Recipe: triple layer lemon cake
I like spring. I do. I do. Love the sound of birds singing in the early morning. Love seeing the foxes traipse through our yard at dusk. The light is different outside and in the house. The sun is bright and high, but not yet oppressive as it will be in summer. This alternates with chilly, overcast, drizzly days that hover around freezing. The air is just cool enough that you need a jacket, but warm enough that you take the jacket off after hiking for an hour. Yesterday: sunny and warm (70°F, which borders on hot for me). Kaweah engaged in her seasonal brain-baking on the deck and then staggered into the office to cool down. Friday will be rainy/snowy and cold again – and Kaweah will stand at the deck door, making little grunting sounds, asking to be let out… because she thinks it’s always nice and sunny on the deck.
where could we take this?
No one fruit represents sunshine to me more than the lemon. It’s not just the vibrant yellow, but the liveliness of the juice and the scent of the freshly grated zest. It wakes me up, keeps me interested. I was recently asked to post a couple of links back to the website of a certain national magazine. But you know, I can’t endorse something I haven’t tried and to be honest, I have never tried any of their recipes before. I agreed to test-drive one of their desserts. [UPDATE: 5/28/09] Because those brilliant people can’t hold up their end of a simple agreement, I’ve removed the links. Food bloggers – I recommend not having anything to do with Better Homes and Gardens.
grating some lemon zest
I have to admit that it took a while for me to find a recipe to try because I wanted to avoid anything that called for instant pudding mix, faux whipped topping, or store-bought cake… After all, use real butter is called use real butter for a reason. I settled on the triple layer lemon cake because it was something I could make entirely from scratch.
I halved the recipe and poured it into one pan. The full recipe calls for three 9-inch pans. Greasing and flouring the pan did not make for a good release (at least when it was cooled, it didn’t want to release). I think a layer of parchment is a good idea. It didn’t matter though, because I cut out a few circles of cake and sliced the layers to even thickness.
While the cake was baking, I whipped the cream cheese frosting. I really love a good cream cheese frosting and this one had a nice lemony zing to it. Admittedly, I increased the amount of lemon juice and lemon zest, because you know it’s got to be good. Could definitely see this frosting making an appearance with some other friends. Hello cinnamon buns. Oh hello ginger carrot cupcakes.
creamy cheesy frosting
The recipe suggests using purchased lemon curd or to search their recipe center. I prefer a lemon curd recipe I got from my pastry skills class – it’s *awesome*. Make THAT one. You will be a better and happier person for it. I deviated from the assembly instructions because we don’t eat a lot of cake in this house. Instead, I tried out some new acetate that arrived in the mail a few weeks ago.
piping lemon curd
Refrigeration helps to stabilize the structural competence of the cake. Overall, the crumb was a little on the coarse side for my tastes and it was oddly moist and chewy. The flavor however, was pleasantly mellow which played nicely against the tartness of the curd. I personally prefer chiffon or genoise when making multi-layer cakes. This might be nice in a bundt pan. In general, I don’t think these are recipes I’d really go for.
my version of the triple layer lemon cake (okay, quad-layer)
Triple-Layer Lemon Cake
from Better Homes and Gardens
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder (reduce to 1/2 tsp at 8500 ft.)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
2 tsps finely shredded lemon peel
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1 cup lemon curd
lemon cream cheese frosting
lemon peel curls (optional)
from Culinary School of the Rockies pastry skills course
6 oz. fresh lemon juice, strained
9 oz. sugar
3 oz. butter
3 oz. heavy cream
1 tbsp fine lemon zest
pinch of salt
Boil lemon juice, sugar, butter, salt, and heavy cream in a saucepan. Place eggs in a bowl and whisk to loosen up the whites and yolks. Temper hot lemon mixture into eggs. Add mixture back into saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and nappé consistency. It should be quite thick or else it will be too runny in the final product. Strain, add zest, and stir. Place plastic wrap directly on curd and cool over an ice bath. Refrigerate when chilled. Can be frozen for up to 4-6 months. Makes 3.5 cups.
lemon cream cheese frosting
1 tsp lemon zest, grated
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp lemon juice
4-5 cups confectioner’s sugar
In a medium mixing bowl combine cream cheese, butter, and lemon juice; beat with electric mixer on low to medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, beating well. Gradually beat in 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 cups additional powdered sugar until spreading consistency. Stir in the lemon peel.
Cake: Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grease and lightly flour three 9 x 1-1/2-inch round cake pans [Jen suggests lining with parchment paper too]. Combine flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, lemon peel, and lemon juice; beat until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Add flour mixture and buttermilk or sour milk alternately to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Pour into prepared pans. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans. Cool thoroughly on wire racks.
To assemble: [Jen suggests leveling the layers by trimming any domed tops.] Place a cake layer on a cake plate. Spread with half of the Lemon Curd. Top with second layer; spread with the remaining Lemon Curd. Top with third layer. Frost top and sides with cream cheese frosting. Cover and store cake in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. If desired, garnish with lemon peel curls. Serves 12.