Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lemon Dream

This is the best cake I have ever made; I have made a similar cake many times from a published recipe, (which I have modified in several ways over time) and I thought I would use it as a jumping off point for a more bold variation.  By now, I think it is safe to say that there is no recipe under the sun, published or unpublished, which is exactly like this one.  It was a fragrant, citrusy, torte of creamy, textural perfection.


For the Cake
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 large whole eggs, at room temperature
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. sour cream
1/4 c. milk
1. tsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. orange extract
1/8 tsp. yellow food coloring

2 1/4 c. cake flour
1 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. Salimon
1/8 tsp. iodized salt

12 Tbsp. ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

For the Frosting
3 1/4 c. powdered sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
2 Tbsp. milk
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. orange extract
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/8 tsp yellow food coloring
Pinch of salt

For the Simple Syrup
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. lemon extract

The Method
Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Trace 2 9-inch cake rounds on baking parchment paper and cut out the rounds.  Lightly spray the inside of the cake rounds with cooking spray and lay parchment paper rounds inside of cake rounds.

Whisk wet ingredients together in a medium sized bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl for mixing or in your stand mixer bowl.  With mixer on low speed, beat in pieces of butter, one piece at a time until mixture is coarse and crumbly. 

Increase mixer speed to medium-high and gradually add in egg mixture.  Stop mixer and scrape down sides then resume mixing and beat until batter is light and fluffy.  This batter will be thick.  

Divide batter evenly between the two prepared cake rounds and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with few crumbs attached (28-34 minutes).  

Remove cakes and set on top of cooling racks and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Run a small knife around between the cakes and the pans to loosen and flip out onto racks.  Remove the parchment paper from the bottom of each cake and flip cake upright onto another cooling rack.  Cut each cake in 1/2 with a bread knife or other long serrated blade taking care to maintain a constant, even thickness as you cut.  

Place a small amount of frosting on your cake plate and place a bottom layer of cake on the plate.  Lightly brush the top of the layer with the simple syrup using a silicone sauce brush then add a generous (~1/4 inch even layer of frosting.  Add another layer of cake and repeat with additional layers.  Use a small portion of remaining frosting to go around the outside of the cake (called the crumb layer) and refrigerate for 20 minutes then remove and add remainder of frosting for the final outer layer of frosting.  Refrigerate for an additional 30-60 minutes prior to serving.     

Food for Thought
Regarding lemon zest, the less-is-more technique works best as the outer portion of the lemon peel has everything you want.  As you grate deeper into the white pithy matter, the lemon peel has a very unpleasant bitterness that reminds us of why we do not eat lemons and other citrus fruit out-of-hand like we do apples, pears and so forth.  

Also, when frosting a cake, remember that you always want to put down more frosting than you think you will need, push the frosting where you want it to go, then scrape off the extra.  This will prevent tearing the cake and besides, even with 4 layers, there is no need to be stingy when you've got this much frosting.  When frosting a cake, you should have the right tool for the job and that means an icing spatula (I like the offset handle).  They can be purchased at your local craft store, WalMart, Target, etc. and online.  

Finally, this cake needs no additional company other than a fork and a glass of cold milk.  However, if your friend sends you a jar of lemon-ginger marmalade, a bit of that on the side really pumps up the jam (pun intended - how shameful - sorry).  But seriously folks, after you try this recipe, you will forgive my sins of humor (Doh! Another one. Help!).     


  1. Do you torte the marmalade in the layers, or just spoon it over the slices?

  2. Because the ginger, which I think is great in just about anything, falls into the "love it or hate it" category along with our friends cilantro and cumin, I left it out of the cake and served it as an add-on, though this term doesn't really do justice to such a great product, which everyone ended up having with their cake anyway and which probably served as a muse for the cake on some level.

  3. BEYOND fantastic. This is always a good cake, as Brad said, but the sour cream made it such a beautiful consistency - irresistable! And Klunker - your ginger marmalade kicked it OVER the top!!! Fantastic! MAKE IT AGAIN!!! NOW!!!