My mom’s birthday is three days after Christmas, so sometimes she will have a birthday cake at an odd time of the year to alleviate the typical post-holiday sugar rush. Last summer, in July, I made her an all-natural flop of a red velvet cake. This year, I decided to make an over the top yummy lemon cake and surprised her with it on my parents’ recent visit to see us. She was certainly surprised with the cake, and I was too with the ease this cake was to make. I mean, it has a long name and certainly looks complicated. Though there are many steps, it’s well worth it and really not that time consuming as long as you plan ahead.
First, let’s talk about the cake. Ohhh the cake! It’s a little hard to tell from the pictures, but this is a FOUR layer cake! [it was a very sunny day when I made this cake, and just couldn't wait to take pictures, so they are a little too bright for my liking.] I made the cake in two cake pans, then split each down the middle after they were cooled so I had four thin layers. In between, I filled the cake with lemon curd and vanilla cream cheese frosting. So yum!
This lemon cake recipe is definitely a winner. It has the classic 1-2-3-4 ingredient ratio for cakes: 1 pound butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs. I amped it up with a bit more lemon zest than it called for, so the cake itself was perfectly tart and sweet at the same time. The texture of this cake was definitely moist, but was almost spongier than your average, everyday cake. This was the perfectly pairing to the smooth lemon curd filling that I used.
If you’ve never made lemon curd before, don’t worry. It’s super easy, and very inexpensive compared to those $4-5 jars at the grocery store. You actually make it in a fairly similar fashion to quick homemade pudding, except with eggs, so you do have to pay attention so that the eggs don’t start cooking separately. The lemon curd is easily my favorite part of this cake, and I think I actually want to make some again soon to spread on an english muffin at breakfast.
The most outrageous part of this cake was the frosting, by far. For this cake, I used Veronica’s Cream Cheese Celebration Frosting. Recently I won a bottle of Crème Bouquet from her blog, and you can click over to see how she describes it, but basically it is a flavor emulsion that is lemony and sweet and reminiscent of good bakery cakes. Since this was my first time using it, I thought it only appropriate to use one of Veronica’s recipes–so I paired this tangy lemon cake with a rich, creamy celebration frosting made with cream cheese and butter. The good stuff!
I can’t really say enough good things about this cake–you’ll just have to try it out, and not be intimidated by all the steps and recipes. It is well worth it, I promise! Lemony and creamy makes for a very happy birthday [two months' belated]!
Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd and Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
click to print whole recipe
Lemon Cake [from Martha Stewart]
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature, plus more for pans
- 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- zest of 2 1/2 lemons
- 1 1/2 cups lemon curd [see recipe below]
- 1 recipe vanilla cream cheese frosting [see recipe below]
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8 by 2 inch round cake pans, then line bottoms with parchment paper. Flour pans on top of parchment, then set aside.
Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until softened Then slowly add sugar, mixing on medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until fluffy. Scrape down sides of the bowl as needed. Gradually pour in eggs, continuing to mix on medium speed. Beat well and scrape sides between each addition, about 5 minutes in total. Batter should not look slick.
Meanwhile, combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl.
After eggs are mixed in, reduce speed to low, then alternate between adding flour and buttermilk. Begin and end with flour, then fold in vanilla and lemon zest.
Divide batter between prepared pans, then bake for 25 minutes. Rotate pans in oven for even browning [cover with foil if necessary], then bake for another 10-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool cake in pans on wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert cake onto wire racks to cool completely before cutting, filling, and frosting.
When cake has cooled completely, remove parchment from each cake and then use a serrated knife [I used a long bread knife] to gently split each layer into two, making a four layer cake. Reserve the prettiest domed layer for the top of the cake, and use the other domed layer for the bottom. I used 3/4 cup lemon curd in between layers 1 and 2, frosting in between layers 2 and 3, and the remaining 3/4 cup lemon curd in between layers 3 and 4. If you want lemon curd in between all layers, double the recipe below and use 1 cup in between each layer.
Frost generously with vanilla buttercream, using a crumb coat if necessary [I didn't find it to be], then sprinkle with sparkling sanding sugar for decoration, if desired. Store in the refrigerator, covered, and serve chilled.
Time: 70 minutes [30 minutes active] + time for cake and curd to cool.
Yield: 12 servings.
Lemon Curd [from Martha Stewart]
- 3 large egg yolks, strained through a mesh sieve
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
In a small saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar. Turn heat on to medium, then cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until thick. While mixture is cooking, be sure to stir constantly with a wooden spoon, not forgetting the sides and bottom of pan.
Remove from heat, then add butter piece by piece, stirring until smooth and melted before adding the next piece.
Pour mixture into medium bowl, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap–placing it directly on the curd so a skin doesn’t form. Refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least one hour or overnight.
Time: 20 minutes.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups.
Notes: To fill each layer with curd, double this recipe.
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting [from Veronica's Cornucopia]
- 1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 pounds powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons crème bouquet
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract [clear for a more pure white frosting, regular vanilla if you're okay with a cream/yellowy frosting]
- milk to thin, if necessary
In a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. With mixer on low, add sugar [gradually so as to not explode powdered sugar everywhere] and crème bouquet and vanilla. When sugar is incorporated, turn to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes, then add milk if necessary to thin [I used about 1 tablespoon]. Refrigerate or freeze if you won’t be using it within a few days.
Yield: enough frosting for a two layer cake + 1 cup extra.
Time: 10 minutes.
Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.