Easy Lemon-Hibiscus Layer Cake

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easy lemon hibiscus cake recipe
Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Erin McDowell

Instead of making a chocolate buttercream cake (again), knock everyone’s socks off with this easy lemon-hibiscus layer cake. Just as straightforward as any basic cake recipe, it gets its vibrant pink hue from hibiscus tea bags. (So darn brilliant.)

“The lemon cake is light and fluffy,” says recipe developer Erin McDowell, author of The Fearless Baker. “Decorate it simply with frosting swoops or fancy it up with sprinkles and fresh flowers. Either way, it’ll be dressed to impress.”



1½ cups (342g) milk

¼ cup (56g) fresh lemon juice

2¼ sticks (255g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1½ cups (298g) granulated sugar

Zest of 2 lemons

4 large (226g) eggs, at room temperature

1 large (21g) egg yolk

2¼ cups (407g) all-purpose flour

2¼ teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

Hibiscus Frosting

⅓ cup heavy cream

3 hibiscus tea bags

16 ounces (453g) cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

5 cups (567g) confectioners’ sugar


1. Make the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans.

2. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk and lemon juice; set aside while you start to mix the batter.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, then the egg yolk, and mix until well combined. Scrape the bowl well.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated. Add half the milk mixture and mix until combined. Repeat this process, alternating the dry and wet ingredients, until all are incorporated. Scrape the bowl well.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared pans and spread each into an even layer. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 27 to 30 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

6. Meanwhile, Make the Hibiscus Frosting: In a small pot, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Add the hibiscus tea bags and stir to combine. Cover the pot and let steep for 20 minutes. Remove and discard the tea bags.

7. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese, butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the hibiscus cream in a slow, steady stream and mix until well combined.

8. When the cakes are cool, they are ready to decorate. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or platter. Scoop 1 cup of frosting on top and spread into an even layer. Place the second layer on top. Frost the top and side of the cake with the remaining frosting.

Nutrition Facts
  • Cake

  • 279 calories

  • 13g fat

  • 36g carbs

  • 4g protein

  • 17g sugars

  • Hibiscus Frosting

  • 314 calories

  • 20g fat

  • 33g carbs

  • 2g protein

  • 31g sugars

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Note: The information shown is Edamam's estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.

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erin jeanne mcdowell

Freelance Food Editor

Erin Jeanne McDowell is a recipe developer, food stylist and author of multiple cookbooks, including The Fearless Baker, which was named one of the Best Baking Books of 2017 by...