Weeks of rain induced comfort food left me craving something light and refreshing. The weather helped significantly as the rain left behind beautifully clear skies and crisp cold air. It was invigorating! What made it even more enjoyable was that I was able to sneak in a long solitary walk (hard to come by when you have a toddler and a husband working nights.) Here’s a picture of the view from our beautiful city last week. Is there anything more gorgeous?
I was also gifted 4 perfect lemons from my mom’s sweet husband and I just had to find a use for them! Rather than go to the web for a lemon-centric dessert, I ran to my shelf and grabbed my new favorite cookbook BAKED. Although I am not a huge fan of making cakes – far too many steps and processes – I thought this one sounded like a perfect match for my mood – refreshing, light, tart, and a touch of sweet.
Making the cake: Taking three 8″ cake pans, butter the pans, line the bottoms with parchment, and then lightly butter and flour the parchment. My favorite way to line the cake pans is to trace the pan on the parchment and then cut inside your traced circle. That way, it will lay flat.
Sift your dry cake ingredients together and set aside. I like to measure out the ingredients onto a sheet of parchment and then use the parchment like a funnel to help pour the ingredients into your sifter (or fine mesh sieve – what I use.)
Add sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat again until fluffy.
Add the egg and mix until incorporated. Add the flour mixture alternately with ice water beginning and ending with flour. Once this part is done, get your arms ready to work because for this next part, you will need all the forearm strength you have. Take a clean non-reactive bowl and begin to whisk, and whisk, and whisk your egg whites and cream of tartar until you have soft peaks. I must be really used to using a mixer because this killed me! I actually had to take a couple whisking breaks – sad, I know. When you are done, they will be beautiful (much more than those you’ve previously made using that overrated Kitchenaid.)
Fold your egg whites into the rest of your batter. Pour equal amounts of batter into each of your prepared pans.
One easy way to make sure you have the same amount of batter in each pan is to weigh your bowl prior to making your cake batter and then weigh it again once you’ve completed your batter. Subtracting your initial weight from your final weight, you’ll then know the weight of your actual batter. Divide your batter weight into the number of cake pans you have and then fill your cake pans while on top of your scale – making sure to zero out your scale prior to filling it with batter.
OR, you can use my super easy way and do a batter depth test using toothpicks, moving batter between pans if necessary.
Bake your cakes and then transfer to a cooling rack. After allowing them to settle for 20 minutes, run a knife around the edges and invert them onto you rack, allowing them to completely cool.
This happens to be my favorite part of the cake because if you have any extra, you can slather it on scones – YUM!
Pour your lemon juice over the zest and allow it to sit for 10 minutes so the zest softens. In a bowl that is heat resistant and non-reactive, mix together the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar. Place it over about an inch of simmering water and stir continuously with a spatula until it has thickened to a pudding consistency. This took me longer than I thought it would – don’t loose heart! Just continue stirring and cooking until you can drop it by big fat yummy curd droplets into the bowl.
Add in your butter and stir together. Push the curd through a fine mesh sieve and then cover with saran wrap – place directly on top of the curd to avoid a skin forming on the curd. Set aside!
Frosting: The ingredients for the frosting will look really crazy – but trust me, it is WONDERFUL!! You basically make a rue with the flour, sugar, cream, and milk and then beat in the butter and a little lemon curd! There is no powdered sugar! (boy – that is a lot of exclamation points!) I kept waiting to taste the flour, but never did. It was light, creamy, and just the perfect touch of tangy lemon. I did need to chill the frosting in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes before I could frost with it.
Assembly: this is the part I am not skilled at. For some reason, I can’t ever seem to get those silly layers to sit flat and stay in one spot. Place your first layer on your cake pedestal and gently slice off the cap of the cake to level it. Cover with 1/2 of your lemon curd. Place the second layer on top, level off and then top with the remaining curd. With your final layer on top, you are ready to frost! I am skilled to the point where I can provide a great tutorial on cake frosting. I have a hard time frosting the sides and making them look pretty. But, I do my best and thankfully, how pretty it looks doesn’t change the way it tastes! This cake is really great. It will be made again for a summer potluck, but I found it to be a perfect dessert to compensate for the heaviness and richness of the holidays. I hope you take the time to make it – it is worth it!
Lemon Drop Cake
Adapted from BAKED
2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 T vanilla extract
grated zest of one lemon
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
3 large egg white, room temperature
1/4 t cream of tartar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 large eggs
7 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
4 T butter, room temperature
Lemon Drop Frosting
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk (I used whole milk)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cut into small peices
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup lemon curd
Making the cake: Prepare your pans while your oven heats to 325 degrees. You will want to butter three 8″ cake pans, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, then lightly dust with flour. Set aside!
Measure out your dry ingredients onto a sheet of parchment paper and using it as a funnel, pour it into your sifter or sieve. Cream together the butter and shortening, mixing at medium speed for 3 minutes. Add in the sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest, beating for an additional 3 minutes. Add in 1 egg. Once combined, reduce your speed and alternately add in your flour mixture and ice water – begin and end with flour.
In a separate bowl, flex your arm muscles and whisk together your 3 egg whites and cream of tartar until you have soft peaks. Fold into your other batter very gently. Using your desired method, evenly distribute the batter into your waiting pans. Bake for 40 minutes, making sure to rotate your pans halfway through to ensure even baking.
Allow your cakes to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting the cakes onto your rack and cooling the remainder of the way.
Lemon Curd Filling: Soften your lemon zest by allowing it to sit in the lemon juice for 10 minutes. Once ready, mix together in a heat proof bowl with the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar. Place your bowl over an inch of simmering water, creating a double boiler. Stirring constantly, cook the curd until it is thick and has a pudding-like consistency. Once it is thick, whisk in the butter. Push the completed curd through a sieve and then cover with saran wrap, covering the surface completely to prevent a skin forming.
Lemon Drop Frosting: Over medium heat, whisk together the flour and sugar. Whisk in the milk and cream and stir occasionally until thickened. Pour your rue into your mixer bowl and beat on high speed until it has cooled off. Add in the butter and mix on low until it is completely combined. Continue mixing at medium-high until it is airy and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla and lemon curd. Chill the frosting in the refrigerator until it is at a consistency that is spreadable.
Assembly: beginning with your first cake, set it on your cake plate and shave off the top to level out the cake. Spread half of the lemon curd on your first layer. Repeat this process with the second layer. Top off your layers with the remaining cake. Using the Lemon Drop Frosting, cover the tops and sides of the cake. You will need to store the cake in the refrigerator, bringing it to room temperature prior to serving.
So, what do you think? Summer BBQ cake or winter refresher?