Cook the Book: Lemon Layer Cake with Campari Frosting

Cook the Book: Lemon Layer Cake with Campari Frosting

[Photo: Caroline Russock]

Out of all of the incredible desserts in The Boozy Baker by Lucy Baker the one that I was most looking forward to trying was this Lemon Layer Cake with Campari Frosting. I love limoncello, and seems like a ingredient that should be used in baking projects way more often than it is. And Campari and soda is one of my favorite drinks, especially in the summer months. I was curious to see how its somewhat bitter and herbaceous flavors would lend themselves to a dessert. Incorporating these two Italian favorites into a pink frosted layer cake seemed like they might just be the best summer dessert ever.

The lemon cake layers turned out beautifully, moist and bright with lots of lemon flavor from the limoncello, lemon juice, and lemon zest. And honestly, this is a cake that could stand on its own, maybe with a few fresh berries and whipped cream. But the Campari frosting was the part of this recipe that I was really excited about.

The frosting is a buttercream flavored with limoncello for sweetness, and Campari for a pink hue—and just the slightest bitter, almost grapefruit element. While mixing up the frosting I found that it was just a hint less pink than I would have liked so I added another few spoonfuls of Campari and a bit of extra confectioners' sugar to get the consistency and color just right. I iced the cake, cooled it slightly in the fridge, and then sliced into it to see how the flavors of the Campari and limoncello would come through.

The sweetness and lemon were there immediately, but there were also strong notes of that very particular limoncello flavor. The Campari was not only evident, but an incredibly delicious addition to the perfect pink buttercream. The cake was filled with unusual and intriguing flavors that are not often found in baked goods. It was a huge success and an invitation to start baking with the more bitter Italian spirits that I already have a strong affinity for.

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  • Yield:one 8-inch layer cake, about 12 servings


  • For the cake:
  • 11/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 11/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons limoncello
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • For the buttercream frosting:
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 to 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons limoncello
  • 1 tablespoon Campari


  1. 1.

    To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans or spray them with nonstick spray. Line the bottoms with parchment paper. Dust the pans with flour and tap out the excess.

  2. 2.

    In a medium bowl whisk the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

  3. 3.

    In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

  4. 4.

    Alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour, and beating well after each addition. Add the limoncello, lemon juice, and lemon zest and beat just until incorporated.

  5. 5.

    Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 30 minutes, until the cakes are puffed and set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes for 10 minutes in the pans, the remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

  6. 6.

    To make the Campari buttercream, beat the butter and 2 cups of confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the milk, limoncello, and Campari. Gradually beat in 1 to 2 more cups of confectioners sugar until the buttercream is thick and creamy.

  7. 7.

    Place one cake layer on a plate and spread with half of the buttercream. Top with the remaining cake layer and spread with the remaining buttercream.

  8. 8.

    Note: Substitute cherry liqueur, such as kirsh, for the Campari and add a drop or two of red food coloring to the frosting.