January 20, 2015

Helicopter Lemon Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Lemon Cake with Lemon Buttercream | The Naptime Chef

Over the weekend we celebrated my son’s second birthday. I can’t quite believe time has flown so quickly. I remember when he was born so clearly it honestly feels like yesterday. We’ve transitioned from burp clothes and midnight feedings, to diggers and trampoline play dates in just minutes. Though he still has pretty apathetic about having an actual birthday there is no way I’d let the day pass without a delicious cake to celebrate. I let my daughter choose a cake she would love and asked her to help me style it for her baby brother.

Helicopter Lemon Cake | The Naptime Chef

She was clever in her choice of decorating it with a helicopter. Our little guy is obsessed with them and she knew it would be the perfect topping for the round cake. I was all set to make an encircled “H” with white chocolate chips but she whipped up her own version with her legos and a Matchbox helicopter from the play room. Genius! I was very happy to embrace her simple design. I love to bake, but elaborate cake designs are not my thing.

For the flavor I chose a simple, lemony cake with a light lemon frosting that we dyed blue. It made for a perfect birthday dessert that was way more than a two year old could ever want or need. To make it I used my tried-and-true method of naptime baking it one day, and frosting it the following morning while the kids ate breakfast. After lunch we sang, opened presents, and he took his new helicopter to bed for him for naptime.

Lemon Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 1 9x13 cake for 2 9-inch round cakes

To make this cake in advanced: wrap the cakes tightly once they've cooled. Don't prepare the frosting until you are ready to frost the cake. Frosting doesn't keep well. To make the cake FAR in advance: wrap the cakes tightly in plastic wrap and an outer layer of aluminum foil once they've cooled. Freeze for up to on month. Thaw almost to room temperature before frosting.

Buy these ingredients Powered by Popcart


  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or lemon extract
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tiny pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup whole milk, added 1 teaspoon at a time (you may not need all of the milk)


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray one 9x13-inch pan or two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar until softened and fluffy. Add one egg at a time and beat well after each addition. Then add the lemon zest and juice and beat well.
  3. In a small bowl mix the flour, salt, and baking powder. With the mixer on low slowly add the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk and extract, to the wet ingredients and mix until combined and smooth. Spread the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when touched and are golden brown around the edges.
  4. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Then invert them onto a wire rack and let them cool completely. While they are cooling, prepare the frosting.
  5. To make the frosting: Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Then add the lemon zest and juice and beat until smooth. Add the milk a little bit at a time and beat well, until the desired spreadable consistency is reached. Add some food coloring if desired and beat well.
  6. Once the cake as cooled frost the cake as desired.


For a regular vanilla cake omit the lemon zest and juice from the cake recipe and the frosting recipe.


4 Responses to “Helicopter Lemon Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting”

  1. Christine Mayfield says:

    Mmm, thanks for posting! I love love love Lemon Cake. The best we ever had was at Del Frisco’s in NYC. I am going to try this recipe for my youngest daughter who is also a lover of lemon cake.

  2. Liz Schmitt says:

    Incredible – two years old ?! How lovely – feel better soon, Mom xo