Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cake of the Week: Lemon Layer Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting

The grocery store on Friday night was an absolute madhouse. I waited in line for 40 minutes, my fellow shoppers purchasing important hurricane-preparation things like batteries and bottled water. I, on the other hand, was there to pick up far less practical staples: lemons, butter, sugar, and heavy cream.


Now all those people are well-stocked if a hurricane is ever predicted again. I am not. But at least I and my friends had the satisfaction of enjoying an absolutely delicious Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd Filling and Whipped Cream Frosting for LOTR-Emily's birthday on Saturday night!

As I've said before, lemon cake is the one thing that might rival chocolate in my cake-loving heart. This cake recipe uses lemon pudding in the cake batter to add flavor and a light but at the same time rich texture. 

The lemon curd component was inspired by my Lemon Filled Cupcakes. But this time I went with a different curd recipe that used whole eggs instead of egg yolks. I don't like having to worry about leftover egg components, so this recipe was perfect. And the curd was easy and turned out really well. 

And the whipped cream frosting. Oh the whipped cream frosting! I am so pleased with how well it worked! As I approached my heavy cream, I was anxious to say the least. My kitchen was humid (never good for delicate baking), and last time I made whipped cream frosting it was a near-cake-disaster-miss (but one of my best cakes ever - the Peach Chantilly Cake). 

But I got my googling on and found a promising recipe that used gelatin. And it worked! I'm paranoid, so I added a teaspoon of cream of tartar for extra stabilization power. Normal whipped cream is just heavy cream, sugar, and maybe some vanilla. But the problem with this most glorious substance is that it tends to kind of melt. So if you frost a cake with it...you'd better be eating that cake almost immediately. Stabilized whipped cream, however, stays whipped. With the addition of gelatin (or cornstarch, or cream of tartar, or meringue powder), it suddenly becomes whipped cream but exponentially better

You can use it as a frosting. You can put it in a piping bag and decorate with it. You can eat it with a spoon out of a tupperware in your fridge for days. (Scratch that last one. I would never do that.) (Pure lies. Clearly I am doing that as we speak.)

Lemon Pudding Layer Cake
Yield: 3 x 8" round layers
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 (3 oz) package lemon pudding mix
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs (room temperature)
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Juice and zest of 2 lemons (about 4-6 tablespoons of juice)

  • Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter, line with parchment, and flour three round 8-inch pans, tapping out the excess. Set aside.
  • Sift and whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, and set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, pudding, and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy--about 5 minutes.
  • Add the eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with spatula.
  • Add the wet & dry ingredients to the creamed mixture by alternating--beginning and ending with dry ingredients and mixing just enough after each addition to incorporate, but not overmix. Add the lemon juice and zest last (to prevent the milk from curdling).
  • Divide the batter in three pans.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be  careful to not overbake. Check cakes at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it's almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a knife or spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.
  • Cool cakes completely before assembling. You can wrap them tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Best eaten day one.


Lemon Curd (source)
Yield: almost 2 cups 
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons) (do not use the bottled lemon juice)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon zest

Room temperature lemons provide more juice. After squeezing, strain the juice to remove any pulp. Zest is the yellow, sweet-flavored outer rind of the lemon. A zester or fine grater can be used to remove the rind. Cold lemons are much easier to grate. Grate lemons just before using as the zest will lose moisture if it sits too long.

  • In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce) (160 degrees F or 71 degrees C). This will take approximately10 minutes. 
  • Remove from heat. 
  • Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. 
  • The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately with plastic wrap (so a skin doesn't form) and refrigerate for up to a week.

Whipped Cream Frosting
Yield: about 3-4 cups frosting. Enough to generously frost one cake and have leftovers.

1 teaspoon gelatin powder
4 tablespoons cold water
2 cup whipping cream
1 speck of salt
8 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (I don’t know how absolutely necessary this is, but it can’t hurt and I’m paranoid about my whipped cream melting.)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

  • Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small bowl to soften (about 5 minutes). 
  • Scald 4 tablespoon cream; pour over gelatin, stirring till dissolved. 
  • Refrigerate until consistency of unbeaten egg white (about 30 minutes, but check it so it doesn’t become too firm.) 
  • Using a hand-mixer, beat until smooth.  (If you accidently let it get too firm in the fridge, just beat it for longer, it should loosen up). 
  • Whip remaining cream. Add salt, sugar, vanilla, and cream of tartar; beat in gelatin mixture. 

  • When the cakes and lemon curd are completely cool, spread half the curd on the first layer. 
  • Add the second layer and spread the rest of the curd. 
  • Gently place third layer on top. My cake was a little precarious (lemon curd is slippery!), so I inserted spaghetti noodles (you could also use toothpicks) to keep the cake together. 
  • Sidenote: Make sure you warn people about the noodles when serving! In my family finding a noodle in your cake was good luck and meant you got to make a wish. :)
  • Refrigerate the cake for 20 minutes to an hour so it can set while you make the frosting.
  • Frost generously.
  • Enjoy!