Birthday Caketivities: Lemon-Mint Cake with Lemon Syrup

July 27, 2011

As it happens, I spend an exorbitant amount of my time thinking about cake. While it’s not surprising, it’s a little embarrassing to say, when talking to people who are not sweet/cake/baking-obsessed, that I spend at least a portion of everyday thinking about cake. These kinds of things cease to be embarrassing, however, when you have a legitimate excuse. It was my birthday last Wednesday, making it totally reasonable for me to think about cake for, oh, the better part of June and July. Totally reasonable, I assure you.

 When I started thinking about my birthday cake in June, I had great aspirations. I’m going to make a super duper tall layer cake! It’s going to somehow contain everything I love, hazelnuts, chocolate, strawberries, buttercream, jam, like some sort of Mary Poppins magical bag. Except a cake. I researched cakes up and down, finding really awesome recipes, like this one and this one.

Time comes for me to bake a cake and, guess what, it’s over a hundred degrees outside. Anyone living in the continental US, and especially in the Northeast, knows how it was. In Boston we’re just not prepared for that kind of heat, mentally, emotionally, or physically. The thought of eating chocolate cake made me wince, as I was sitting in my kitchen beading sweat (a beautiful image, I know). What’s a birthday girl to do? She needs a cake! I remembered my roommate’s herb garden and wanted to somehow incorporate mint leaves, maybe chocolate? I was dead-set on chocolate until finding lemon-mint cake with lemon syrup.

As soon as I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew it was the one. Making it was a funny thing, to me, because the mint leaves made the batter, before adding whipped egg whites, look like quiche filling. I giggled, asking myself “cake or quiche” over and over, until successfully killing the joke. I wanted to whip the whites by hand, even though it was sauna-hot in my kitchen, so ended up doing that and taking forever, but spend the time listening to my favorite music and singing for my roommates. My kitchen shenanigans continue until the very last step, making the syrup, where I pretended to be Chef. Making this cake was so much fun that I forgot the heat. It ended up being a perfect birthday-cake experience, making the cake in a leisurely and ridiculous manner, then eating the cake with my friends- who are the bestest and funniest and most wonderful people you can imagine. Happy Birthday to me!

Lemon-Mint Cake with Lemon Syrup

(Recipe adapted from Giada de Laurentiis at the Food Network)

Yields one 8 inch or 9 inch round cake, enough for 8 to 10 people

Notes: I zested and juiced 4 lemons, ending up with just a tad more juice and zest than the recipe desires. I added the teaspoon or so of extra zest to cake batter and the extra tablespoon lemon juice to syrup, and everything seems to have worked out!

For the Cake


3 eggs, separated

1 cup granulated sugar, divided in half

¼ cup vegetable or canola oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

Scant ¼ cup chopped mint leaves (8 mint sprigs)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 cup all-purpose flour


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare an 8 inch or 9 inch round pan by buttering and flouring bottom and sides.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Add one half cup of the divided sugar and beat until stiff peaks.

3. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together oil, remaining one half cup of sugar, and salt. Add egg yolks one at a time, then chopped mint, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Fold in flour until just combined.

4. Add one half egg white mixture to flour mixture and stir just to loosen batter. Gently fold in the remaining half of egg white mixture until combined.

5. Evenly pour batter into prepared cake pan. If using an 8 inch round pan, bake cake 40 to 45 minutes, and if using a 9 inch round pan, bake 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

6. Let cake cool to room temperature before slicing.

Cake will keep, covered in plastic wrap at room temperature, up to 3 days.

For the Lemon Syrup


1 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup lemon juice


1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves.

2. Remove syrup from heat and cool at least 20 minutes before serving.

3. If desired, strain zest from syrup before serving.

Syrup will store, refrigerated in an airtight container, up to a week.

2 Responses to “Birthday Caketivities: Lemon-Mint Cake with Lemon Syrup”

  1. alyssa Says:

    I had some of this particular birthday cake and can attest that it was, in fact, heavenly. Lemon cake is one of my absolute favorites, but I’m used to lemon pound cake, and this was completely different. Moist, but also really light, and did you forget to mention the crust that forms? It’s really subtle, but totally adds contrast and deliciousness. If we hadn’t already gorged ourselves on pizza I would have had like 5 pieces.

  2. M Says:

    Don’t forget the aroma! This cake smelled delightful. I can’t speak to any other aspect, as I was too full of pizza and bourbonade to try a slice. But it looked and smelled fabulous. All in all, a great night.

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