Lemon Chocolate Cake


The Truth Of The Spoken Word


I love a good challenge. So when my dear friend Keri Tombazian made this comment on a cupcake photo I posted on Facebook, I was immediately intrigued:



What grabs me about this challenge is that these two flavors would not be my initial choices to pair together, but more on that later. I’d love for you to meet Keri.


Photo credit: Ricardo D. Earatanha
Los Angeles Times

Keri is a remarkable woman and a powerhouse talent. For decades she’s been a permanent fixture in southern California’s radio landscape as an Air Personality. If you’ve spent any amount of time in SoCal, you’ve no doubt heard her smooth, engaging style on her evening show at KTWV, Los Angeles. But living in LA is not a prerequisite to hearing her work—she’s also a voice actor and you’ve likely heard her on national commercials and promo spots for TV, radio, other non-broadcast projects and the occasional on-camera appearance like this one. For the benefit of those who don’t know, voice overs (VO) are typically the spoken words you hear but don’t see being delivered, particularly in regards to visual media. I know Keri’s voice well; I’ve been hearing it on one medium or another since the mid-80s.



Our paths crossed in 1997. I was taking an introductory VO workshop series at a studio in Hollywood. Keri was a guest instructor for an evening. My objective was to transition a radio DJ career (another story for another time) to one of VO. Having similar work experiences, a kinship ensued; she became a mentor. With her careful guidance and well-tuned ear, Keri was pivotal in launching my career, from coaching and directing my audio demo, to opening the door for representation with my first talent agent. By Hollywood standards, that was a feat in of itself. I was truly blessed to have anyone be so gracious of their time to me, let alone someone of her caliber.


Chocolate-Lemon Ganache Ingredients



Melting times may vary.



What struck me the most about working with Keri is her commitment to getting to the truth of the spoken word; her articulation of nuances and coloring of phrases is spot on. She’s also a stickler if you don’t get the read just right. She’ll let you know it with the best nurturing kind of tough love I’ve seen; the kind usually reserved between best friends, or that which comes from a mother to her child. I think that’s why I adore her because she called me out on all my old radio habits—the kind of habits that can hinder a good read on a piece of copy. Her endearing candor still benefits me to this day. Something I didn’t know about my friend until recently is that Keri is a gastronome. Her recipes have been added to chef’s menus. She’ll readily admit, however, that baking is not her forte.





This is where I come in and it makes an ideal segue back to the challenge on the table. When I think of cakes and combinations of flavor, lemon and chocolate was not on my “go to” list. I had limited exposure to this combination; a foggy remembrance from childhood recalls a hard lemon candy cane or stick that had one end dipped in dark chocolate. More recently, I saw a program in which Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Food Network’s Alex’s Day Off prepared a lemon and chocolate cake. By deduction I’m able to know that this pairing is not new. I also have reasonable assurance that if this combination of flavor profiles falls within Keri’s radar, it had to be good.



What then, was my response to my friend?



lemon chocolate cake

Dear Keri,

This original recipe was written for you. It was tested and re-tested over the course of recent weeks to the delight of my family and friends. I hope it serves your family and friends for generations to come. Thank you for your friendship and all the wonderful things you’ve done for me over the years. Happy baking!

Lemon Chocolate Cake

Lemon Chocolate Cake

This delightful cake will quickly become your “go to” favorite when you desire something unique and special—it has surely become a favorite in my house. The moist, lemony crumb is a citrus celebration, but the tango it does with the dense chocolate frosting is completely tantalizing. What’s more, the surprise burst of zest in the chocolate ganache leads the delicious dance, pleasing the palate much like a fresh lemon twist does to the first sip of espresso.

Makes one 8 or 9-inch two-layer cake.


  • 2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Zest and juice of 3 lemons (approximately 2 loosely packed tablespoons zest and about 1/3rd cup juice)
  • 1/2 cup lemon curd (from your favorite recipe or store-bought variety)
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup milk, room temperature
  • Frosting
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), room temperature
  • 2 lbs. sifted powdered sugar (32 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3rd cup milk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • Chocolate Ganache
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate (Use chips or cut bars into small pieces. For best results and flavor, select a brand with 63% cacao content.)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest.
  • Lemon Drop Drips
  • 1/2 cup hard Lemon Drop candies


