Lemon Drop Cake

I struggled over this cake...to make it a cake or a cupcake? That is the question...I figured I've ruined enough good cake recipes by putting the batter into little paper wrappers and watching the whole thing collapse before my eyes as I try to unpeel it. Enough is enough. I do need to learn my lesson on diets, baking, and schedules, though...maybe someday.

I have to say this cake was a pleasure to make. Hehehe. I ended up with frosting in my hair, I was sweating, I beat egg whites by hand, and part of the cake collapsed while frosting. I learned many lessons today. One of them is: always put your cake in the freezer before frosting!! Ohmygosh. Would have saved my life today with this cake. The next one is: make sure you have room in the freezer for your cake. Could have avoided the whole thing.

I think this cake would be perfect for a little Easter brunch. The cake is moist and spongy, the lemon curd is very tangy, a nice contrast, and the frosting is so buttery and only lightly "perfumed" with lemon. It's a pretty involed baking recipe, and I'm pretty sure you could substitute store bought curd...no one would know, it could be our secret...ha!

Also, as a side note, where would one find lemon drops these days? I mean really? I couldn't even find a regular lemon head. Apparently, lemon is out of style and no one told me! Bummer. If you have this problem you can always sort through a bag of easter jellybeans and pick out the lemon ones...if you have no life, like me...but I'm sure you do. I also found a recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens website for orange drops and I'm pretty sure you could substitute lemon and make them homemade...I just wasn't feeling so domestic today.

Lemon Drop Cake

2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup call-purpose flour
1 tbl baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temp
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tbl pure vanilla extract
grated zest of one lemon
1 large egg
1 1/2 cup ice cold water
3 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat theoven to 325 degrees. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, and butter parchment. Dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.

In a large bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, and baking soda together. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the egg, and beat until just combined. Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the ice water, in three separate additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smoot the tops. Bake for 30-45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, unti a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.

Lemon Curd Filling

3/4 cup lemon juice (the juice from about 6 lemons)
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 large eggs
7 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
4 tbl butter at room temperature

In a small bowl, pour the lemon juice over the zest and let stand for 10 minutes to soften the zest.

In a nonreactive bowl whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar until combined. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice to the egg mixture and whisk until just combined.

Place you bowl containing the egg mixture over a double boiler. Continuously stir the mixture with a heatproof spatula until the mixture has thickened to a pudding-like texture, about 6 minutes (this took about 15 for me).

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the butter until emulsified. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh seive. Take a sheet of plastic wrap and press it into the mixture and around the bowl so that the curd does not form a skin.

Set the lemon curd aside while you make the frosting. Do not refrigerate the curd unless you are saving it for future use.

Lemon Drop Frosting

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups salted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup lemon curd

In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thicked, 10-20 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter' mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla extract and 1/2 cup of the freshly made lemon curd and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too thin, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes until it can hold its shape before frosting.

To assemble the cake, trim each cake layer. Spread one cup of lemon curd atop the bottom layer, layer the middle cake layer, and spread the remaining cup of curd atop the middle layer. Frost the sides and top of the cake with the lemon drop frosting (doing a crumb layer and allowing to sit in the fridge to set up before frosting is highly suggested!) and garnish with lemon candies if desired. Allow to set up in the fridge for 15 minutes before serving. Because of the lemon curd and butter content, this cake is best kept chilled until serving.

Slightly adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

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