Well, technically, this is a one-year-and-two-day blog-iversary cake. I decided that there was already too much going on with the October 31st post to add this extra-special, special occasion cake recipe onto the end. Besides, this is one rich and impressive dessert that demands 100% of the spotlight.
I can't believe that it has already been one year since Peanut Butter and Julie posted its first recipe, Maple-Glazed Pumpkin Doughnuts, for the rest of the blogosphere to read (and mom, you thought I'd never stick with anything!) 240 posts and countless personal anecdotes, cooking tips, and bits of trivia later, I cannot wait to dive into year number two. Thank you to all of my loyal readers for your comments, suggestions, and questions, and thank you to my husband, Eric, and to my family for allowing me to occasionally entertain my readers at your expense. (Here's a tip for all of you bloggers out there: There is no better threat to someone than "Oh! I am soooo going to blog about this tomorrow!")
Coincidentally, my blog-iversary (does Hallmark make a card for this?) occured as the first few Meyer lemons ripened on my tree in the backyard. Meyer lemons are hybrid yellow-orange colored lemons that bear a rounder shape and sweeter flavor than normal lemons. Citrus fruit is one of only a few things that grow well in the desert, so we planted 2 Meyer lemon, 1 Valencia orange, 1 grapefruit, and 1 lime tree in our yard. The lemons are usually ready to pick in late August, followed closely by the limes, grapefruit, and oranges. For some reason, this years ripening process has been painfully slow, with the lemons just now turning completely yellow-orange. At this rate, we will be enjoying a grapefruit as part of a New Year's resolution healthy breakfast, and our oranges will be turned into Valentine's Day mimosas!
I have had a few Meyer-lemon inspired recipe ideas waiting patiently in a folder since late July, one of which became this luscious layer cake. This decadent dessert uses Meyer lemon as an ingredient in each of the four components: cake, lemon curd, buttercream, and simple syrup. As I was working on this recipe, which I thought was the perfect way to celebrate this first year (I do love any excuse for me to bake and decorate a cake), I decided to try my hand at a fifth component, candied Meyer lemon slices for garnish. I made these by simmering paper-thin slices of lemon in equal parts sugar and water for 30 minutes and then drying on parchment. Although there are several steps to this cake, and the procedure takes some time, the final result is well worth the effort. Here are some extra tips for preparing this celebratory citrus cake:
- The baked cake layers can be refrigerated, wrapped tightly in plastic, for 1 day.
- The lemon curd can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
- The buttercream may be prepared up to 4 days in advance and chilled in an airtight container. It can also be frozen for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. Let the buttercream come completely to room temperature (this may take several hours if frozen), and beat before using.
- The simple syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
- As you add the pieces of butter to the mixer when making the buttercream, do not be alarmed if the texture starts to appear curdled. Just keep mixing (pull up a chair if you need to!) and eventually the buttercream will come together with a silky smooth texture.
- Throughout the recipe, Meyer lemons can be replaced with regular lemons.
- If you don't want to make the lemon curd, then use a store-bought variety. You will need about 2 cups. Making lemon curd really is quite easy though--and more cost effective than buying it premade--so give it a try!
- While cooking the lemon curd, if you find that it has become a bit lumpy, there are probably a few pieces of cooked egg in the mixture. Simply strain the curd over into a bowl to get rid of the pieces and achieve a smooth textured curd.
- The first layer of buttercream is put on the cake as a crumb coat. The purpose of this layer is to seal in any stray crumbs, so that the final layer is smooth and crumb-free.
- I made this recipe into a small tiered cake, using one 8-inch and one 6-inch tier of 2 layers each. You could also turn this recipe into lemon curd-filled cupcakes, swirling the buttercream on top.
- If you prefer oranges or even limes to lemons, substitute the alternate citrus zest or juice in each of the components. You could also try a lemon-lime cake!
For the cake layers
3 cups cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt plus 1 pinch
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar, divided
4 large eggs, separated
Zest of 1 Meyer Lemon
3/4 cup whole milk
For the Meyer Lemon Curd
8 large egg yolks
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
For the Meyer Lemon Buttercream
2/3 cup water
8 large egg whites
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoon pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 of the Meyer Lemon Curd
Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Zest from 1 Meyer lemon
3/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
Prepare the cake layers: Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt; set aside. Spray two 8-inch cake pans with nonstick baking spray (I like Pam for Baking); set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and 2 cups of the sugar. Mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Mix in the egg yolks, one at a time. Mix in the zest. Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk.
Place the egg whites in a clean bowl and beat with an electric mixer (either a handheld mixer or using the whisk attachment of the stand mixer) on medium speed until foamy. Add the pinch of salt and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4-cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Fold 1/3 of the egg-white mixture into the batter with a rubber spatula. Gently fold in the remaining egg-white mixture until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center emerges clean, 35-40 minutes. Transfer the cake pans to a wire rack and let cool slightly. Invert the layers onto the rack and let cool completely.
Prepare the lemon curd: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the yolks and the sugar. Gradually whisk in the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Place the mixture over medium-low heat and whisk constantly for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken (do not let it boil.) Whisk in the butter until it has melted. Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl and press plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd. Chill until cold.
Prepare the buttercream: In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, water, egg whites, and the cream of tartar. Place the bowl over a medium saucepan filled with simmering water and whisk the mixture constantly until the sugar has dissolved and it is very warm to the touch.
Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the mixture at medium-high speed until completely cool, 8-10 minutes. Beat in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until the mixture is thick and smooth. Beat in the salt and the lemon curd, beating until smooth, and then drizzle in the Limoncello or Framboise until your desired consistency is reached.
Prepare the simple syrup: Heat the sugar, water, and zest in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil and then transfer to a heatproof bowl to let cool completely. Stir in the lemon juice.
Assemble the cake: Cut the cooled cake layers in half horizontally, using a sharp serrated knife or a cake divider, so that you have 4 layers. Place one layer, cut-side up, on a serving plate or cake round. Brush the top with a generous amount of the simple syrup and spread with 1/3 of the remaining lemon curd. Repeat this process with the second and third cake layers. For the final layer, brush the top of the cake with the lemon syrup. Spread a thin layer of the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate until the buttercream has set. Spread another layer of the buttercream over the top and sides. Decorate the cake as desired, either using remaining buttercream for piping, lemon leaves, candied lemon slices, or flowers.