Summer Delights: Lemon Raspberry Cake

“I want it to taste like summer….”

I’m sure folks will understand when I say that certain items trigger memories for me. For example, whenever I see marbles at a store, visions of lying on my stomach in the dirt, shooting marbles with friends in the summertime immediately come to mind.  The smell of ginger always makes me think of my mother and all the wonderful gingery Korean foods she cooks. Hearing bells reminds me of the first time I went to a Christmas service at a church.

When it comes to food, I tend to have associations, too. For example, anything with lemons and berries conjures images of summer for me, and recently I wanted to make a cake for dessert which tasted like summer. By that, I meant a dessert which was light in both taste and texture, a cake which wouldn’t weigh heavily in the stomach after eating it on a hot day. A lemony cake with berries was the perfect choice.

I found a cake recipe online but, of course, it needed to be revamped to fit my allergy needs as well as needing to be altered to reduce all the sugar and fat.

The original recipe called for 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp of baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 1/4 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 4 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla, 1 cup buttermilk, and 1/3 cup lemon juice. I swapped in a whole grain gluten free flour blend for the flour; reduced the salt by 1/2, adding 1 tsp of lemon peel instead; cut the butter in half and used a vegan butter in its place; reduced the sweetener by 1/2 and substituted 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup truvia; used 1/4 egg whites plus 2 eggs instead of the original 4; and made my own “buttermilk” with 1 tbsp of lemon juice mixed with 1 cup of flax milk.

The result was a tasty, lemony cake which I just needed to “dress up”.

Raspberries are a wonderful complement to lemon, so I decided I would use Polaner’s Raspberry All-Fruit in the middle of the cake layers and put fresh raspberries on top. I just needed a frosting. Since I was feeling a bit lazy, as well as not wanting to wait, I didn’t want to take the time to make an ermine frosting which is the lightest frosting I know to make.  So, I opted to create an ermine-like frosting with store-bought items. I used Simple Mills vanilla frosting and mixed it with some tofu cream cheese and lemon juice, and I was delighted to discover that the texture was exactly like ermine frosting.

To complete the cake, I sprinkled chopped, fresh mint from my husband’s garden.  The cake was a hit.

Lemon Raspberry Cake

Cake Batter Ingredients:

3 cups favorite gluten free wholegrain flour blend

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp grated lemon peel

1/2 cup vegan butter

1/2 cup truvia

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup liquid egg white

2 eggs

1 cup flax milk mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice (to make “buttermilk”)

1/3 cup lemon juice

Frosting Ingredients:

10 oz tub of Simple Mills Frosting

4 oz Toffuti cream cheese

1 tbsp lemon juice

Additions Ingredients:

Polaner Raspberry All Fruit

Fresh raspberries

Fresh mint leaves

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line two 9 inch round pans with parchment paper.
  2. Combine together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon peel. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer, beat the vegan butter until smooth, scraping down from the sides as needed.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the truvia and honey until well blended.
  5. Add the egg whites and eggs, one at a time, until well blended.
  6. Alternate adding and mixing the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  7. Blend in the lemon juice.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the cakes are puffed and golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Let the cake layers cool in the pan on wire cooling racks.
  10. Make the frosting by mixing together the tub of frosting with the cream cheese and lemon juice until the frosting is light and airy.
  11. When the cake layers are cool enough, place one layer on your cake plate and frost it with a layer of the frosting.
  12. Using a spoon, drop small spoonfuls of the raspberry all fruit and carefully spread it over the frosting.
  13. Place the second cake layer on top of the all fruit layer, and use the remaining frosting to completely cover the sides and top of the cake.
  14. Arrange fresh raspberries on top of the cake, and chop and sprinkle the fresh mint leaves around the raspberries.

Recipe Revamping: Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

“What image represents me?”

If you have not had the experience yet of the college application process for a child in today’s world, you are bound to be surprised when you do. Unlike the applications of my day, students now are asked questions which, to me, seem a bit odd.

“What your favorite website is.” Presumably, colleges believe this is a window into a part of the students’ lives, an indication of what they enjoy, an inkling of where their time is spent…. Maybe?

“How did you spend your summer?” Another question probably designed to give insight but reminds me of those first week of school essays assigned in elementary school.

But my favorite: “If you had to pick an image that best represents who you are, what would it be?” As you can imagine, my daughter came downstairs from her room for that one.

“Mom, what image represents me?”

My wise, motherly response? “Huh?”

After she explained why she was asking and read the question in it’s entirety, my equally insightful, wonderful answer?  “Um. I’m not really sure, honey. Dance shoes since you’re a dancer? Books because you’re so studious? People since you are always serving others? That’s a tough question. Why don’t you go ask your father?”

