This Lemon Elderflower Cake is my copycat version of the royal wedding cake! Elderflower infused lemon cake layers with lemon curd and elderflower buttercream.
I am so excited to share this cake with you today, as it’s my version of Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake. This Lemon Elderflower Cake was heavily inspired by Claire Ptak at Violet Cakes in London, who made the actual royal wedding cake for the couple.
I found out about the flavors shortly before the wedding, and was inspired to create my own version of it. Any excuse to make a cake and try something different, right??
The cake consists of lemon infused cake layers, an elderflower syrup, lemon curd, and an elderflower Swiss meringue buttercream.
Maybe I’m living under a rock (likely) but I actually hadn’t heard of elderflower until recently. I was actually shocked to find elderflower cordial in the first grocery store I checked. Usually I’m traipsing all over the city and back to find certain ingredients, only to give up and order them online, so to see it right there on the grocery store shelf was nothing short of a miracle.
Elderflower cordial is very floral, with an almost citrusy aftertaste. It goes really well with lemon, and is just perfect for the spring/summer season.
For the lemon cake, I used the same recipe I used for my Lemon Blueberry Cake, but scaled it up for slightly thicker layers. For the lemon curd, I modified a recipe we used in pastry school (it’s SO good omg). Be sure to check out my tutorial for How to Make Lemon Curd. Those went off without a hitch, but I made a couple of mistakes working with the elderflower cordial.
Initially, I made an elderflower syrup by bringing 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar to a boil before stirring 2 Tbsp of elderflower cordial into it. This tasted delicious, but once used on the cake, the elderflower was overpowered by the lemon flavors. The cordial itself is actually already a syrup (since you’d need to dilute it to use in drinks, etc.) so I should have just used it straight up. You can choose to do it either way though.
Speaking of drinks.. as I was working on this Lemon Elderflower Cake, I found out there’s actually an elderflower liqueur too! What to do?! You know I love to booze up my cakes here and there, so I was so tempted to try this instead. A quick Google search led me to a $50 price tag though… yikes.
Nevertheless, I set out to find it. I didn’t really try that hard though: I checked one liquor store and they didn’t have it, so I decided to move on. I already had the cordial, and I didn’t need to spend money on liqueur that will literally just sit in the cabinet after (I pretty much only use it for baking).
The second issue I had with the elderflower is that, in typical Olivia fashion, I forgot to put it in the buttercream!! Thankfully, I realized this after the crumb coat, so I added it in then. There’s lemon curd between the layers instead of buttercream, so it wasn’t too bad, but STILL. I need to be more organized. I always write down the recipe, but never actually refer to it while making the frosting!
How much elderflower you add to the buttercream is really to your taste. I found it to be quite subtle, but some can find it overpowering. However much you add, be sure to do it slowly (1 Tbsp at a time) and stop if it feels like you’re affecting the texture of the buttercream. I’ve been able to add up to 1/4 cup of liquid to buttercream without affecting it, but just something to be aware of.
I waited until after the wedding to make the cake, as I wanted to see how it was decorated so I could emulate that as much as possible.
There’s a lot of mixed feelings out there about the cake, but I think it looks beautiful. I love the rustic elegance to it — the juxtaposition of the ornate gold stands with the rustic flowers and frosting.
Decorating this cake was fairly simple. It was SUCH a relief to not have to worry about perfectly smooth frosting and sharp edges. It really was one of the easier cake frosting techniques I’ve tried. To be fair though, it’s possible I totally lucked out and it just worked on the first go around. I am super pleased with the results.
I was also lucky enough to find peonies in the exact color I was looking for. In the first flower shop I went into!! High fives all around. I ended up spending $60 on peonies though, which is sort of ridiculous. Good thing I passed on the liqueur!
Overall, this Lemon Elderflower Cake turned out better than I expected, both in flavor and aesthetic. It was easy to decorate, and I think it looks stunning. I can see why Harry and Meghan chose this style and flavor combo for their special day.
Looking for more Lemon Desserts?
- Lemon Blueberry Cake
- Lemon Cake
- Mini Meyer Lemon Loaves
- Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake
- Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake
Tips for making this Lemon Cake with Elderflower:
- I recommend not diluting the elderflower cordial for the cake layers too much (or at all), or you’ll lose the flavor.
- The amount of cordial you use in the buttercream is up to you. Only add it 1 Tbsp at a time though, and add to taste.
- If you’d like to use St. Germain instead of the elderflower cordial, I recommend making a simple syrup and adding the liqueur to that:
- Bring 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar to a boil, simmer 1 min. Remove from heat and add in 2Tbsp of St. Germain. Cool completely.