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Grease two 8×2”, or two 9×1 1/2″ round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, grease the paper and then flour the pans. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together; set aside.
  • With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vanilla, zest, lemon juice and lemon curd, beat in until incorporated. Scrape the bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add the dry ingredients and milk to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. After the last addition, mix the batter until just incorporated. Scrape the bowl and stir gently to mix in. Divide batter evenly between the two pans. Smooth the tops with an offset spatula.
  • For 8-inch pans* bake approximately 43-45 minutes, 9-inch pans bake for 34-36 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The tops will be golden brown and the cakes should just start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove cakes from the oven and cool on racks for 12 minutes; remove from pans (discard the parchment). Cool completely on racks.
  • While the cakes are baking, make the Lemon Drop Drip garnishes. Fit a sheet pan with parchment paper and tape the paper to the pan along one long edge—this will be the “top” of the pan; set aside. In a small non-stick pan over medium-low heat melt the lemon drops until completely melted to a viscous syrup state. Turn the heat to low and work quickly to spoon small puddles on the parchment-lined pan. Once you have a few puddles, tilt the pan up to create drips, maintaining the tilt until the desired drip length is reached; lay pan flat. Repeat in different places on the paper until you have about 12 or so drips. You may not choose to use all 12, but it’s good to have extra in case of breakage.
  • Prepare the frosting. Add the measure of instant espresso powder to the milk and stir to dissolve; set aside. In a large mixing bowl add the butter, half the powdered sugar, cocoa, vanilla, salt and half the milk mixture. With an electric mixer, begin mixing SLOWLY at first to prevent a cloud of dry ingredients from pluming out all over, and gradually increase the speed to medium until incorporated. Add the remaining sugar and milk mixture?mix in slowly at first, increasing speed to medium low; blend until the frosting is smooth and creamy. Recipe yields enough to frost the cake including a bottom border and piped dollops on top with perhaps a small amount of leftover.
  • Assemble the cake. Place one cake (bottom or flat side down) onto a serving plate; frost the top with a nice fill. Place the second cake (bottom or flat side up) on top. Crumb coat (thin application) the top and sides. Place cake in refrigerator for a few minutes to set the frosting. Leave the crumb coat as is on the top, but frost the sides with a nice finish coat. Return the cake to the refrigerator to set for several minutes.
  • In a small sauce pan over medium low, heat the heavy cream until it just begins to slightly simmer. Reduce heat to low and add the chocolate chips; let sit for about a minute. Remove from heat. Stir or whisk the ganache to blend until completely smooth, uniform in color and pourable. Stir in the lemon zest. The ganache should be lukewarm*. Pour the ganache onto the top center of the cake. With an offset spatula, quickly spread the ganache outwards toward the edges of the cake; gently nudge some of the ganache with the spatula over the edge to drip down in multiple areas around the perimeter.
  • In an icing bag fitted with the tip of your choice (a #12 circle was used on the cake in the photo), pipe a border around the base of the cake. Similarly, choose a tip of your choice (a #24 round was used) to pipe dollop decorations on the top of the cake evenly spaced around the perimeter. The photo depicts 8 of these, but you may make as many as desired or have garnishes for. Pipe the dollops wide and tall enough to provide a sturdy base to support the lemon drips. Garnish each dollop by inserting a Lemon Drop Drip into the center of each dollop?gently pressing the candy drip through the dollop until it touches the cake. The cake is best served at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator covered in plastic for up to 3 days.


*If you choose the 8-inch pans you must be sure you have the ones that measure 2 inches up the side, otherwise your batter will overflow during baking. When filling the 8×2 pan with equally divided batter, the fill level will be about three quarters full for each. The batter should not overflow during baking. The benefit of using the 8×2 pan is you get a taller cake. There should not be overflow issues with the common 9×1 1/2 pans other than a shorter baking time as indicated. Please use caution when working with melted candy or any hot liquid sugar. If the chocolate ganache is too warm, it may slightly melt the frosting when poured on top causing it to sag. Additionally, not all heavy cream is manufactured with consistent fat content. Therefore, if the ganache is too thick to pour once it’s blended together, you may want to add an additional tablespoon or two to thin it.


This post marks my return to the blogosphere—a surprising move that I hope my foodie comrades will embrace with open arms. Over the past 8 months I started a business and I’ve made terrific strides towards a successful operation. Thank you for stopping by and I hope to see you soon!



  1. I am moved to tears by the kindness of an old friend, to grace me with such a beautiful memory and to create a masterpiece based on my challenge.

    Now, a little something, Brooks, which I neglected to tell you – almost 25 years ago, my wedding cake was Lemon and Chocholate. It was delicious but I always thought – this combo could definitely be better. And now, I see, I was right! In March, for our 25th Anniversary – this will be our cake!

    • Keri,

      Seriously! I’m so glad you shared the backstory about the cake. I’m also tickled you plan to use this recipe to mark the occasion of yours and Thom’s matrimonial milestone.

      This challenge and the subsequent project was entirely my pleasure. All too often in today’s world we get caught up in the daily grind, so I seized the moment to let you know that I’ve never forgotten your kindness and how it has positively impacted my life.


  2. How exciting Brooks and congratulations on the new blog and business development. What an amazing cake, I’m sure Keri will be thrilled with her challenge met!

  3. Welcome back! I’ve missed your creative genius a ton. And, from what I see here, you’ve just gotten better over these past months. Wow, what a gorgeous cake. I’m loving the lemon drips (they look like flames to me) coming out of the chocolate.

    Keri looks like an amazing woman. She’s Armenian so I know she has to be wonderful. 🙂

    Some day I want to hear your story on voice overs and radio!

  4. Brooks,
    Welcome back to the blogosphere. You were sorely missed. Glad to see that you were open to Keri’s challenge. Your cake is stunning and I love the lemon drops. You just don’t bake cakes, you bake masterpieces!

