel and pat dry on some kitchen paper. Sprinkle over the remaining sugar (25 g) and toss to coat the lot. Then spread out on baking paper and leave to dry overnight. If you’re in a hurry, dry in the oven for 30 minutes (110°C).
– For the sponge cake, wash the two lemons, place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Remove the lemons and gently cut in half and remove any pips. Be careful to keep as much of the pulp as possible.
– Preheat the oven to 180°C (or 160°C fan).
– Blitz the whole lemons in a food processor until you have a pulp. It shouldn’t be completely smooth.
– Remove the lemon pulp and set aside. Still using the food processor, add all the remaining ingredients (butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs) and blend until smooth. (If using a hand mixer, you can either put everything into a bowl and mix all at once or start by mixing the butter, eggs and sugar and then folding in the flour and baking powder.)
– Now stir in just over half of the lemon pulp into the cake mix. (The remainder will be used for the filling.)
– Divide between two 20 cm tins (which have been greased and lined in the base with baking paper) and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
– Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then turn them out on a wire rack, peel off the baking paper and leave to cool fully.
– For the icing, blend the butter and icing sugar, then add the mascarpone. Be careful not to overmix, as the mascarpone will separate. Finally, stir in the remaining lemon pulp.
– Now cut both cakes in half so that you essentially have four layers. If you’ll be using the lemon drizzle, then split the mascarpone frosting three ways and spread it on the three inner layers, then stack them on top of each other. If you’d rather have the mascarpone frosting on the top instead of the drizzle, divide the filling four ways, i.e. between the three inner layers and the top of the cake.
– Finally, for the drizzle (if using), mix the icing sugar with enough lemon juice until you have a thick pouring consistency. Pour over the top of the cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides too.
– Now decorate with the primroses and/or the candied lemon zest.


– If you don’t have self-raising flour, you can use plain flour and add extra baking powder. For this recipe, you’ll need 1.5 level teaspoons more of baking powder (i.e. a total of 3.5 level teaspoons). My formula is 1 level teaspoon to 115 g (or 4 oz) of plain flour.


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