Lemon Buttermilk Cake for Imbolc

Happy (late) Imbolc!

For those who don’t celebrate it, Imbolc is a Gaelic festival that was and is historically celebrated in Ireland and Scotland. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, and marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox — traditionally, Imbolc is a time for celebrating the return of life and light to the earth. In Ireland, it is also celebrated as St. Brigid’s Day in honor of Brigid, who is both a Celtic goddess and a Catholic saint and is associated in both incarnations with fire and fertility. Imbolc is also celebrated as one of the eight sabbats in Wicca, though it is by no means exclusive to Wicca and is celebrated by many people from many faith backgrounds even today.

I though about doing a thoughtful, contemplative post about the meaning of Imbolc like I did for the winter solstice/Christmas, but instead I thought I’d do something a little less serious and a lot more fun. (However, if  any of y’all want to learn more about Imbolc, Harmony Nice is a fantastic Wiccan YouTuber with detailed videos about each of the sabbats, including Imbolc. If you’re more interested in the Brigid’s Day celebration, I highly recommend checking out Brigid: Meeting the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Forge, and Healing Well by Morgan Daimler, which deals with the pan-Celtic goddess, the Irish saint, and the relationship between the two.)

One of my favorite parts of every holiday is the food. I love cooking and I love eating, so I jump on any excuse to try new recipes. For Imbolc, I decided to make a lemon buttermilk cake, and I was so thrilled with how it turned out that I decided to share the recipe with all of you.

I chose lemon as the main flavor for this cake for two reasons: 1.) lemon is a flavor that I personally associate with spring and summer but 2.) lemon is actually in season in late winter and early spring. Since Imbolc is a late winter holiday that revolves around anticipating the coming wamrth, I thought lemon was an appropriate flavor choice. The buttermilk was inluded partially because it pairs well with lemon and adds moisture to the finished cake, and partially because Brigid (both the goddess and the saint) and Imbolc in general are associated with milk and dairy products.


Ingredients (Cake)

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • the zest and juice of two lemons
  • 2 cups almond flour**
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

** I  used almond flour because I have a chronic illness that prevents me from digesting grains. If you do not have the same issue, I would highly recommend using wheat flour because it’s a hell of a lot cheaper. You may need more or less flour than I used, because of absorption rates and other baking science. My advice would be to add all the other ingredients first, then add the flour a little at a time until you have a good cake batter consistency.

Ingredients (Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting)

To be fully honest, we eyeballed this one, so I do not have exact measurements. I find that the powdered sugar/liquids ratio is different every time I make frosting anyway. Just do what feels right in the moment.

  • one package of full-fat cream cheese, softened
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • powdered sugar
  • a splash of heavy whipping cream



  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Combine butter, sugar, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice and zest in a bowl. Mix until completely homogenous.
  • Add flour, salt, and baking soda. Again, mix until homogenous.
  • Trasnfer your cake batter to a pie pan or other vessel that has either been lined with parchment paper or been generously coated with cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick/fork inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  • Once the cake is finished baking, make sure it cools completely before you frost it. We let ours rest for several hours. (Mostly because I had work in between making the cake and frosting it, but still.)
  • In a new bowl, combine your cream cheese, lemon juice, and vanilla and mix until it forms a weird slime that smells like cream cheese and lemons.
  • Add powdered sugar and mix until a thick frosting forms. If your frosting needs to be smoothed out a little, add heavy cream a tablespoon at a time to improve its texture.
  • Use your preferred method to slather the frosting onto the cake. There’s really no rhyme or reason to this step. Realize that you can and will resort to using your fingers to smooth out lumps and clean up drips.
  • If desired, garnish with lemon slices.



If you’re going for a traditional Imbolc pairing, you’d serve this either with a fresh glass of milk (for that classic Celtic touch) or with a good Irish beer (in honor of Saint Brigid, who is said to have turned water into beer on multiple occasions and is the patron saint of brewing) but I went for a cup of tea. It’s a good pairing, even if it’s a little more Highgarden tea party than Irish seasonal festival. But hey, if you’re planning on throwing a Game of Thrones viewing party any time soon, you could totally bake this batter in a muffin tin to make “authentic” lemon cakes. Two birds, one stone.

Do you guys celebrate Imbolc and/or Brigid’s Day? What are your favorite seasonal recipes? What are you most looking forward to about spring? Let me know in a comment!


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