Lemon Layer Cake
May 15, 2010
A few weeks ago, we hosted my mom’s retirement party, which of course is a reason to make a cake! I’ve been wanting to make this cake for years, but haven’t due to the numerous steps and seemingly complicated instructions. But I knew my mom was going to come up a day early for the party, which would mean I had someone to watch the little munchkin while I baked! And its spring, which is the perfect time for a lemon cake.
This cake was particularly appealing to me because of the lemon curd and the 7 minute frosting. My grandma Major used to make cakes with 7 minute frosting, and they were always so lovely. Yet the icing was always kind of sickingly-sweet, and wasn’t so lovely the next day. The article that went with this recipe advertised an icing not like the old-fashioned version, and my curiosity was piqued. I wanted the cake to be pretty like my grandma’s, but taste better. This definitely was the best 7 minute frosting I’ve ever had…it was sweet, light, and slightly lemony. It stayed beautiful for DAYS afterwords. And it was a perfect balance with the tart lemon curd filling. The cake was really delicious as well, and I think I’ll use this cake recipe again for vanilla cake lovers, and frost with a plain vanilla buttercream.
I made this cake the day before, and refrigerated it over night. If possible, I will make it the same day I served it when I make this cake again. The frosting and lemon curd were still perfect, but I’m not a huge fan of refrigerated cake…it wasn’t as light and fluffy as it was when I put the cake together.
Oh, and it wasn’t as complicated as it looked. 🙂
Lemon Layer Cake
(from Cook’s Illustrated, March 2007)
Lemon Curd Filling
1 cup fresh lemon juice from about 6 lemons
1 teaspoon gelatin (powdered)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon table salt
4 large eggs
6 large egg yolks (reserve egg whites for cake)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus extra for pans
1 cup whole milk , room temperature
6 large egg whites , room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces, softened but still cool
Fluffy White Icing
2 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1. FOR THE FILLING: Measure 1 tablespoon lemon juice into small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over top. Heat remaining lemon juice, sugar, and salt in medium nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot but not boiling. Whisk eggs and yolks in large nonreactive bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly pour hot lemon-sugar mixture into eggs, then return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with heatproof spatula, until mixture registers 170 degrees on instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to leave trail when spatula is scraped along pan bottom, 4 to 6 minutes. Immediately remove pan from heat and stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Stir in frozen butter until incorporated. Pour filling through fine-mesh strainer into nonreactive bowl (you should have 3 cups). Cover surface directly with plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm enough to spread, at least 4 hours.
2. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch-wide by 2-inch-high round cake pans and line with parchment paper. In 2-cup liquid measure or medium bowl, whisk together milk, egg whites, and vanilla.
3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt at low speed. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs with no visible butter chunks. Add all but 1/2 cup milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed until mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. With mixer running at low speed, add remaining 1/2 cup milk mixture; increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium speed and beat 20 seconds longer. Divide batter evenly between cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops.
4. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert onto greased wire rack; peel off parchment. Invert cakes again; cool completely on rack, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. TO ASSEMBLE: Following illustrations below, use serrated knife to cut each cake into 2 even layers. Place bottom layer of 1 cake on cardboard round or cake plate. Using icing spatula, spread 1 cup lemon filling evenly on cake, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge; using cardboard round, gently replace top layer. Spread 1 cup filling on top. Using cardboard round, gently slide bottom half of second cake into place. Spread remaining cup filling on top. Using cardboard round, place top layer of second cake. Smooth out any filling that has leaked from sides of cake; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while making icing.
6. FOR THE ICING: Combine all ingredients in bowl of standing mixer or large heatproof bowl and set over medium saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water (do not let bowl touch water). Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and transfer mixture to standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to beat until mixture has cooled to room temperature and stiff peaks form, 5 minutes longer. Using icing spatula, spread frosting on cake. Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 1 day before serving.)
The filling can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, but it will become quite stiff; fold it with a rubber spatula to loosen it before spreading onto the cake. For neater slices, dip a knife into hot water before cutting the cake. Leftovers can be stored covered in the refrigerator, with the cut side of the cake covered tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.