Cakes, Icing

Lemon and Gin Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream and Ganache

Now I understand that not everyone likes or drinks Gin, but please don’t make the mistake of thinking that you could actually drink this cake or end up with a mouth full of strong alcohol flavour. This is one of the best cake batters I have come across and I’ve tried a few! If you’re not partial to the gin and lemon syrup, leave it out by all means and enjoy this as a plain vanilla cake. I have, but for my 40th party recently, I decided to go the whole way and the end result was moist, dense and melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

I used 2 x 22cm diameter round cake tins and the cake was still fairly tall, however the recipe calls for 2 x 20cm diameter round cake tins. Previously I’d used the 2ocm diameter tins and it had beautiful height so you decide which is your favourite size. The batter is made using the traditional method of creaming the butter and sugar together, but adding lemon zest at this point makes it a little more special. If you opt for the vanilla option, leave out the lemon zest*. I allowed the ganache to cool a bit too much so it didn’t go on 100% smooth as it was setting as I was spreading it, but if the ganache is still too warm, it may melt the buttercream underneath and things can only get worse from there so be prepared to work quickly. Now I hear some of you asking the question: why use buttercream and ganache? I do it this way as unless you have cut the two cake rounds to meet and fit exactly, there are sometimes a few holes, gaps or dents that the buttercream fills up. You can then smooth it out beautifully, creating a perfectly smooth canvas for the ganache, but as you can see, the top of my cake was perfect, but the sides didn’t go on as easily. I was still pleased with the end result though and I don’t think any of the guests minded too much…there was nothing left by midnight when the last guest went home.

Gin and Lemon cake with White Chocolate Ganache


375 g butter, softened
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest*
3 eggs, room temperature
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
275 ml milk, warmed for 10 seconds

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease the bases and sides of two 20 cm or 22 cm baking tins and coat in flour or line the bottoms with two baking paper cut outs. Both methods of greasing and line work for me, just depends on personal preference really.
  2. Place softened (but not melted!) butter, sugar and lemon zest* in a bowl and beat for 4 – 5 minutes until the mixture is pale and thick. Add eggs, one by one, beating well between each addition.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add alternately with the milk to the creamed mixture.
  4. Pour the mixture, once all combined, into the prepared pans, smoothing the tops. Bake the cakes for 45 – 55 minutes until a skewer/tester comes out clean.
  5. Allow to cool on a wire rack or follow instructions if adding Lemon and Gin syrup.
  6. Trim tops of cakes if necessary (you don’t want any peaks when trying to layer them up) so the top is flat. Ice the centre, top and sides with the butter cream.
  7. You can just leave it like that or prepare and add the White Chocolate Ganache as well.

Lemon and Gin Syrup:
½ cup sugar
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup gin

  1. Place sugar and lemon juice into a small pan. Bring slowly to the boil and continue to boil for 1 minute.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the gin.
  3. As soon as the cakes are removed from the oven, poke lots of holes in the tops with a skewer. Spoon ALL of the syrup over the tops slowly and leave the cakes in the pans to absorb the syrup.
  4. If you taste it immediately, it is likely you’ll breathe alcohol fumes all over everyone, but once it has settled and stood for a while and the icing and ganache is in place, you won’t be able to identify the gin.

White Chocolate Buttercream:
125 g butter, softened
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
¼ cup milk
200 g white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

  1. Cream the butter until it is very pale, about 5 minutes.
  2. On a low speed, add the sifted icing sugar alternately with the milk.
  3. Continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Finally, beat in the melted chocolate.
  5. Use buttercream as soon as possible as it will become firm but note that the cake MUST be cool before adding the icing or it will melt so time the making of this buttercream carefully.
  6. Once the cake is iced and beautifully smooth, creating a perfect canvas for the ganache, you can cool/store it in the fridge to set the icing further if you like.

White Chocolate Ganache:
375 g white chocolate chips/melts
150 ml cream

  1. Roughly chop the chocolate and place it in a heat proof bowl.
  2. Heat the cream in a small pan until bubbles start to appear around the edges.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir gently with a whisk until thoroughly combined.
  4. Sieve if preferred to remove any lumps and set aside until thick but still of a pouring consistency – you don’t want to smear it on the cake.
  5. Pour it over the cake and spread quickly down the sides.

Tip: to prevent a big chocolatey gooey mess, you can do this on a wire rack over a tray so the chocolate flows into the tray and can be used again, but you may have a problem trying to move the cake once the ganache has set as you don’t want to get fingermarks on it. Alternatively, tear 4 strips of baking paper and place them on the serving plate, slightly overlapping with the cake in the centre. Pour the ganache over the top and work quickly to spread it. Once set, cut a clean edge/line around the bottom and gently pull the baking paper away from the cake, leaving a beautiful clean serving plate behind.


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