How to Make: Lemon Syrup Cake (With Homemade Strawberry Jam)

I dreamt about this cake. Away I floated on bountiful rivers of honey-like lemon syrup, encountering the occasional patch of fresh strawberries. My vessel was crafted out of fluffy vanilla cake, with caramelized edges soaking in the golden lemon syrup. I sailed down a waterfall symphony of tart and sweet, each bite a crescendo of perfectly smooth buttercream and moist, flavorful cake.

This cake is no longer a dream…it’s your reality. With about four lemons and about a pound of fresh strawberries, you too can join me on a relaxing sail down the lemon syrup river. Whether you’d like to call this cake what I’ve named it, or call it a ‘strawberry lemonade cake’, as my four year old niece so affectionately did, I promise you, it’d wildly delicious.

While you probably wouldn’t know if I didn’t tell you, the slices of cake in the picture below are about eight inches long…while that is more of an opportunity than a problem for some, feel free to bake this cake in 3, eight inch pans instead of the 4, six inch pans that I’ve recommended. There’s no need to adjust the bake time and you can follow the recipe as written.

The viscous, caramelized lemon syrup is quite potent, and can also be used for mixing into teas or glazes, or drizzling atop pancakes, ricotta toast or freshly made biscuits. If you wanted, you could add some honey to tone down the tartness. Please let me know how you used the lemon syrup in the comments below!


  1. Why do I need cake flour? — You don’t need cake flour here, you want cake flour. While all purpose flour will certainly do the trick, cake flour helps create that delicate fluffy cloud-like texture that we are looking for. If you don’t have cake flour on hand, simply measure out the 3 cups of AP flour, remove 6 tablespoons of the flour, and then add in 6 tablespoons of cornstarch to replace the flour you removed. Make sense? Please ask me any questions in the comments down below.
  2. Do I have to make my own strawberry jam? — While I won’t force you to make your own strawberry jam, I might not wave to you when you float past me down the golden river of sumptuous lemon syrup…joking of course. You can substitute with store bought strawberry (or raspberry!) jam here, just make sure that it is high quality and tastes good on its own.
  3. How did you put the cake together? — Sometimes, I make very detailed, straight-edged, military grade cakes that have not one imperfection, like this one. Other times, I ere on the side of Milkbar’s Christina Tosi, throw caution to the wind, and focus solely on the flavor and texture of the cake. This is a naked cake, which means that the caramelized edges are still showing and most of the icing is found between the layers and on top of the cake. The only decorating equipment that I used to make this cake was a lazy susan cake turntable and an offset spatula, both available on Amazon. You can also find the 6 inch cake pans that I use, here.
  4. I don’t have any buttermilk — Okay, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I very rarely actually venture out to the store and buy buttermilk…I don’t use it as much as I wish I did and its super easy to make on the fly. Simply combine 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar (white or apple cider), with 1 cup of whole milk, stir, and let it sit for a few minutes. Voila! You’ve just made buttermilk.

Lemon Syrup cake (With Strawberry Jam)

By: Scott Smith

“Rivers of honey-like lemon syrup…fresh strawberry jam…fluffy vanilla cake…a springtime dream… — S”

Makes: 1 Four Layer 6" Cake

Prep Time: 45 Min

Bake Time: 20 to 25 Min

Ready In: 1 Hour 15 Minutes

Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 2 cups white sugar (14.3 oz)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (8 oz)
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted (17.1 oz)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Ingredients (for the lemon syrup)

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (4 oz — about 4 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup white sugar (4 oz)
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest (about 2 lemons)

Ingredients (for the strawberry jam buttercream)

  • 15 oz fresh strawberries, stems removed and cut in half
  • 4 oz white sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar (540 grams)
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened (12 oz)
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt

Make the cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 350℉ (175℃). Grease four — 6' cake pans with butter or nonstick spray. (You can also use a round of parchment paper)
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream butter and sugar on medium high for 5 minutes. Add lemon zest and vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. On low speed, add the eggs one by one until combined, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium sized bowl, set aside.
  5. Using a spoon and with your mixer on low speed, begin adding the dry mixture to your mixing bowl. Allow the batter to mix for a bit between additions. Alternate additions of the flour mixture with the buttermilk. When all of the flour mixture and buttermilk have been added, scrape down the bowl and give it one last mix.
  6. Divide the cake batter evenly between the four greased cake pans and use an offset spatula to smooth the batter out.
  7. Gently tap the cake pans on the counter (bench) to remove any air bubbles, and transfer them to your preheated oven.
  8. Bake the cakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes before inverting them on to a sheet pan or cooling rack.

Make the lemon syrup

  1. Combine the lemon juice and white sugar in a small saucepot. Stirring occasionally, cook the syrup on medium high for 15 minutes, or until it is about the consistency of honey. When the syrup is done, stir in the lemon zest and set aside or pour into a small jar.

Make the strawberry jam buttercream and assemble the cake

  1. Add the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice to a medium sized saucepot.
  2. Using a wooden spoon to crush the strawberries, cook the jam on medium high heat until all of the sugar has dissolved. Continue cooking until the strawberries are soft and the jam sticks to the back of the wooden spoon. (about 15 minutes)
  3. After the 15 minutes have passed, use a fork to thoroughly mix the corn starch and cold water. Pour the corn starch slurry into the strawberry jam and stir briskly to combine. Remove the pot from the heat, add the pinch of salt, and set aside to cool.
  4. On high speed, beat the softened butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer for 5 minutes. Take care not to send powdered sugar everywhere by turning the mixer speed too high, too fast.
  5. Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract and salt to the bowl of the stand mixer and beat to combine. Scrape down the bowl.
  6. Add 2/3 cup of the cooled strawberry jam to the buttercream. Beat to combine. The finished buttercream should be a pretty blush pink with flecks of strawberry.
  7. Use a fork to poke shallow holes in one side of each cake round. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of the lemon syrup over each round of cake. Frost the cake by adding about a cup or more of the strawberry buttercream between each layer, and smoothing it out. When you have stacked all of the layers, add the remaining frosting to the top and sides of the cake. Decorate the cake with fresh strawberries, edible flowers, and the leftover strawberry jam!

You can find @thymeforbreakfast on Instagram!

Disclosure: Some of the links above may be affiliate links. These are links directly to products I love and use on a daily basis. Affiliate links help to support Thyme for Breakfast with a small monetary commission, without any added cost on your end. Please email if you have any questions.