Lemon cakes, guys. I can’t believe this is my first post about lemon cakes. I have had quite a fling with lemon cakes over the past six months—the super dense kind, the lemon syrup drenched kind, blueberry glazed, buttercreamed, with rosemary, with poppy seeds. It all started with my sister’s birthday in June and hasn’t really stopped since then.
This is the one lemon cake to rule them all. Which makes me doubly glad that I took dramatic lighting glamour shots—as the previous three lemon cakes went woefully undocumented. Including the giant rosemary one with chocolate buttercream swirls and bunting I made for my friend Ryan’s birthday. I can’t even find the recipe I used. That pains me in a “seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done away with, undone, / Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet…” kind of way. Though I doubt Hopkins was talking about cake.
This lovely was served at my dear friend DeAnn’s engagement party last weekend. If you remember DeAnn you’ll know what kind of cake had to be made for that special event. If love is communicated by baked goods (which it is), the pressure was on. So I finally made this cake I have thought about but have been too intimidated/lazy to make, literally, for years. The thing that always tripped me up was the lemon curd. There were just too many elements; too much fuss. And that instinct was right—this is an all day kind of cake. You have to separate approximately one million eggs, fold in whipped egg whites, buy gelatin, double boiler some curd, dig out your cake flour, and whip butter for ages. If all that is too much for you, don’t run away though. The cake itself is by far the best element and it could be completed with less exertion by a glaze or a whipped cream icing.
Chiffon is right; this cake is light and moist and perfectly lemony. It uses olive oil instead of butter, which works with whipped egg whites to make the cake practically fluffy. You can’t taste the oil beyond a rich, fruity depth of flavor which compliments the brightness of the lemon perfectly. I cannot wait to make it again. With a lighter, whipped cream icing!
Let’s talk about lemon curd for a second. When has anything ever sounded so bad and tasted so good? Never. This lemon curd recipe is not my favorite (this one is way better for scones or to eat with a spoon), but it works well in a cake. I wouldn’t normally put gelatin in a curd (totally unnecessary), but the added structure is good here, preventing the curd from disappearing into the cake too much.
The icing was described as “adult,” which I took a compliment. It isn’t overly sweet and has just enough flavor to prevent it from tasting only like whipped butter on a cake. Which it kind of is. It is dense and has a fairly elegant ivory color from the slight amount of lemon curd mixed in.
It’s hard to know what to comment on concerning the party—the impeccable hosts, the house full of friends, the delicious food and drink, the lovey love birds, the winsome toasts? I will say, if you’ve read my post on DeAnn, you will be shocked to know that she has found someone worthy of her attention. Her fiance Kevin is one of the few, real, genuine southern gentlemen I have ever met. He stands when women approach a table and does so in such a way that none of my northern feminist hackles are raised. He’s so great I almost don’t resent him for whisking DeAnn away to live happily ever after in New Orleans. Almost.
The party was thrown by the Foleys, a family I have been incredibly fortunate to get to know this year. Spending time in their home has given me a new, living definition of what manners are supposed to be about. They are effortlessly gracious hosts, and make you feel so comfortable that you forget you were intimidated and end up being yourself—which you regret immediately upon leaving, remembering the stupid, brash things your ease around them caused you to say. That last part may just be me.
The night was just what you’d imagine with such a guest list: sharp suits, pretty dresses, delicious snacks, an impressive selection of cheeses, fancy drinks, charming toasts to the happy couple, music all recorded before 1970, dancing, and Chinese cigarettes. Well, mostly what you’d expect anyway. Here’s the cake.
Lemon Chiffon Cake with Poppyseed Lemon Curd
- 8 large eggs, separated
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
- 1 teaspoon poppyseeds
- 4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350. Line the bottoms of three 9-inch-round cake pans with parchment paper.
- In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium speed until light and frothy. Slowly add 1/4 cup of sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.
- Sift the flour, remaining sugar, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk gently to combine.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the egg yolk mixture and mix to create a smooth paste. Add one-fourth of the egg whites and fold in to lighten the batter. Fold in the remaining egg whites until evenly incorporated. Divide among prepared pans.
- Bake for about 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks. Once cool, run a knife around the cakes to release, then invert onto wire racks. Cakes should come out cleanly.
Lemon Curd Directions:
- Place 1 Tbsp of the lemon juice in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over top. Let sit at least five minutes or until evenly moistened.
- Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, remaining 1/3 cup lemon juice, and lemon zest together in a medium heat-proof bowl.
- Place bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until the curd thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (it should reach approximately 165ºF), about 5 to 7 minutes. Do not let it boil.
- Whisk in gelatin mixture and cook for one minute more.
- Strain the mixture through a sieve.
- Stir in the butter until melted and smooth.
- Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap onto the surface of the curd. This will prevent a skin from forming on the top of the curd. Refrigerate until set and thoroughly chilled, at least three hours.
- Beat butter on medium speed with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer until very pale and creamy, about 8 minutes.
- Add powdered sugar, a little at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Add 1/4 cup of curd and mix until smooth.
- Add cream, a little at a time as needed, and beat until light and fluffy. Add more cream or powdered sugar as needed to achieve desired consistency.
Cake Assembly Directions:
- If the cake layers are really uneven, you can trim the domes with a serrated knife to make them lay flat.
- Stir poppyseeds into remaining curd.
- Place one cake layer, flat side down, on a cake stand or serving platter. Spread 1/4 cup of curd evenly on top. Position second layer on top and repeat. Position final cake layer.
- Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of buttercream as a crumb coat and let it set in the fridge for a few minutes. Sometimes I skip this step, but don’t. The cake is really light and the frosting is heavy, so crumbs will come off and make you look a slovenly cake maker. Considering all the work you just put into this damn cake, that is to be avoided at all costs.
- Remove cake from refrigerator and frost with remaining buttercream. I smoothed the top and created ridges on the sides by dragging the tip of a spoon from the bottom to the top of the cake in an even pattern. Garnish with some mandolin-thin slices of lemon, or whatever you want.
Adapted from Love and Olive Oil, which was adapted from Sky High Cakes, and so on.