- Be sure to check out my tutorial for How to Make Lemon Curd
- Be careful about putting too much lemon curd in between the layers. This can make the cake more unstable.
- Regardless of the amount of lemon curd, you must do a dam of frosting around the perimeter of each layer to hold in the curd. This is not optional!
- You will have some curd left over which you can freeze if you like or use in another dessert.
- The buttercream recipe makes enough to fully frost the cake (if you weren’t using curd). You can freeze this as well if you have extra or just reduce the recipe slightly.
- If you use fresh (non-edible) flowers like I did, be sure to protect them from the cake (I used floral tape around the stems).
- Be sure to check my Swiss Meringue Buttercream post for tips and troubleshooting.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, check out my Flat Top Cakes post!
Lemon Elderflower Cake (Copycat Royal Wedding Cake)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest from one large lemon
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2/3 cup milk room temperature
- 1/3 cup lemon juice fresh squeezed, from one medium lemon
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup lemon juice fresh squeezed, from one large lemon
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest from one large lemon
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter cubed
Elderflower Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- 6 large egg whites
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 2-4 Tbsp elderflower cordial to taste
- elderflower cordial/syrup
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 8″ cake rounds and line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and lemon zest until smooth. Add sugar and beat on med-high until pale and fluffy (approx 3mins).
- Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Alternate adding flour mixture with milk & lemon juice, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk & lemon juice). Fully incorporating after each addition.
- Spread batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops.
- Bake for approx. 35mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely
- Place eggs and sugar into a small pot, whisk to combine. Add lemon juice, zest, and butter. Cook over medium-low heat whisking constantly until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
- Transfer to a glass bowl and lay plastic wrap directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for 3 hours to set. Makes 2 cups.
Elderflower Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.*
- Place bowl over a pot with 1-2″ of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot and no longer grainy to the touch or reads 160F on a candy thermometer (approx. 3mins)
- Place bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approx. 5-10mins)).
- Switch to paddle attachment. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth.**
- Add 2-4 Tbsp elderflower cordial (to taste) one Tbsp at a time whip until smooth.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Poke holes into the cake using a bamboo skewer. Brush with elderflower cordial.***
- Spread a thin layer of buttercream on top of the layer and pipe a border around the outside to hold the lemon curd in. Fill with approx 3/4 cup of lemon curd. Repeat with next layer.
- Place final layer on top and do a thin crumb coat on the cake. Chill for 20mins.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake with remaining frosting in a rustic manner. I started by spreading a generous amount of buttercream on the top and letting it overhang on the sides. Then I used a flat spatula to add buttercream to the sides of the cake and to smooth the which created a top lip with the overlapping buttercream.
- Top with fresh peonies if desired, but be sure to wrap the stems in floral tape.
** The buttercream may look like it’s curdled at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth.
*** You can dilute the cordial if you like, by adding it to some simple syrup.
Julie Denly says
Hi. Could you please tell me the size of the tins required if you x2 or x3 the recipie. Also how do you store the cake and for how long? I am thinking of making it for my daughters wedding. Thank you.
Hi Julie! Converting pan sizes is always tricky. Here are some sites I use as a guideline:
As for storage – you can double-wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap and freeze for up to three months. The fully frosted cake can also be frozen but I recommend storing it in sometihng airtight.
Liz T. says
I love your cake stand, with a ceramic plate and a wooden stand. May I please ask where you got it? I tried finding it, but I have not been successful. Will you let me know please? I also wanted to mention that I cannot wait to try your Elderflower Cake, and I am just ordering the Elderflower syrup from Amazon. Your cake looks amazing! Thank you.
Hi Liz! I actually found it at Homesense years ago. Crate and Barrel has a similar one: https://www.crateandbarrel.ca/wood-marble-pedestal-cake-stand/s144760 I hope you love this cake recipe. Please let me know how it turns out 🙂
Hi, I am wanting to make this for my daughters wedding in March. Can I pre make the cakes and freeze them as we have to travel, then Thor and ice on the day before wedding?
Hi Judy! Yes, that will be fine. Double wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze for up to three months.
Emily Goetz says
Can i use elderflower liqueur instead of the cordial?
Hi Emily! Yes, I talk about that in the post.
Julie white says
I have made this cake twice now in practice for the wedding .
Can you tell me I can freeze the cake before I ice it
Hi Julie! Yes, you can freeze the cakes (properly wrapped) for up to three months.
Could this be made and assembled fully the day before a wedding?
Hi Alison! Yes, that will be fine. Be sure to refrigerate and take out 2-3 hours before serving.
