I’m a big believer in pretty straight up cakes. Seriously, I really like white cake with white frosting. A lot. After that I probably like chocolate cake with white frosting. And so on and so forth. However, sometimes I’m in the mood for some fruit with my cake. Typically, this means I’ll sneak in a layer of strawberry jam or make something along the lines of a strawberry and cream cake, but sometimes, when the weather is starting to turn warm and the sun comes out of hiding, it’s time for a really good, bright, tart lemon cake.

I adapted this recipe from the winner of a Southern Living white cake contest. You can find the original recipe here. The cake is sturdy, without being heavy, and is the perfect backdrop against which to showcase the sunny lemon curd and tart lemon frosting. It’s like what Picasso said, the sun in your belly.

lemoncake-9

Ingredients:

Cake
1C Butter, unsalted, softened
3 C Cake Flour
2 C Sugar
1 C Milk
1Tbsp Vanilla
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
5 Egg Whites

Lemon Curd, store bought or homemade
5 egg yolks
1.5 C Sugar
Zest of 3 Lemons
1/2 C Lemon Juice
Pinch of Salt
8 Tbsp Butter, unsalted

Lemon Frosting
1 C Butter, unsalted
3.5 C Powdered Sugar
Pinch of Salt
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice

 

 

 

light and fluffy

 

The Cakes:

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line 3 round cake pans with parchment paper and butter/flour the pans. In the alternative, you can do what I did, which was use two normal cake pans and three small cake pans so I could also make mini cakes!

 

lemoncake-23

Beat the butter in a stand mixer until light in fluffy. Slowly pour in the sugar and continue to mix until well combined and still fluffy.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir together the milk and vanilla. Add the dry and wet to the butter in alternating batches, mixing until, you got it, light and fluffy.

Separate the yolks from the whites of the eggs and reserve the yolks for the lemon curd. Beat the egg whites until firm peaks emerge. Gently fold the whites into the batter.

 

 

lemoncake-26

 

 

Distribute amongst the cake pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes; until set in the middle.

 

 

 

lemoncake-13

 

 

 

The Curd:

While the cakes are baking, prepare the lemon curd, if making at home. Start out by combining the zest and sugar in a food processor and blitzing together for a few moments. Then whisk the reserved egg yolks with the lemon sugar, lemon juice and salt in the top of a double boiler or heatproof bowl.

Bring a pot of water to boil and then whisk the curd mixture over the boiling water until the curd thickens and can coat the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). Remove the curd from the heat and stir in the butter. Strain the curd into a bowl, cover and let cool completely in the refrigerator.

When the cakes finish cooking, remove them from the oven and let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes before turning them out onto cooling racks.

 

lemoncake-51

 

The Frosting:

I’ll start on the frosting by pointing out that I made a double batch of frosting, since I knew I was also making some baby cakes. However, one batch should cover one three layer cake, if using a different filling for between the layers.

Beat the butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar in batches, mixing each batch in slowly at first to prevent the powdered sugar cloud. Add a pinch of salt and the lemon juice, beat until well combined and you get a consistency you like. If the butter has gotten too warm, you can put the bowl in the fridge for a while to help firm it up, or you could pack the underside of the mixer bowl with bags of frozen veggies while you mix the frosting.

 

 

lemoncake-76

 

The Assembly:

Size up your cake layers: did they come out pretty domed at the top? If yes, then carefully slice off just the tops of the cake layers so you have nice flat surfaces to work with. This also means that you have cake scraps to nibble on.

 

 

lemoncake-38

 

Put a dab of frosting on the cake board or plate you are using for the cake and put the first layer, cut side up, on top of it. Spread a layer of the chilled curd over the cake. It’s important to use chilled curd, because otherwise it will run down the sides of the cake like it did to me.

Place the middle layer over the curd and spread a second layer of curd. Place the top cake layer, cut side down, over the curd.

 

 

lemoncake-61

At this point, if you are feeling like a perfectionist, spread a very thing layer of frosting  over the cake and then chill in the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes. This is called a crumb layer and it traps the crumbs in that first layer of frosting so as to help with the final pretty coat of frosting. Once that has firmed up, spread the final layer of icing over the cake. For me, I wasn’t catching a lot of crumbs the first time around, so I just frosted the cake in one go.

Decorate with curly lemon peels or candied lemon.

 

 

lemoncake-76

 

Lemon Cake
 
Recipe By:
Ingredients
  • Cake
  • 1C Butter, unsalted, softened
  • 3 C Cake Flour
  • 2 C Sugar
  • 1 C Milk
  • 1Tbsp Vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 5 Egg Whites
  • Lemon Curd, store bought or homemade
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1.5 C Sugar
  • Zest of 3 Lemons
  • ½ C Lemon Juice
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 8 Tbsp Butter, unsalted
  • Lemon Frosting
  • 1 C Butter, unsalted
  • 3.5 C Powdered Sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
Instructions
  1. The Cake:
  2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line 3 round cake pans with parchment paper and butter/flour the pans.
  3. Beat the butter in a stand mixer until light in fluffy. Slowly pour in the sugar and continue to mix until well combined and still fluffy.
  4. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir together the milk and vanilla. Add the dry and wet to the butter in alternating batches, mixing until light and fluffy.
  5. Separate the yolks from the whites of the eggs and reserve the yolks for the lemon curd. Beat the egg whites until firm peaks emerge. Gently fold the whites into the batter and distribute amongst the cake pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes; until set in the middle.
  6. The Curd:
  7. While the cakes are baking, prepare the lemon curd, if making at home. Start out by combining the zest and sugar in a food processor and blitzing together for a few moments. Then whisk the reserved egg yolks with the lemon sugar, lemon juice and salt in the top of a double boiler or heatproof bowl.
  8. Bring a pot of water to boil and then whisk the curd mixture over the boiling water until the curd thickens and can coat the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). Remove the curd from the heat and stir in the butter. Strain the curd into a bowl, cover and let cool completely in the refrigerator.
  9. When the cakes finish cooking, remove them from the oven and let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes before turning them out onto cooling racks.
  10. The Frosting:
  11. One batch should cover one three layer cake, if using a different filling for between the layers. If using only this frosting then double the ingredients.
  12. Beat the butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar in batches, mixing each batch in slowly at first to prevent the powdered sugar cloud. Add a pinch of salt and the lemon juice, beat until well combined and you get a consistency you like. If the butter has gotten too warm, you can put the bowl in the fridge for a while to help firm it up, or you could pack the underside of the mixer bowl with bags of frozen veggies while you mix the frosting.
  13. The Assembly:
  14. Size up your cake layers: did they come out pretty domed at the top? If yes, then carefully slice off just the tops of the cake layers so you have nice flat surfaces to work with. This also means that you have cake scraps to nibble on.
  15. Put a dab of frosting on the cake board or plate you are using for the cake and put the first layer, cut side up, on top of it. Spread a layer of the chilled curd over the cake. It's important to use chilled curd, because otherwise it will run down the sides of the cake like it did to me.
  16. Place the middle layer over the curd and spread a second layer of curd. Place the top cake layer, cut side down, over the curd.
  17. At this point, if you are feeling like a perfectionist, spread a very thing layer of frosting over the cake and then chill in the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes. This is called a crumb layer and it traps the crumbs in that first layer of frosting so as to help with the final pretty coat of frosting. Once that has firmed up, spread the final layer of icing over the cake.
  18. Decorate with curly lemon peels or candied lemon.
lemoncake-108