Yield: a 6- and 9-inch 2-tier round cake
“Back to Baking”, pp. 178
As mentioned in my two previous posts, I made a triple-layer lemon cake for my mom this mother’s day. I say triple-layer not because of the physical cake layers, but rather because the cake is composed of three different lemon elements: the lemon curd, the lemon buttercream and the lemon cake. This multi-step cake has been quite an adventure. Briefly, my lemon curd was a success but took longer than expected to make. The actual cake was simple enough to make, but I could not find a 6-inch cake pan anywhere, so sadly in the end I had to cut down a tier and only had a 9-inch round cake – ironically, I found such a pan the day after I baked the cake. The lemon buttercream, on the other hand, was a disaster. In retrospect, it is probably best to not finish baking a cake at 2 am. My brain was tired and I was not thinking as clearly as I should have.
To follow up on the episode of the buttercream covering not only my cake, but also my table and my chair, I had placed the cake in the fridge to chill and hoped for the best. The best eventually happened. The next day, the buttercream had set reasonably well. I simply removed all the excess buttercream around the cake and the plate and transferred the cake to a new and clean serving plater. I did not buy fondant because I prefer the taste of homemade marshmallow fondant. I always make homemade marshmallow fondant, and always successfully might I add. However, in line with the other events surrounding this cake-making process, my fondant was quite unappetizing to look at. As I covered the cake with it, I soon realized that the fondant was cracked in many places. No matter, at this stage there was no going back. I left it on and decorated the cake later. Fortunately, with the added white fondant flowers and a bit of patching up, the cake didn’t look so bad. It was definitely my least pretty cake, but I was still very happy that I managed to make something out of all that mess. I was almost embarrassed to bring it out after supper for my mother and grandmother because I had told my dad that, if I was able to repeat the recipes correctly, it would be a gorgeous-looking cake. Nonetheless, they thought it was very pretty and they definitely thought it was delicious. I have never heard so many “Mmmmm, that’s good” repeatedly for any other dessert I have made. That was a good feeling. Even I, not an avid lemon dessert eater, found the cake moist and scrumptious. I am all in all happy with the dessert, but would like to repeat at least the buttercream, if not the whole cake, to feel happy with myself and know that I can do it.
Ingredients for lemon cake:
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
- 3 cups + 3 tablespoons cake and pastry flour *
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
- 6 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Ingredients for assembly:
- 1 recipe Lemon Curd
- 1 recipe Lemon Buttercream
- 9-inch round cardboard cake board
- 6-inch round cardboard cake board
- 2 lb. (1 kg) white fondant
- Yellow gel food coloring
- Icing sugar, for rolling the fondant
- Rolling pin
- Small fondant cutter in a flower shape
- Fondant smoother (optional)
- Measuring tape (optional)
- Prepare the lemon curd before baking the cake.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 9-inch and three 6-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle the sides of the pans with sugar and tap out any excess.
- With a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg whites and vanilla extract.
- In a third bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Alternatively add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the butter mixture in small additions, starting with the flour and mixing well after each addition.
- Divide the batter between the prepared pans and spread with a spatula to level. Bake the 6-inch cakes for about 20 minutes and the 9-inch cakes for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes for 20 minutes in the pan and then turn them out of the pan to cool down completely.
- While the cakes are cooling down, prepare the lemon buttercream.
- For assembly of the cake, first peel off the parchment paper from the bottom of the cakes. Place a 9-inch cake layer onto a 9-inch cardboard cake board. Spoon a cup of buttercream into a pipping bag fitted with a plain round tip.
- Pipe a ring of buttercream on the top outside edge of the cake.
- Spoon a 1/2 cup of the lemon curd into the centre of the cake and spread it evenly. Place the second 9-inch cake layer on top of the curd and buttercream.
- Repeat steps 10 and 11. Top with the third cake layer.
- Spread the top and outsides of the cake with the buttercream, using an angled spatula to make it as level and smooth as possible. Chill the cake for at least 2 hours to set the buttercream.
- Repeat steps 9-13 for the 6-inch cake.
- Once the buttercream has set, it is time to cover them with fondant. Add a good amount of yellow food coloring to the prepared or homemade fondant and knead it until the fondant is a homogenous color. On a flat surface sprinkled with icing sugar, use a rolling pin to roll out the fondant into a circle of about 15 inches in diameter. Using the rolling pin, transfer the fondant on top of the 9-inch cake. Use your hands or a fondant smoother to smooth out the fondant on the cake and remove any air bubbles. Cut off the excess fondant at the bottom of the cake and tuck the fondant under the cake using a knife for a smooth finish.
- Repeat step 15 for the 6-inch cake by rolling the fondant to about 11 inches in diameter.
- Place the 6-inch cake on top of the 9-inch cake, making sure that it is centred.
- With another batch of white fondant, roll out the fondant until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Using the flower-shaped fondant cutter, make several small flowers and leave them on a plate to dry for 15 minutes. Place them on and around the cake as desired using the remaining lemon buttercream.
Notes from Anna:
- It is best to cover the cake with fondant and to decorate the cake the day it will be presented.
- A fondant-covered cake is best is it can sit out at room temperature.