March 15, 2015

Lemon Curd Cake

Can you feel that spring is just around the corner?  I'm loving all the sunny weather in the Bay Area right now and the promise of longer days to come.  For all my friends on the East Coast who have lived through a crazy winter I'm sure there is no season they are looking forward to more.  

I recently hosted a brunch at my house and because the main course I was serving was a little heavy, a version of eggs benedict served on buttermilk waffles with spinach and bacon, I thought dessert should be light and fresh and seasonally appropriate.  Citrus is a favorite flavor profile of mine and I thought this Lemon Curd Cake fit the bill perfectly. 

The inspiration for the cake came from one I saw on Not So Humble Pie.   I took the high ratio butter cake from the blog and filled it with Cook's Country Lemon Curd and Martha Stewart's Swiss Meringue Buttercream.     So delicious!   

I'm definitely reading for spring time to commence!

Lemon Curd Cake

High Ratio Yellow Butter Cake (from the CIA's Baking at Home)

yields two 8" cakes

3 1/2 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, divided
4 large eggs
2 large egg whites (reserve the yolks for the curd)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

parchment for the pans
Professional 3-inch high sided, 8" round pans. (The cake will rise well beyond the sides of short cake pans.)
Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly coat your pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with circles of parchment.

Cut your butter into small cubes while it still has a slight chill (it's easier to cut), and then allow to stand at room temperature  until it softens. It won't take long when the butter is diced.

In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs, egg whites, vanilla extract and half of the milk. Mix until more or less homogeneous and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, sift together the cake flour*, sugar, baking powder and salt.  (*Tip for measuring cake flour: Don't scoop.  Spoon the cake flour into your measuring cup, directly from the package, and then level your cup with the back of a knife.)

Fit the bowl into your stand mixer and equip the whisk attachment. Add the butter and remaining half cup of whole milk. Beat this mixture on medium speed until smooth (about 4 minutes), scraping down the bowl with a spatula as needed.

The mixture will start out a little rough and then turn pasty and thick.  Once beaten, add a third of the egg-milk mixture and mix for two minutes on medium speed. Add another third and beat on medium speed for two minutes, you'll notice the mixture beginning to increase in volume. Add the remaining third of the milk-egg mixture and beat on medium speed for two minutes.

Divide the batter between your two pans.

Level the batter with an offset spatula and bake for 35-40 minutes. They will be done when the cake springs back slightly when lightly touched in the center. If you touch the cake and it feels under-baked, feel free to give it another 5 minutes in the oven to set. 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pans on a wire wrack.  The cake should pull away from the sides as it cools. If it doesn't, slip a knife around the side to release. Once cool, remove the cake from the pan and peel off the layer of parchment.

Trim the tops of the cake with a sharp serrated knife.

Lemon Curd (from Cook's Country )

2/3 cup lemon juice, from 4 lemons  
4 large eggs   
2 egg yolk  
1 cup sugar (7 ounces)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
2 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch table salt 
Heat lemon juice in small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Whisk eggs and yolk in medium nonreactive bowl; gradually whisk in sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour hot lemon juice into eggs, then return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until mixture registers 170 degrees on instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to cling to spoon, about 3 minutes.
Immediately remove pan from heat and stir in cold butter until incorporated; stir in cream, vanilla, and salt, then pour curd through fine-mesh strainer into small nonreactive bowl. Cover surface of curd directly with plastic wrap; refrigerate until needed. 
Swiss Meringue Buttercream (from Martha Stewart)
5 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb unsalted butter cut in to pieces, at room temperature
Place sugar, egg whites and salt in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.
Transfer bowl to stand mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff, glossy peaks...about 10 minutes.

Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don't worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla extract, and beat just until combined. 
To Assemble the Cake:

Set aside  about 1-1/2 cups of the lemon curd which will be used to top the frosted cake.

With a sharp knife, cut each cake layer in two so that you have four layers in total.  Place one layer of cake on a cake plate or cardboard round.  Spread 1 cup of buttercream evenly over the cake with an offset spatula.  Top with 1/3 of the remaining lemon curd and spread evenly.  Repeat two more times with the remaining cake layers.  In total you should have three layers of filling nestled between four cake layers.

Apply a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake and chill for 30 minutes. Then apply a thick layer of frosting over the cake. Using a large offset spatula smooth the sides and top of the cake.  Pipe a border around the top and base of the cake.  Cover the top of the cake with the reserved lemon curd and spread evenly.


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