PARTNER POST: We’ve teamed up with Bonne Maman to bring you the best homemade breakfast and brunch recipes to show Mom you care this Mother’s Day and all spring long.
Make these lovely mini lemon cakes infused with fresh thyme syrup and layered with whipped crème fraîche and strawberries.
In the spirit of Mother’s Day approaching this weekend, we’re making dessert.
But not just any dessert. We’re making cake. Delicate, fluffy, layered mini lemon cakes, worthy of any special occasion but still beautifully simple. My mom loves anything with whipped cream.
Growing up in northern Jersey, we had a number of Italian bakeries within walking distance. One of our favorites sold a Strawberry Shortcake Cake that we were obsessed with. Any excuse to get it we would. The cake was fresh and delicious, but it was also very simple. Just moist vanilla cake, fresh strawberries, and layers of pillowy whipped cream. My mom loved it.
This recipe is kind of an ode to that cake. It’s infused with spring. It’s show-stopping, but still entirely simple at its core. A sweet lemon cake gets baked in one pan and then cut into rounds. It gets brushed with a thyme simple syrup that can be made ahead. Strawberries get roasted in the oven with olive oil, a bit of sugar, and vanilla to draw out their sweetness and natural juices. A whipped crème fraîche adds just the right amount of tang to pair perfectly with the citrus and berries.
It’s a really lovely little cake that’s ideal for a Mother’s Day brunch. It isn’t too sweet, it’s individually portioned, and it’s seasonal.
In between the layers is also a smear of strawberry preserves, which adds moistness in addition to even more intense strawberry flavor. My go-to for preserves (when I don’t make it myself) is always Bonne Maman. It tastes as close to homemade as I have found, with quality, natural ingredients. It’s Non-GMO Project Verified and made without high-fructose corn syrup or additives of any kind.
Buying preserves instead of making it saves a ton of time, especially for occasions such as Mother’s Day when you’re likely making a slew of other things.
A lot of the components to these mini lemon cakes can be made ahead of time. The thyme syrup can be made up to a week ahead, and the whipped crème fraîche can be made the day before. Adding crème fraîche to whipped cream makes it much more stable. The cake can be made the day ahead. The roasted strawberries can even be made ahead of time, too. Although, I do like to make those just before assembling and serve those at room temperature.
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- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1¾ cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 5 fresh thyme sprigs
- 4 lemon slices
- 1 pound strawberries
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup crème fraîche
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves
- Freeze-Dried Strawberries optional
- Fresh thyme
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease a 9×13 cake pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper.
- Cream together the room temperature butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the lemon juice and zest.
- Add the room temperature eggs to the butter mixture one at a time until thoroughly incorporated.
- Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Add the flour mixture, alternating with the room temperature buttermilk, in 3 additions. Scrape the bowl between each addition and incorporate well but do not over-mix.
- Spread the cake batter into the greased pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back gently when touched, about 40 minutes.
- Let the cake cool and when completely cool, use a biscuit cutter in your desired size to cut out rounds.
- Combine the water, sugar, thyme sprigs, and lemon in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer 1-2 minutes and then remove from heat.
- Let the syrup infuse and cool, about 30 minutes. Strain the syrup and refrigerate.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and combine the strawberries, vanilla, maple syrup, sugar, and olive oil. Roast the berries until the juices run out and thicken slightly, about 30 minutes.
- Chill the bowl you are using in the freezer for 10 minutes. Beat all of the ingredients until stiff. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Slice the cake rounds in half to form two layers.
- Generously brush each layer with the thyme syrup.
- Spread the bottom layer with a tablespoon of the strawberry preserves and top with the whipped crème fraîche.
- Top the top layer with whipped crème fraîche, roasted strawberries, and a thyme sprig. Garnish with freeze-dried strawberries, if desired, to add crunch. Serve right away.