lemon layer cake

My friend Cecilia decided to bake up a 7 layer cake for a friend’s birthday a few weeks back.  She invited a few folks over (myself included) for a “make the cake” party to get herself psyched up for the process.  In typical Alex form, I left my cake pom-poms at the door, and instead of cheering along the process, I spent the evening shamelessly talking Cecilia out of it.  I mean seriously, 7 layers??  The recipe wanted them each baked solo too, and so with only 2 pans on hand, that was working out to 4 shifts in the oven.  Who wants to spend an all-nighter in a very hot kitchen, when you could be catching up on Game of Thrones or watching the Bruins win the Stanley Cup?  Priorities, people.

To say that layer cakes are “not really my thing” is an understatement.  Most days I flat out despise them.  Too many components, too much fuss, and in the end, rarely something I want to eat much of.  Thing is, every time I try and throw in the towel, it seems another layer-cake deserving occasion falls in my lap (birthdays, graduations, the aforementioned Bruin’s win…)  And for those occasions, I turn to today’s recipe: an antidote to my layer cake woes, it’s seriously delicious and relatively simple.

The cake recipe here is adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s book A Homemade Life – it bakes up in no time, is layered with lush lemon curd, and then topped with whipped cream and berries.  Not too sweet, but richly satisfying, this cake reminds me of a lemon kissed berry shortcake.  And, with only one trip to the oven required, it will let you have your cake and eat it too.

Makes one 9 inch layer cake – enough to serve at least 12.

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Lemon Cake

Adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life

  • 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9 inch cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter that too.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in the lemon zest and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, and oil.  Add this to the flour mixture and whisk to combine.  Don’t over-mix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 40-50 minutes until springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool on a rack until completely cool – about 1 ½ hours.

For the Topping and Filling

  • The juice of 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 recipe lemon curd, well chilled (or substitute store bought lemon curd)
  • Assorted fresh berries and/or sliced peaches
  • Lemon zest
  • More powdered sugar for dusting

Whisk together the lemon juice and powdered sugar in a small dish and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form and then add the sugar and vanilla.  Continue whipping until stiff peaks form.  Set aside in the refrigerator.

Once your cake is cooled, use a sharp bread knife to carefully trim any dome away from the top and then cut the cake into 3 even layers.

Set the first cake layer on a serving platter or cake circle and, using a pastry brush, soak it generously with the lemon-sugar syrup.  Top with about half of the lemon curd and then sprinkle over a few berries.

Place the next layer of cake on the berries and again soak with the lemon-sugar syrup.  Spread over the remaining lemon curd and dot with a few berries.

Place the last layer of cake on top of the berries and again soak with the lemon-sugar syrup.  Spread the prepared whipped cream over the last layer.  Decorate with berries and lemon zest, dust with powdered sugar, and serve!

The cake is best served the day it is made, but keeps well refrigerated up to 2 days.

  1. oh man, if only this were in front of me!

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