  5. Brooks that cake looks amazing! I’m so glad to see you’re back blogging, I have missed your presence!

  6. Yipee! Just saw Dennis’ tweet about your new blog. So happy to have you back in the community Brooks sharing your magic.

  7. I love lemon cake and this one looks like a winner! Nothing like a baking challenge to get ya in the kitchen and baking up a storm.

  8. WOW! Welcome back, this looks truly amazing…Lemon and chocolate. Just amazing.

  9. Brooks, I found your blog via Chef Dennis and I’m glad I did. What an awesome cake and such gorgeous photos. This recipe is terrific and inspired me to go bake something today! Thanks for sharing this. Hope to see more of you in the blogosphere!

  10. Fabulous!! You are an inspiration, Brooks!

  11. This cake is stunning! I love the idea of lemon and chocolate. Not one I would have ever considered. Welcome back to blogging and congratulations on your new business. I look forward to reading about your adventures!

  12. Wow! Thank you all for the wonderful comments and open arms. You’ve been missed too. There’s more to come and I’ll be sure to visit each of you soon.

  13. Hey brooks! I am so happy you started your business…i wish you all the best. I missed reading you so i am glad you are back and you can regale us with your adventures!

    This cake looks beautiful…i loveeeeee your presentation and the flavors sound phenomenal. You have truly done justice to this challenge! Bravo 😀

  14. Brooks, this cake is sheer perfection! Wonderfully creative and executed. I bet it tasted amazing. Good luck with your business. With cakes like this I’m sure it will be a winner.

  15. You are brilliant, enough said. Thank you for sharing with me. I found your blog through Brian (A Thought for Food) and I’m glad I did. Have a great weekend!

  16. Brooks, of course the first thing I noticed about this post was the Lemon Drop Drips – just the sort of thing that takes a cake to the professional level. The second, and by far most important, thing I noticed is that YOU really know how to write a recipe. You include all pertinent details so that even a beginner could have success. That is what I aim for as well. I’m sure you’ll be very successful in your business.

  17. Wow, it’s a really impressive cake! I wouldn’t have put lemon and chocolate together, but now I’m intrigued to try it.

  18. Welcome back Brooks! I love seeing all your beautiful creations, and this cake is no exception. The lemon drop drips are awesome and so is the story behind it!

  19. Oh wow! This looks absolutely amazing! I want to eat it now. I’ve only ever seen one other recipe that pairs lemon and chocolate and it made me go Ooooh I wonder if… I love chocolate and I love lemons so together they must be divine! Good luck with your business 🙂

  20. Totally gorgeous – that is one impressive cake!! 🙂

  21. Hi Brooks! Everything about you is stellar! Love rhis exquisite cake- a delight to all the senses. And what a wonderful gesture and story. It made me smile to read that your friend will be celebrating her 25th anniversary with this creation. 🙂

  22. Wowww…..that looks soooo gorgeous….beutiful in every way and surely delicious too…..have so many things that i wana try from your blog 🙂

  23. Hi, have just hopped over from G+, I had to pop in to see how you made those shapes! Amazing! I bake so many cakes (no where near as good as yours!), and my husband is a huge fan of chocolate + citrus, so I think this is definitely scheduled for the next month! I can’t wait!

  24. This cake looks so perfectly done that I thought it was fake whe I saw it at G+, that is how beautiful it looks and when I came to your blog I was shocked to see it is real. Congratulation for this cake and thank you so much for sharring the recipes and tricks to decorate the cake. It is delicate and delish looking cake. God bless.

  25. This cake looks absolutely Amazing!

  26. It looks fantastic! I am just hypnotised by the looks of this cake 🙂

  27. Julie Palmer says

    It looks very good and too good to eat!

  28. This recipe looks amazing! Lemon and chocolate has been one of my all time favorite combinations, and except for a local candy shop that exports chocolates from Holland I have been hard-pressed to find those two flavors together in anything super delicious. This not only looks like it tastes incredible but is uniquely beautiful. I cannot wait to try this out. I know the post was a few years ago, but impressed enough to comment this late. Hope you have done well in your new adventure.

    • Brooks Walker says

      Thank you, Lore, do give the recipe a try. I think you’ll find the flavor combination to be superb. Best wishes!

  29. DeannS says

    Just made this gorgeous cake for my husband’s birthday! It was amazing! Moist, rich, flavorful!
    Thank you so much for the inspiration and easy to use recipe!

    • Brooks Walker says

      You’re most welcome, Deann, I’m thrilled the recipe turned out well! Thank you for letting me know―hearing back from a reader sharing success brings joy.

  30. This recipe is spectacular!!! I made this a little while ago for my roommates. I messed up and the sugar didn’t melt in the frosting. Despite that, MY ROOMMATES DEVOURED IT! This is an amazing recipe, it comes out so delicious. I’ll make it again today, I’ll do it right this time.

    • Brooks Walker says

      Vita, thank you so much for the compliment and taking the time to let me know how it turned out for you. Best wishes on the next trial!


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