Marbled Lemon–Blueberry Butter Cake

Marbled Lemon–Blueberry Cake

Blueberries and lemon make a sublime pairing, and here the two are doubly matched. An easy, homemade blueberry preserve is flavored with both lemon juice and lemon zest, as well as a touch of ginger to enliven the mix. Then the preserve is used twice: swirled through a lemon-flavored butter cake batter, for a gorgeous lavender-and-yellow marbled cake, and used to fill the layers. Be sure to make the preserves before you begin the cake.

This luscious jam can be made up to 5 days in advance and refrigerated. If using frozen berries, measure them while frozen, then thaw completely in a bowl, saving any juices, before proceeding with the recipe.–Alisa Huntsman

Marbled Lemon–Blueberry Butter Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H, 40 M
  • 2 H
  • Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake
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  • For the lemon-blueberry preserve
  • 3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • For the lemon buttercream frosting
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • For the lemon cake
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 7 egg whites
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • Fresh blueberries, for decoration


  • Make the lemon-blueberry preserve
  • 1. Purée the blueberries, with any juices they have exuded, in a blender or food processor. Pass the purée through a coarse strainer or the medium disk of a food mill to remove the skins.
  • 2. In a heavy medium nonreactive saucepan, combine the blueberry purée with the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and ginger. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Continue cooking, stirring often, for 20 minutes, until the preserves have thickened and are reduced to 1 cup. To check for proper thickness, place 1 to 2 teaspoons on a small china or glass plate and put it in the freezer until cold. Drag your finger through the thickened purée: a clear path should remain. If it’s not ready, cook 5 minutes longer and repeat the test. Let the preserves cool, then cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
  • Make the lemon buttercream frosting
  • 3. In a small nonreactive saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil without stirring, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 238°F (114°C) on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat.
  • 4. In a large mixer bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs briefly. Slowly add the hot syrup in a thin stream, pouring it down the sides of the bowl; be careful to avoid hitting the beaters, or the syrup may splatter. When all the syrup has been added, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is very fluffy and cooled to body temperature. This can take 15 to 20 minutes.
  • 5. Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and gradually add the softened butter, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, beating well between additions. As you’re adding the last few tablespoons of butter, the frosting will appear to break, then suddenly come together like whipped butter. Beat in the lemon juice, and the frosting is ready for use.
  • Make the lemon cake
  • 6. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter the bottom and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
  • 7. In a mixer bowl, cream the butter, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon extract until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg whites, 2 or 3 at a time, beating well between additions and stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • 8. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk gently to blend. In 2 or 3 alternating additions, beat the dry ingredients and milk into the butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times. Beat on medium-high speed for about 1 minute to smooth out any lumps and aerate the batter.
  • 9. Scoop 1 cup of the batter into a small bowl. Divide the remainder equally among the 3 prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops with a rubber spatula. This gives you a “clean canvas” to work with. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of the Lemon-Blueberry Preserves to the reserved batter and blend well. Drizzle heaping teaspoons of this blueberry mixture over the batter in the pans. Using a skewer or paring knife, swirl the blueberry mixture in short strokes to drag it down through the lemon batter without mixing it in.
  • 10. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let the layers cool in their pans for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely, at least 1 hour.
  • Assemble the lemon-blueberry cake
  • 11. Place a cake layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread half of the Lemon-Blueberry Preserves over the top. Place a second layer on top of the first and spread the remaining preserves over it. Finally, place the third layer on top of the second and frost the sides and top of the cake with the Lemon Buttercream Frosting. Decorate with fresh blueberries.


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  1. I made this cake but my swirls were hardly visible. Also the frosting was like spreading a layer of butter. I used granulated sugar, should I have used powdered sugar for the butter frosting? Is an ingredient missing? I’m not sure what went wrong. Others seem to like this style of butter frosting but this was (never thought I’d say this as a negative, sigh) too buttery.

    1. Hi Susan, sorry the cake wasn’t to your liking. A few things: 1. Was the blueberry preserves the proper thickness? If it was too thin, it would bleed into the cake. Thick preserves would hold better. 2. The frosting. This is a classic Italian buttercream frosting, and it is indeed a buttery-type frosting. The Europeans love that. There’s no ingredient missing, and you were correct to use granulated sugar. The only thing I do differently in my kitchen with a frosting like this is to let it chill a bit before using. Or I use the butter cold, so it cools the sugar syrup.

      In the future if you make the cake again, and I hope you do, make sure the preserves are thick enough (or hey, use s high-quality jarred version) and decrease the amount of butter in the frosting, or use your favorite frosting. Something tells me a cream cheese frosting wouldn’t be out of line here. (But I’d eat cream cheese frosting out of the bowl….)

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