My brother’s birthday is next weekend! Because he adores lemon treats—anything from cookies to cupcakes to scones to cheesecake and more—I’m helping him celebrate by declaring this Lemon Week on the blog. I don’t know who’s more excited about that… Me, who gets to bake everything, or him, who gets to eat it all!
For my brother’s freshman year of college, my family helped him get settled into his dorm room during Move-In Weekend, just a few days before his birthday. He lived in a suite with three other boys, and although they were all very nice, I felt really badly that my brother would spend his special day with nearly complete strangers.
So when my brother walked out to the car to grab another box of school supplies, I exchanged numbers with one of his suitemates and explained my idea to surprise my brother for his birthday. Since the dorm building had a gated entrance, that suitemate agreed to keep me posted on their dinner plans and let me in when I brought a homemade cake for dessert.
The following Thursday evening, I carefully loaded the lemon bundt cake into the backseat of my car, and my guy and I drove 80 miles south to the college. I texted my brother’s suitemate from the parking garage across the street from their dorm, and he immediately opened the gate and led me up to their room.
He had revealed the surprise to the two other suitemates and a few other people on their floor, so they gathered behind me when I opened the door and shouted, “Happy birthday!”
My brother looked up from his laptop, completely shocked and startled, and he did a double-take when he saw me standing in the front of the people holding his cake and birthday candles. A huge grin quickly spread across his face, spanning from ear to ear, and that reaction was even sweeter than the dessert in my hands!
Since he already graduated from college, I can’t surprise him anymore… But I can still make him a special birthday dessert! And this year, he requested something light and extra fruity, so I created this Simple Raspberry Lemon Cake for him.
The cake starts out with whole wheat pastry flour. Whole wheat pastry flour still has the same health benefits as regular whole wheat flour but is lighter in taste and texture, making it perfect for cakes and pastries. The wheaty taste is so subtle that you can’t really detect it through the bright citrus and tangy berries! If you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour, white whole wheat flour would be a great substitute.
This entire cake only contains 1 tablespoon of butter! The rest of its tender texture comes from my favorite ingredient in healthier baking. Can you guess what it is? I’ve used it in everything from cupcakes and muffins to scones and frosting… It’s Greek yogurt! Greek yogurt provides the same moisture as extra butter or oil for a fraction of the calories, and it gives the cake a little protein boost too.
When it comes to lemon baked goodies, the majority of the bright sunshiny flavor actually comes from the lemon zest. The citrus taste is much more concentrated in the oils in the skin than in the juice, so don’t skip the zest! For the best taste, select lemons that are purely yellow without any green. Those greenish spots are too bitter!
And now for the best part… The fruity topping! My brother is trying to cut down on added sugar, so I used fresh raspberries for the top of the cake instead of frosting. As soon as he saw the cake, he exclaimed, “Wow, that looks amazing!!” That reaction made my heart glow.
We’ll need between 1 ½ to 2 pints of fresh raspberries to completely cover the top of the batter. You can either nestle them in on their side or upside down to hide the hole in the bottom—it’s up to you! If you choose the latter, you’ll need closer to 2 pints, whereas the former requires closer to 1 ½. Gently press them into the batter to ensure they stick before popping the pan in the oven.
Happy birthday to my brother! Who wants to help us celebrate by eating a slice?? 😉
And when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy raspberry lemon cake!
Simple Raspberry Lemon Cake
- 2 cups (240g) whole wheat pastry flour or gluten-free flour* (measured like this)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tbsp (10g) lemon zest (about 1 very large)
- 1 tbsp (14g) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup (60g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- ½ cup (120mL) agave
- ¼ cup (60mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 very large)
- ¼ cup (60mL) nonfat milk
- 2 cups (280g) fresh raspberries (about 1 ½ pints)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and lightly coat a 9”-round springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, egg, and vanilla. Mix in the Greek yogurt, stirring until no large lumps remain. Stir in the agave and lemon juice. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and stirring just until incorporated. (For best results, add the flour mixture in 3 equal parts.)
