Easter this year is going to be pretty low-key in our house. We’ll dye eggs and eat chocolate shaped like bunnies, lambs and other cute Spring animals. In the afternoon we’ll head over to my in-laws for an early dinner and hopefully a nap on the couch. That’s pretty much how our holidays go.
However, I think that it is impossible for me to let a holiday go by without baking something. For some reason I’ve been uninspired by the Easter-themed desserts that I have been seeing on my usual go-to sites, and I really have been struggling with what to make. Easter really doesn’t have a traditional dessert??? Well, I think it’s time to invent one.
I have now spent the last week trying to think of what dessert feels like Easter to me. My mom used to make a bunny-shaped cake, but I don’t have the right pan. Cupcakes and cookies seem too sweet for a holiday that specializes in baskets filled with candy. Chocolate seems too rich and heavy and I’ll be making pies soon enough for Derby (that’s a teaser for a future post). What I kept coming back to was lemon…
When the boys and I took our recent and spontaneous trip to Georgia to visit my parents, we went to a local cafe (the 4th of May) for lunch. My 3 year-old spent his lunch eying the glass case FILLED with desserts and carefully selected a very Southern lemon layer cake which I thought he might share with the rest of us. It was several layers of moist, tart sponge cake filled with lemon curd and topped with a lemony butter cream, and he devoured the entire thing solo. I might have snuck in a bite, but not without getting a pretty mean glare from my usually generous son.
Anyway, I have looked everywhere for a recipe that would replicate that cake, and have had a hard time, so I have decided to invent one myself. Here it goes.
Lemon Layer Cake – a new Easter tradition
You can just as easily use a boxed cake mix to save time, but this is a great yellow cake recipe.
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup butter flavored Crisco or butter at room temperature (Crisco creams better, butter has a lighter flavor – it’s your preference)
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- Juice and grated zest of 4-5 lemons
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 5 eggs beaten
- 1 cup butter cut into pieces
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper.
- Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.
- In a large bowl or standing mixer, cream sugar and shortening/butter until combined. Add 1 eggs at a time and beat until fluffy and it turns a pale yellow color. Blend in vanilla.
- Fold in sifted flour mixture, alternating with milk, until all of the ingredients are combined (be careful not to over mix).
- Divide batter evenly between the two pans and bake until the tops are golden and a skewer or toothpick comes out clean (20-25 minutes)
- Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and cool completely.
While cake is baking, make the syrup by boiling the sugar and lemon juice together just until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let it cool.
For the lemon curd:
- In a double boiler, combine lemon juice, zest, sugar and butter and stir over medium heat until sugar has dissolved and butter has melted.
- Add eggs and beat with a whisk to combine, then continue stirring with a wooden spoon. Do not let mixture boil.
- Strain through a fine sieve, cool and then refrigerate.
And for the frosting:
- In a medium stainless steel bowl, beat yolks until light.
- In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar and water. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and syrup comes to a boil. Wipe down any crystals that form along the sides with a wet pastry brush.
- Boil syrup without stirring until it reaches the soft-ball stage (239 degrees on a candy thermometer).
- Immediately remove from heat and pour into yolks, beating constantly as you pour. Continue to beat until the mixture is light, fluffy and cool to the touch.
- In medium bowl of an electric mixture, cream butter. Gradually beat butter into yolk mixture until smooth, shiny and spreadable. Fold in lemon zest.
To assemble the cake:
- Make sure that cakes are completely cooled and slice each one horizontally with a long, serrated knife so that you have 4 thin layers.
- Place one layer on a cake stand, drizzle with a small amount of lemon syrup, and then top with a generous layer of lemon curd. Repeat with the next 2 layers, and then top with the final layer of cake and drizzle with remaining syrup.
- Frost the tops and sides with the buttercream and decorate as you wish.