If you have been dreaming of soft, pillowy clouds and bright beautiful lemons dancing on them, then this IS the cake for you. Maybe you are not strange and you don’t dream of lemons dancing on clouds…but that’s OK…we can still be friends. Just make this cake.
I have never in my life taken a bite of a softer cake. I almost felt like a little halo was surrounding this cake because I imagine that if angels eat cakes, they would eat this.
It could most definitely be the piece de resistance on your Easter Dinner table. It’s creamy and soft and beautiful and would crown any table with the right pastel-y nuance. The taste, though, could be a problem.
Guests may pass out after taking a bite. Consider yourself warned and don’t come back here if you end up with a bunch of guests on the floor of your dining room. Maybe it’s a plus; you can have a few minutes to yourself to start on the dinner dishes and then come back to revive them with some smelling salts or something.
But seriously, there just may not be a better bite in the world when you manage to fork a combination of creamy, luscious lemon-y buttercream, soft and spongy chiffon cake and the puckeringly tart lemon curd— N-I-R-V-A-N-A!
The recipe from Fine Cooking was perfection. Yes, this cake is a little fussy to make if you are an experienced baker, and perhaps a lot fussy if you are not, but it CAN BE DONE. And it MUST be done. I will give you some “Get out of Jail Free” passes and tell you some shortcuts for those who would love to make it a little more user friendly.
So here it is in all its glory. Please go for it. You will come back and thank me a million times over.
Lemon Chiffon Layer Cake with
Lemon Curd Filling and Lemon Buttercream
Taken from Fine Cooking Magazine
For the cake:
9-1/4 oz. (2-1/3 cups) cake flour; more for the pans
2-3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. table salt
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbs. lightly packed finely grated lemon zest (no white pithe!)
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, completely softened at room temperature(not melted); more for the pans
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
5 large egg whites, at room temperature (RESERVE EGG YOLKS for CURD!)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
For the Lemon Curd (or BUY it at Trader Joe’s or your local gourmet market, I would make sure you have about 8 ounces of curd)
Adapted from Fine Cooking
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs. lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
1 T. cornstarch
6 large egg yolks
optional 1/4 t. of lemon extract (natural)
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
S&C’s own recipe
1/2 c. butter at room temperature (slightly softened)
3 T. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 c. sifted powdered sugar
2 T. lemon zest
3 T. lemon juice
To make the cake: Position a rack in the middle of the oven; heat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour two 8 x 2-inch round cake pans. Cut circles out of parchment paper to fit inside the cake pans. I just trace around the cake pan with a dull knife and then cut on the line. Place a circle on each cake pan. Grease with butter and then flour both pans. And yes, for the record, I am asking you to grease the pan, place the parchment round on and then grease on top of the parchment and on the sides. It works. Your cakes will slide on out. I swear. I place a tablespoon of flour in each pan, stand over the sink, and shake it a bit, side to side and roll it around so everywhere is covered in flour. Then I dump out the excess flour into the sink. You may want to set the pans down a little hard onto the counter and tap it. Then dump the excess flour again.
Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. I can count on one hand the number of times I have asked you to sift on this blog and I have a loooong list of baked goods but sifting for Chiffon cake is a MUST DO. Pulse 1/4 cup of the sugar with the zest in a food processor until well combined. If you don’t have a food processor just mix it up WELL with a fork until lemon zest and sugar are adequately mixed up.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and lemon sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 1-1/2 minutes). Add the remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar and beat until smooth (about 1-1/2 minutes). Beat in a quarter of the milk just until blended. On low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk in three batches, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; beat just until blended.
In another large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer (with clean beaters or the whip attachment) on medium speed just until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium high, and beat just until the whites form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. Add a quarter of the whites to the batter and gently fold them in (folding means using a rubber spatula to gently scoop the bottom of the batter and ever so softly bring it to the top. DO NOT MIX. Repeat until the egg whites have disappeared) ; continue to gently fold in the whites, a quarter at a time, being careful not to deflate the mixture.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Smooth the tops with the spatula. Bake until a pick inserted in the centers comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. While cakes are baking, make your lemon curd.
To make the Lemon Curd: Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sugar, lemon juice (reserve one tablespoon of juice for next step), zest, and salt. Whisk, or mix with a fork, the cornstarch with a tablespoon of the lemon juice in a small bowl until the cornstarch is smooth and there are no clumps. Pour that into the pan and stir. Whisk in the yolks until smooth. Return the pan to medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 6 minutes. To check if the curd is thick enough, dip a wooden spoon into it and draw a your finger across the the back of the spoon; your finger should leave a path. Don’t let the mixture boil. Immediatly force the curd through a fine seive into a bowl, using a rubber spatula. Let cool at room temperature, whisking occasionally. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. I place a piece of plastic wrap over it and then gently push the plastic onto the curd. This helps it from forming a skin.
Once the cakes are done, let cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a table knife around the inside of the pans and carefully invert each cake out onto the rack. Flip them right side up and let cool completely. After about 15 minutes of cooling on the racks, I wrapped them both in plastic wrap and placed them both in the freezer for faster cooling. I needed to frost this baby fairly soon, otherwise this step is entirely not necessary. After 1/2 hour in the freezer, it was ready. I learned this from Cupcake Wars. Who says Cupcake Wars is worthless?!
WARNING and Confession: I did NOT cut the layers in half because I ALWAYS cause them to fall apart. But if you are one of those excessively talented people with great dental floss skills, have at it (Google how to do it with unwaxed floss…i’ve heard it’s MUCH easier). Taken verbatim from Fine Cooking : “With the palm of one hand pressed on top of a cake layer, cut each in half horizontally, using a long serrated knife. Put one of the four cake layers on a serving plate, cut side up.” Yeah right. Not over here anyways.
Whether you have two layers or four, spread your curd in between each layer and place another layer on top. I have a feeling you get this part with little explanation
To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together your butter and cream cheese on medium then high until creamy and smooth. Add your lemon zest and beat again just until dispersed. Add the powdered sugar(1.5 c. at a time, beating in between) and beat on low and then increase to medium. Pour in your lemon juice and add the lemon extract if you have it. Beat for 2-3 minutes until very smooth and creamy.
Frost your cake sides and top and enjoy this with a good strong cup of coffee. It’s really the best way to savor it.
March 19, 2012 at 9:47 am
I cannot get enough lemon. Seriously. I could eat lemon desserts every day (and have been since I have batch of bars hiding in my freezer). This looks out of this world good. I’m terrible at making cakes, but this is one I just might considering trying. I mean what’s the worst thing that happens if it doesn’t work right – I get to eat a sloppy cake?! Please. There is no downside here. 😉
March 20, 2012 at 10:36 am
No downside at all. Cakes really don’t need to be pretty, they just need to taste good. The only absolute in this cake is to whip your egg whites until they form stiff peaks. When you fold them in, it gives the cake that light and airy texture which is what has totally mesmerized me.
March 19, 2012 at 10:07 am
just looking at it makes my mouth water! absolutely gorgeous!
March 20, 2012 at 10:38 am
Thank you! It is so simple with the plain white frosting, but the cream cheese in the buttercream gives it that crisp white which I think is what makes it pretty.
March 19, 2012 at 10:19 am
Yum! I’ve been thinking about making a layer cake and lemon is so spring-like! A must-try!
March 20, 2012 at 10:38 am
You won’t be worry. I promise.
March 19, 2012 at 11:03 am
I think this is one of the few ways I enjoy lemons, in sweet desserts!
March 20, 2012 at 10:39 am
I love lemons, but desserts are a contradiction to their tartness.
March 19, 2012 at 11:25 am
This layer cake looks wonderful – actually beautiful! Yum 😀
Fresh and perfect for spring!
Choc Chip Uru
Latest: Lemon Polenta Raisin Cookies + Mini Berry Citrus Yoghurt Bundts
March 21, 2012 at 6:16 am
March 19, 2012 at 11:37 am
Ok I was dreaming of soft, pillowy clouds and bright beautiful lemons dancing on them, but perhaps I am now. 🙂
Hope you had a great weekend!
March 20, 2012 at 11:34 am
You were?! How coincidental! 😉
March 19, 2012 at 12:20 pm
Love light and airy chiffon cakes…it’s even nicer when it’s layered with lemon curd. Beautiful and dreamy photos.
March 20, 2012 at 11:35 am
Considering your photos I lust over constantly (such stunning photos!), I am very much grateful for your compliments.
March 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm
This looks wonderful, Geni. Your comment about cutting the layers brought a smile. I’ve made a few cakes with the layers cut on an angle. It does make for an interesting piece of cake when served! 🙂
March 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm
I usually end up with one 1/2 that’s rather hefty and one I can see through; it’s never a good thing.
March 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm
Is it bad that I’m intimidated?? It looks so darn good, though, Geni… Hmmm, I’ll have to think on it – as your description really makes me want to try.
March 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm
You make me laugh. I am always intimidated by your gorgeous breads…how could you be intimidated by my cakes?
March 19, 2012 at 2:31 pm
Did you just say lemon curd? Ahhh Geni you know the way to my heart don’t ya? lol. I absolutely love this cake.. its just so me. I love it
March 21, 2012 at 6:17 am
Yes, I do. Lemon curd AND chocolate!
March 19, 2012 at 2:31 pm
I think I could faint just looking at those yummy photos! I will have to try this.. it really is the perfect spring cake!!
March 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm
I’ll get the smelling salts!
March 19, 2012 at 4:07 pm
Oh. My. Wow. This is stunning.
March 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm
Omg. I have a similar cake planned for a friend who’s birthday is in June. I cannot wait! My mother always made a lemon curd-based dessert for easter and now I’ll always have that association. Divine. Beautiful! Hungry!
March 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm
this cake does look awfully angelic!! Lemon curd buttercream-?! gotta try that one!! thanks for sharing!
March 19, 2012 at 6:17 pm
This is an outrageously gorgeous cake, Perfect for a really special day, what a great post! c
March 19, 2012 at 8:57 pm
Your second picture is just darling! This recipe must be a summer favorite.
March 20, 2012 at 4:40 am
It looks so pretty and fluffy!
March 20, 2012 at 8:30 am
Perfect for the spring. I love lemon cake it is my favorite. My mom used to make every year for my birthday. I will have to give yours a try.
March 20, 2012 at 11:31 am
I would love to make this a family tradition over here. Great idea.
March 20, 2012 at 8:44 am
It looks so angelic! Definitely a dream-worthy cake!
March 20, 2012 at 11:17 am
You had me by the first lemon in the Geni but your describtion and the pictures are really tempting!
I love lemons to the point pf addection, I really need to give this a try soon
March 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm
That cake is a winner! It looks totally awesome.
March 20, 2012 at 10:17 pm
Love a cake like this, all the refreshing flavours in a cake!
March 21, 2012 at 5:26 am
Easter dinner? Is that REALLY happening soon?!?!? Oy. I need to get planning.
I adore lemony desserts, especially triple lemon cakes! This looks amazing!
March 21, 2012 at 8:55 am
This cake sounds fantastic. I love baking anything that requires lemon or orange zest. You just can’t beat that smell.
March 21, 2012 at 9:52 am
Can’t tell you how excited slash jealous I got when I read the title of this post in my e-mail. Without even seeing the photos/recipe, I knew this cake was going to be a delicious masterpiece. And look…IT IS!! You’re killin’ me Geni. Bring this to the bake sale!! haha
March 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm
This is making my mouth water! I love spongy cakes but too lazy to bake them from scratch. If you come up w/ a gluten free version let me know, my sister would love you forever! 🙂
March 23, 2012 at 12:11 pm
Okay, I totally need to try this. How could I not, after that description? My mouth is watering!
March 24, 2012 at 8:30 am
What a beautiful cake! And it does look as soft as you say it is!
March 26, 2012 at 7:01 am
I can’t cut cake layers either! Nice to know it’s still beautiful and delicious even for those of us who aren’t so gifted. Now I need to go buy some lemons…
April 3, 2012 at 1:09 pm
You crack me up Geni! I hate that whole dental floss trick too, never worked for me either!! but honestly Geni, this cake is over the top. I trust your opinion and just know this will be heavenly!! I wish I was having Easter dinner now just to make this cake. I see how time consuming this can be, but I so believe it will be worth it!
April 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm
Wow, looks amazing.
March 26, 2013 at 4:29 am
Best cake ever! The frosting is to die for and the lemon curd is out of this world. Making this cake today for a Mardi gras themed cake.
May 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm
Made this cake for a friend and it turned out awesomely wonderful. I froze the layers and used a long serrated knife and split the layers that way. Freezing the layers first makes a long horizontal cut easier but still not easy. I sliced holding the top with one hand and cut gently to about one third of the way through, keeping my eye on both ends of the knife to be sure I didn’t stray off center. Then turned the layer a quarter turn and cut about one third though again. Continued all the way around and then finally sliced through the center. I personally think the additional thin layers of curd created this way make the finished cake even better because every bite has some curd in it.
May 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm
Thanks so much for the positive report back and for the added advice. Can’t wait to try this technique. So glad you like the cake. I do find it irresistible.