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Arrange the raspberries in a circular pattern, beginning with the outer rim before finishing with the interior, and gently press each into the batter. (See the photos in the blog post above, where the raspberries were placed on their sides.) Bake at 350°F for 32-37 minutes. Place the cake pan onto a wire rack, and let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely before serving.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
I’ve made this raspberry cake in the form of muffins using honey instead of agave. Of all the healthy things I bake, these muffins are by far the most delicious and they do look very fancy. My 18 month old son can’t get enough of them.
I’m so glad you and your son are enjoying the recipe so much Claire! That means the world to me. 🙂
I really wanted to like this cake and to root for the idea of healthy baking but this is the first healthy cake recipe I’ve tried and I’m sorry to say it was really disappointing. It was so dense that neither the soda nor the baking power was able to make it rise at all, and the sponge wasn’t nearly sweet enough. I’m quite an experienced baker so I don’t think my preparation was the cause of the problem. In future I’ll be sticking with traditional butter, eggs, white flour and sugar-based cake recipes.
I really appreciate your interest in my recipe Clare! That isn’t how the cake is supposed to turn out, so I’d love to work together to figure out what happened that caused your cake to turn out like that. 🙂 How fresh are your baking powder and baking soda? Did the insides of your cake look like mine (you can see the crumb of my cake in the first photo in my blog post!)? Did you measure your flour with a kitchen scale or measuring cups? If the latter, did you use the method outlined in the link in the Ingredients list? We’ll get this sorted out! 🙂
I love this cake recipe and have made it multiple time. I have swapped the agave to honey . I also used frozen raspberries in my recipe as it is much cheaper, I used whole wheat flour which made the cake a bit denser. I absolutely love this recipe and this has become my go to recipe. I love how it is tart and sweet and just that little bit healthy.
It means the world to me that you’d call this your go to recipe, Rachel! That’s such a huge compliment, and I’m incredibly honored. Thank you SO much for taking the time to let me know! 🙂
Hi there, can I used date puree (not date syrup) instead of honey, shave or maple syrup?
Haha I meant agave
I’m honored that you want to try making my recipe Beelynda! (I can only imagine what it would end up tasting like if you used shaving cream instead of agave… 😉 ) Unfortunately, I don’t recommend using date purée because it isn’t nearly as sweet as honey, agave, and maple syrup, which means you’d need a LOT more of it in order to achieve the same sweetness level… And that would add way too much liquid volume to the batter, so the cake just wouldn’t bake right or have the correct texture. If you decide to try making it, I’d love to hear what you think of this cake! 🙂
My daughter requested this for her birthday cake. I was a bit apprehensive to how it would turn out as I’ve only ever really made traditional recipe cakes. I needn’t have worried as it was delicious and enjoyed by all the family! I used the substitution of light brown sugar and extra milk instead of agave, and served with fresh raspberries and blueberries around the base.
I’ll definitely be making this again!
I’m so honored that your daughter requested this cake to celebrate such a special occasion! That truly means the world to me, and I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it. That’s the best kind of compliment if you already think that you’ll make it again — thank you so much for taking the time to let me know, Kirsty!! 🙂
Hi, my cake did not rise at all. Very disappointed.
I’m honored that you tried my recipe, Julie! That sounds frustrating and not like how this cake should turn out at all, so I’d love to work with you to figure out what happened. In order to do so, I have some questions for you! 🙂
Did you make any modifications to the recipe, including those listed in the Notes section?
Did you use a kitchen scale or measuring cups/spoons to measure all of your ingredients (especially the flour, agave, lemon juice, and milk)?
How fresh were your baking powder and baking soda?
What was the consistency of your batter like? And how was the texture of your fully baked and cooled cake compared to mine in the photos of my blog post (especially the first and fourth photos)?
I know I just asked a LOT of questions, but I’ll have a much better idea of the culprit once I know your answers to all of them!