I just made this recipe as cupcakes! I used the paper baking cups and when they were cool, I removed them and split them (like mini cake layers) then reassembled them in the cups with the lemon curd and frosting in the middle.
They were fabulous and a huge hit with my guests! I wasn’t sure how long it would take for the cupcakes to bake so I started with 15 minutes, but it actually took 25. This is the third of your recipes I have used and they have all been completely amazing! I am not good with decorating, but I have gotten much better following your instructions.
Hi Angela! Thanks so much, I’m so happy you loved it. And thanks for your cupcake tips! 🙂
Hi Angela, how many cupcakes did you get out of this recipe?
Hi James! The recipe will make at least 24 depending on size.
Hello! How would you advise to convert this to a 10inch cake??
Hi Deborah! Converting pan sizes is always tricky. Here are some sites I use as a guideline:
Based on that I would 1.5x the recipe for a three layer 10″ cake.
I think the Swiss meringue buttercream ratios are off. I made it as per the directions and it was terribly buttery. Left a film of butter on your lips. Looked up other recipes that had the same amount of eggs/sugar but half the butter. Happily I made a test-run of this cake before using it for a real wedding cake.
Hi Melanie! Sorry to hear you didn’t love the buttercream. The ratios are not off and are required for such a large cake. There are a couple reasons the frosting could have tasted too buttery though. I talk about that here: https://livforcake.com/swiss-meringue-buttercream-recipe/
I agree. 3 cups of butter is a heck of a lot. I checked Olivia’s link to her Swiss buttercream recipe. In that recipe she calls for 6 eggs, 2 cups sugar, and 2 cups butter—not the 3 cups that she calls for in this recipe. I’ve also seen a number of other SBC recipes that only call for 2 cups of butter and so that’s what I used when I tried this cake recipe. If you already know how to make SBC, just follow your own recipe and add elderflower.
Hi Eileen! 3 cups of butter to 6 whites and 2 cups of sugar is the standard recipe that we learned in Pastry school. It makes a lot of buttercream though which is why I reduced it to 2 cups in my SMBC tutorial recipe. 2 cups is enough for most two-layer 8″ cakes. This cake is larger so if you only use 2 cups you won’t have enough buttercream to fill and frost.
I’ve tried several of your cake recipes and they are all delicious! I’m looking forward to trying the Lemon Elderflower cake for an upcoming wedding. Although I love Swiss Meringue Buttercream, I am concerned the SMB will not be stable in the heat. What kind of buttercream is the most stable for a summer outdoor wedding? Should I use crisco instead of butter? Thank you for your guidance. Laurie
Hi Laurie! Honestly most buttercreams do not do well in summer heat. You’d definitely have the best luck with crisco but I’ve never used it in a swiss buttercream and worry it wouldn’t work properly. You could stick with an American buttercream made with crisco. That is the safest bet, but not the most delicious. How long will the cake be outside? Hopefully out of direct sun? You could always freeze the whole thing first to help it last longer outdoors but that could cause it to sweat from the temperature change.
Thank you for your reply. My thoughts as well re buttercream and summer weather. I think I will follow your recipe and hope for the best 🤞
I’ve tried several of your cake recipes and all are delicious.
Thank you!! Another option is a mix of SMBC and American buttercream for something a little more stable. Let me know how it turns out! 🙂
Love it!! Please tell me where the beautiful cake stand is from!!
Thanks Sandra! I got it at Homesense 🙂
I made the cake layers exactly as specified, and even weighed the flour. It was too hard and dense, and not good. Brushing on the elderflower syrup did help a little. I thought at the beginning that the syrup would be too strong a flavor, but it isn’t.
After the cake layers were so bad, I didn’t try the filling or frosting.
Hi Beth! Sorry to hear the cake layers didn’t turn out. My cakes tend to be more on the dense side rather than light and fluffy, but it shouldn’t be that dense. Overly dense cakes can be from overmixing the cake batter once the flour is added (it develops too much gluten) or not using room temperature ingredients so the cake batter doesn’t emulsify properly.
Mine turned out dense and dry too. I did frost it but it wasn’t great. Perhaps my oven was too hot or I whipped the cake mixture too long. The cake was like a dense lemon cake you would serve with a dollop of cream, not frosting. It was very lemony and it was hard to taste any of the elderflower in the frosting even though I used 4tbsp of undiluted cordial. The frosting was great although I think I only used about 2 1/2 cups butter. It wasn’t terrible but could have been better.
Hi Dee78! Is it possible that too much flour was added? It’s best to spoon the flour into your measuring up and level it off. If you dip your scoop into your flour sometimes you get more than you need.