I’m currently going through a spate of thirtieth birthdays (it must be my age!). An enjoyable part of all of these birthdays is having an excuse to bake something special for the birthday – I love having the opportunity to make a decadent layer cake (you can check out some of my previous efforts here, including a lamington layer cake and a chocolate and raspberry extravaganza).
For celebration cakes I always think of chocolate, however one of the girls has a problem with cocoa so I had to put my thinking cap on. I received a set of Boyajian citrus oils from friends B & Z a while ago, and thought that a citrus scented cake would be lovely for a birthday. Naturally, I decided to go the layer cake option, even if my need for perfection is not matched by my skill level (I always want the layers to be exactly perfect and always fail at it). I’ve since invested (at $6, big spender!) in a Wilton Cake Leveler, which promises to cut perfectly even layers – I’m ridiculously excited about it and will hopefully put it to use and share my (perfect?!?) results here.
The lemon cake is sandwiched with lemon curd, to double up the citrus factor. I was reasonably sparing with the lemon curd in the version I made, but I think it could do with a bit more and I’ve adjusted the quantities in the recipe below. The frosting is a simple vanilla number, although a white chocolate frosting would be pretty great here too. We served it with birthday candles and some double cream (it’s a celebration!).
The cake recipe is from Martha Stewart, with a couple of tweaks. I chose to use citrus oil in the cake as I had some around, but if you do not have citrus oil, you could substitute with lemon essence or the grated zest of 2 lemons. The curd recipe is from Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion and the frosting is an old standby.
This 4 layer cake served 8 people and there were plenty of leftovers.
Note: for your sanity, I would recommend making the cake over two days – bake the cakes and make the curd the day before the party and on the day make the frosting and assemble the cake.
For the cake
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
375g flour, plus more for the pans (450g if using spelt flour)
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/2 tsp salt
450g caster sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp lemon oil
For the lemon curd
6 egg yolks
1 cup caster sugar
90g unsalted butter
3 tsp grated lemon zest
150ml lemon juice
For the frosting
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
500g icing sugar, sifted
4 tsp hot milk
2 tsp vanilla
few drops of yellow food colouring
Make the cakes
- Pre-heat oven to 175C/ 350F. Butter two 8 inch round cake tins, line bottom with baking paper and dust bottoms and sides with flour. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt.
- Cream the butter with electric beaters or in a stand mixer for 1-2 minutes, until softened. Add the caster sugar and continue beating until lightened, about 3-4 minutes. Add a little bit of the eggs, beat further, then incorporate the rest. Continue beating for about 5 minutes.
- On low speed, add one third of the flour mixture and beat to incorporate. Add half the buttermilk and beat to incorporate. Alternate with the next third of flour mixture, then remaining buttermilk, then remaining flour mixture, pausing after each addition to mix until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla and the lemon oil.
- Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 35 – 45 minutes, until cooked through. Leave to cool completely before assembling the cake.
Make the curd
- While the cakes are baking, make the lemon curd.
- Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until combined, but not frothy.
- Tip into a heavy based saucepan and add butter, zest and lemon juice. Stir constantly over a medium-high heat until the mixture is simmering (about 5 minutes). Once bubbles appear, remove from heat and continue to stir until cooled.
- Cool completely before using.
- Note: If you want to make the curd ahead of time, cover with plastic wrap (with the wrap touching the top of the curd) and refrigerate.
Make the frosting
- Beat the butter with electric beaters until light and fluffy.
- Add in the icing sugar, milk and vanilla and continue beating until it is at a spreadable consistency.
- Add in a few drops of food colouring and stir to incorporate.
- Slice the cooled cakes in half horizontally.
- Place the first layer on the cake plate. Spread the top of the first layer with 1/3 of the lemon curd. Place the second layer on top and repeat process with another 1/3 of the lemon curd. Place the third layer on top and spread with the remaining curd. Place the final layer of cake on top. Spread the cake with frosting and decorate with candy flowers if desired.