At that moment, our son walked into the kitchen, so our daughter asked him, and his response? “I don’t know for you, but mama would be a ‘to-do’ list.”

Out of the mouth of babes, as they say….

I am famous for my to-do lists. Every project I work on, every task for the organizations I chair, every time we travel, every coordination email I send, every event I cater, every birthday party planned… literally everything I do is organized by a to-do list.

Part of it is my personality. I like structure and being organized. Some of it is the satisfaction of crossing off an item from the list and seeing your progress as the list gets smaller. Most of the reason, though, is that simply that I’m visual and if it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist as far as my brain is concerned, and I won’t remember to do it. (As you can imagine, this has become more of an issue the older I become!)

This week on my to-do list was to bake a poppy seed layer cake for a luncheon my husband and I had been invited to attend. As I rummaged through cook books and googled online recipes, I noticed that while a myriad of recipes existed, they all seemed to use a lot of butter, shortening, eggs, and/or cream cheese or sour cream, all of which are high in saturated fats and cholesterol which I wanted to avoid in addition to, of course, making the cake gluten, dairy, and nut free, so I, too, could enjoy it.

This meant rethinking a few things. So, the first thing I did was opt to make a lemon poppy seed cake, because the lemon would flavor everything and reduce the need for flavor from butter or cream cheese or sour cream. The second thing I did was choose to use egg whites instead of whole eggs. The third decision was to make a “buttermilk” out of soy milk and lemon juice to replace sour cream or cream cheese in the recipe and to cut the amount to 1/2 cup. The fourth change was to use olive oil in the cake with its good fats and a vegan olive oil butter for the frosting which had a little saturated fat but much less than butter and far more good fats. And as always, I did what I could to cut the use of sugar, confining it to just the frosting. The result was a delightfully light tasting cake which all enjoyed.

Frosted Lemon Poppy Seed Layer Cake


2 ½ cups your favorite Gluten Free Flour blend (I used King Arthur’s whole grain blend)

2 tsp gluten free baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

½ cup Truvia

1/2 cup poppy seeds

2/3 cup extra light olive oil

2/3 cup Agave

½ cup “buttermilk” (I used soy milk mixed with 1/2 tbsp lemon juice)

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (depending on size of lemons, you will need anywhere from 3 to 6 lemons; you really do want to use fresh lemons if at all possible for the best taste)

1/2 cup water

6 egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 9 inch round cake pans for use. (I just line the pans with parchment paper.)

2. Mix the flour with baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the truvia and poppy seeds. Set aside.

3. Mix oil, Agave, buttermilk, lemon juice and water. Set aside.

4. In a large mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar with the whisk attachment until thick, white peaks form when you lift the whisk.

5. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Combine well until the dry ingredients are completely moistened.  Batter will be thick.

6. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter, a little at at time, until all the egg whites are fully incorporated into the batter.

7. Evenly and equally spread batter into each of the three cake pans and bake for about 15 minutes until the cake layers are puffed, golden, and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. (Mine took 17 minutes.)

8. Cool on the cake layers in their pans until completely cool.

9. Frost the layers with the lemon frosting below, and store in the refrigerator until close to serving time. Let the cake come to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!

Lemon Frosting


1 cup sugar

8 tsp gluten free flour (I opted to use rice flour so the color would be white)

2 tbsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup lemon juice (use fresh lemons if you can; depending on the size of the lemons you will need about 2 to 4 lemons)

2/3 cup milk

1 cup vegan olive oil butter (I used the Earth Balance version)

1 tsp vanilla

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt in a pan. Whisk in the “milk” until smooth.
  2. Over low heat, stir constantly until the mixture begins to boil and thicken. Depending on how shallow your pan is, this will probably take about 4 to 8 minutes.
  3. Once the mixture is thick, pour the mixture into a shallow glass container to cool. I find that a glass pie pan works very well. It usually takes an hour or more to fully cool.
  4. Once the mixture is cool, in a mixer, beat the vegan butter until light and fluffy, and then scrape down the sides of the butter.
  5. Add the cooled mixture with the vanilla and beat the frosting on a low speed to incorporate the mixture into the butter. It will look a bit curdled. Scrape down the sides.
  6. Increase the speed and beat until the mixture looks like a light and fluffy frosting. Its texture and taste will be similar to a whipped cream frosting.
  7. Use the frosting to frost between the cake layers and the outside and top of the cake. (This made enough frosting to generously frost a three layer cake.)



