Julia's Epic Lemon & Raspberry Layer Cake

In the world of showstopping, special occasion desserts – this nostalgic tiered vanilla sponge from our divine food columnist Julia Busuttil Nishimura takes the cake (sorry not sorry for that pun!) for dishes you can achieve at home.

With fresh raspberries, tart lemon curd and crème fraîche icing folded into layers of pillowy butter cake, this is what you make when it’s time to celebrate something special. Like, say…. Mother’s Day?

Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Sponge cakes ready to be layered.  Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

This cake is ready to be layered with fresh raspberries, creme fraiche icing and lemon curd. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Julia is just heaven! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Icing the layered cake with creme fraiche frosting. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

This epic cake is the perfect Mothers’ Day showstopper! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Julia and sweet Yuki at home! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura
4th of May 2021

I am a lover of simple cakes, particularly mix and bake ones that I can remember by heart. I have several in my repertoire that I can make without even consulting a recipe. Then there are the cakes that impress. They’re the ones I only make a few times a year, for a special occasion or if I’m feeling a bit extra.

This lemon and raspberry cake is a happy combination of the two. It has layers (which gives the cake height and drama), but at its core it’s a very simple lemon butter cake sandwiched between lemon curd, raspberries and a whipped raspberry icing. You can use a quality store bought lemon curd for a shortcut to cake heaven, but making it yourself is rather easy if you have 20 minutes up your sleeve.

For a smaller cake, simply halve the recipe to make a two layer beauty. You can even leave the cake as one whole cake and simply top it with the frosting, a swirl of lemon curd and some raspberries. I topped my cake with some beautiful garden roses, just be sure they’re spray-free before using them on your cake!

This cross section is what dreams are made of! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

The layers of butter cake are bursting at the seams with drizzles of lemon curd and folds of creme fraiche. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

The finished product! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.


(Serves 10-12)

Sponge Cake:
6 eggs
400g caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of two lemons
400g unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
400g self-raising flour, sifted
250g raspberries, to layer
Roses, to decorate

Lemon curd:
125 ml (½ cup) lemon juice
150 g caster sugar
Pinch of sea salt
5 egg yolks
100 g softened unsalted butter
Zest of a lemon

Raspberry icing:
100g pure icing sugar, sifted
600g creme fraiche
200g pure cream
60g raspberries


Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line two 23cm round cake tins.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Stir in the lemon zest and cooled melted butter. Mix to incorporate.

Add the sifted flour and gently stir, ensuring there are no lumps in the batter. Pour into the prepared tins and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes clean. Cool in tin for 10 minutes and turn cake onto a wire rack to continue cooling. Split each cake in two with a sharp knife so you now have four thinner cakes.

Meanwhile, for the lemon curd, combine the lemon juice, sugar and sea salt in a large bowl. Sit it upon a pot of simmering water and whisk to combine. Whisk in the egg yolks and cook, continuously whisking, until the mixture thickens. This will take around 10 minutes. If you have a thermometer, the mixture should be about 80C. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, a little at a time. Ensuring it is incorporated before adding the next piece. Mix in the lemon zest and pour the curd into a container and cover with baking paper or cling wrap, pressing it directly onto the curd to avoid it forming a skin. Chill in the refrigerator.

Crush the raspberries with a fork and then then strain into a large bowl, discarding the seeds. Add the icing sugar, creme fraiche, and cream and whip until stiff peaks form.

To assemble the cake, place one layer of the cake on base of a serving plate. Place 1/4 of the cream mixture on the base and spread to the edge. Spoon on 1/3 of the curd mixture onto the cream and use the back of a spoon to swirl towards the edges. Top with 1/3 of the raspberries and then place another cake layer on top. Repeat this process with the remaining cream, curd and cake layers. Finish the top of the cake with the cream mixture and decorate with roses.

What else I’m cooking with…

Embracing the autumnal pumpkin! Roasting wedges with a little cumin, salt and olive oil, steaming pieces to make pumpkin and ricotta gnocchi, and lots of pots of creamy pumpkin soup.

What else I’m eating…

The custard tart at HERO ACMI! What tart dreams are made of!!

Click here to download pint-able recipe!

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