…you grab some limes and make a kick-butt lemon-lime cake!!!
And if it happens to be your birthday, you dub this delectable concoction your birthday cake! (Plus you forget to take a picture of the beautiful 4 layers inside…oops)
I hope that you understand that no one forced me to make my own cake, no one forgot to offer to take on cake duty, no one dropped the ball. I wanted to make my own cake. I wanted this for 2 simple reasons: 1) I love making other people fancy cakes on their birthdays and I wanted to make a fancy cake for me and 2) I just really love baking and new recipes that much.
Spending all day in the kitchen zesting and peeling and simmering and whipping and folding might seem like torture (or at least not very fun-filled) to many, many people. However, in my personal ongoing quest for weirdness, I shiver with joy and anticipation when faced with the possibility of a day like that.
Like Julie from the movie Julie and Julia, I find great comfort and solace in my kitchen. I love the way the rest of the world just disappears when I’m sunk deep into a brand new recipe. The contentment I find in the familiar steps and process of bringing together a well loved recipe. There is peace to be found in stirring cookie dough with a wooden spoon. Childlike amazement to be found every time egg whites turn from a slick, heavy puddle to fluffy, glossy peaks in the stand mixer (they seriously look like frosting! can they really just be raw egg?).
I suppose I could have just said I really love baking instead of writing you an entire paragraph…oh wait! I did that too :)
I will be honest and tell you that making this cake exactly as the recipe says is not for the faint of heart. After all you have to make 4 different possibly time-intensive recipes from scratch. HOWEVER, you can easily make just one component and use your own recipes (or even mixes!) for the rest. The result will still be a delicious, wonderful cake.
Part One: Lemon-Lime Curd
This is the filling for the cake, as in what you put between the layers. It also is wonderful eaten on its own…don’t ask me how I know this… After making the cake once, the only change I made was to decrease the amount used for layering the cake as it can make the cake very. very sweet (and eat the rest over plain yogurt or jsut on its own, yum). If you choose to only make this part, I would still pair it with a basic white cake and a frosting that is not overly sweet.
- 12 large egg yolks (if you’re making the cake below, save 6 of the whites for that recipe)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup finely grated lemon zest (about 4-5 large lemons)
- 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3-4 of those poor naked lemons from above)
- 1/4 cup finely grated lime zest (about 3-4 large limes)
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (3-4 of those poor naked limes from above)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 9 pieces, softened
*Note: I would HIGHLY recommend investing in a microplane citrus zester for this recipe! Otherwise your hand may fall off….
Combine everything except the butter in a heat proof bowl and whisk to combine well. Over 2 inches of BARELY simmering water, constantly whisk the mixture until it thickens to a mayo-like consistency. This could take anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Check the water occasionally to make sure it is not boiling, otherwise the eggs might curdle and become gross. After the mixture has thickened, whisk the butter pieces in one at a time until melted. Next, strain with a fine-mesh sieve making sure to press all the curd from the pulp and scrape the bottom of the sieve. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to avoid a skin forming and refrigerate for 3-4 hours before using. Try not to eat it all. When you are ready to assemble the cake, use 1/2 -3/4 cup on each layer. Refrigerate for 20-30 min after assembling before attempting to frost the cake. I would use a thin layer of frosting (AKA: crumb coat) to seal all crumbs and extra curd and refrigerate for another 20-30 min before putting the pretty layer of frosting on. It REALLY makes a difference!!
Part Two: Lemon-Lime Cake
Oh. My. Scrumptious. This cake is elevated from basic white cake with just a touch of lemon and lime zest. And by cutting into 4 layers, well, you just look like a really fancy baker. While I wholeheartedly recommend layering it with curd recipe above, it would also be delicious with a store-bought curd or just a simple frosting.
- 2 cups cake flour (plus more for the pans)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (plus more for the pans)
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
Heat oven to 350 degrees and place racks in the middle. Butter and flour 2 round 8 inch cake pans and set aside. Whisk or sift flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside. Cream 1 1/4 cups of sugar and all the butter together until very light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest, lime zest, and vanilla and beat until combined well. Add a 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until combined, then add half the milk and beat again. Repeat: flour, milk, flour and mixed until smooth.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form medium peaks. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks are formed. Stand back in wonder and resist all urges to taste. It’s not as good as it looks.
Fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter being careful not to break them down too much. Add the rest of the egg whites and fold until they are completely combined and no white areas remain. Divide the batter between the pans and bake about 3 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5-19 minutes and invert to cool completely. If making a 4 layer cake, cut each round in half using a long, serrated knife when they are completely cool.
*Note: When making a layer cake, it is helpful to freeze each layer for approx. 30 minutes. It will thaw by the time you want to serve, and it will be much easier to stack and assemble the cake.
Part Three: Frosting
While poking around on Pioneer Woman one day, I found this recipe for white frosting. It’s a weird recipe and you really do need a stand mixer to make it easily. But it is worth it! It tastes almost exactly like sweetened whipped cream, but won’t melt on you and I think it is easier to spread. If it’s a little too odd for your tastes, whipped cream or a lightly sweetened frosting would take it’s place quite well.
The Best Frosting I’ve Ever Had
(Yes, I am just linking to Pioneer Woman’s Tasty Kitchen on this one because this post is already super long and I still have to give you one more recipe!)
Part Four: Candied Lemon and Lime Peel
Want to be super fancy? Make this zest. The peeling can be a bit time consuming but the rest is a snap. And your mouth with thank you. And people will ooohh and ahhhh over how pretty your cake is. And when they taste it, their mouths will thank you as well. (FYI, this is probably the easiest part to skip if you’re a little overwhelmed. After a cake is still beautiful with just loads of delicious frosting!)
Candied Lemon and Lime Peel
(I’m linking to an outside source again, this time Shutterbean, because of space and because she just makes her posts so beautiful! The only two changes I would make is to use lemons and limes -obvious right?- and that for decorating a cake they don’t need to harden a full day, they just need to be completely cool.)