Recipe Revamping: Lemon Bundt

“The world as best as I remember it….”

A musician named, Rich Mullins, released an album years ago titled, “The World As Best As I Remember It.” The songs in the album challenged folks to think about what they thought they knew, to consider how our current perceptions can affect memories and views of “history,” to understand that much is simply “as best as we remember it.”

Food memories are often “as best as we remember it” because the emotions around them can cloud or enhance what we remember. For example, when I was pregnant with my second child, I simply could not eat iceberg lettuce. It made me so sick that to this day I cannot eat it. What’s interesting is that when I think about iceberg lettuce now, I don’t seem to have memories of eating it ever, though my parents will tell you that I most definitely did, and for a time, wouldn’t eat any other type of lettuce as a child.

Another example is a friend whose mother always made cake from a box for his birthday which was the only time his mother ever baked, so in his memory, his mother made the best cakes ever. As a grown up, after eating one of my homemade cakes, his mother made him a cake from a box, and he couldn’t believe the difference in taste because he was sure his mother’s cake would win the “best ever” taste test over my homemade cake, which he had to admit, it didn’t.

This week I received an email from someone whose grandmother used to make a lemon bundt cake that held fond memories for her. She wanted to be make the cake for her granddaughter but realized that with all her granddaughter’s food allergies she couldn’t. So, she asked if I might help her find a way to recreate the cake so that it tasted and looked just like her own grandmother’s recipe.

Her grandmother’s recipe called for 3 cups of all purpose flour, 1 cup of butter, 2 1/2 cups of sugar, 6 eggs, and 1 cup of sour cream in addition to the salt, baking soda and lemon juice. When I read the recipe, I realized that in addition to the allergy substitutions, the cake needed a health-makeover as well!

Substituting and recreating the lemon bundt cake:

The Flour: Since the granddaughter needed to be gluten free I opted to use King Arthur’s gluten free blend, but to make the cake a bit healthier, I chose the whole grain blend instead of the straight rice flour blend and reduced the flour to 2 1/2 cups.

The butter: The granddaughter’s dairy allergy meant substituting the butter with something else, but to make it healthier as well, I decided to use olive oil which has good fats and to reduce the amount to 2/3 of a cup. Because I didn’t want a heavy olive oil flavor, I used the extra light version.

The sugar: 2 1/2 cups of sugar is a lot! My friend didn’t ask me to do anything about the sugar, but I couldn’t help myself. I opted to use a combination of agave and truvia. To create the exact same sweetness as the original cake, I used 2/3 cup agave with 1/2 cup truvia. To make the came so I’d like it, which meant it being much less sweet, I reduced both amounts by half. So, folks can choose what they’d prefer.

The eggs: Six eggs is a lot! I reduced the amount by half and added some water to help fill out the liquid ingredients. Since I was using the agave which is a liquid, between the agave and the added water, the reduction in eggs was fine.

The sour cream: Since the granddaughter had a dairy allergy, I couldn’t use the sour cream, so I opted to make a buttermilk from soy milk and lemon juice but I reduced the amount to 1/2 since it was a liquid as opposed to the solid sour cream, which reduced the amount of fat in the cake.

The flavoring and leavening: I added baking powder to the baking soda since it was a gluten free cake and I used fresh lemons to achieve the most lemony taste by grating the peel and then squeezing the juice.

The cake came out amazing! When I served it to company, which included my friend, she said it tasted just like her grandmother’s. So, now she had her grandmother’s cake to serve only allergy friendly and as a much healthier version!

Lemon Bundt Cake


2 ½ cups Gluten Free Flour blend (I used King Arthur’s whole grain blend)

2 tsp gluten free baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp freshly grated lemon peel (from fresh lemons is the best way to go)

2/3 cup extra light olive oil

1/3 to 2/3 cup Agave (use higher amount if you like a sweet cake)

1/4 to ½ cup Truvia (use higher amount if you like a sweet cake)

½ cup “buttermilk” (I used soy milk mixed with 1/2 tbsp lemon juice)

3 large eggs

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (depending on size of lemons, you will need anywhere from 4 to 6 lemons)

1/4 cup plain water

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a bundt pan for use.  (I coated the pan with vegan butter, and then I sprinkled the pan with ground flaxseed.)

2.  Mix the flour with baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the lemon peel and mix well. Set aside.

3.  Mix oil, Agave, Truvia, buttermilk, eggs, lemon juice and water.

4.  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Combine well until the dry ingredients are completely moistened.  Batter will be thick.

5.  Evenly spread batter into bundt pan and bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

6.  Cool on wire rack for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely.