I have a thing for lemon. The juice shakes my teeth as well as head to toe, the color reminds me of my favorite song “yellow”, the zest makes you forget any other smells around the world. From a nutritional stand point, lemon is good for us as it is an alkaline fruit that keeps your body more alkaline than acidic (Cancer and other diseases can only thrive in an acidic environment). Well, surely that doesn’t mean lemon flavored dessert is good for you anyhow, but as I said I have a thing for lemon, whatsoever. Lemon is the reason I picked yellow as my wedding color. It is also the reason I requested 50 very very lemony wedding cupcakes.
Every time when I passed any pastry or bakery shop, standing in front of the glass counter filled with so many alluring sweets, telling myself I got to try something I never had before, but I always creativelessly end up with either a lemon meringue tart or a piece of lemon cake or cupcake. So, I have a thing for lemon.
I recently got “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes” a few days before the San Francisco Bake Sale. As I was flipping through the book, Woody’s Lemon Luxury Layer Cake had me. This cake has the combination of white chocolate and lemon, which already sounds exquisitely haunting. As Rose said in her book and I quote: “The slight acidity of the cocoa butter and milk solids in the white chocolate perfume the cake with a lemon essence that perfectly complements the lemon curd filling and white chocolate lemon buttercream.” Yum!
So yes, I made and brought this cake among a few other items to the Bake Sale last Saturday. I met some of the bloggers from the bay area whose blog I read, follow, and admire. One of them is Stephanie of Desserts for Breakfast, who was almost my wedding cake designer. During our talking, she asked: “Have you thought about making your own wedding cake?” Well, I have, but I immediately turned myself down at making 50 cupcakes. However, staring at the lemon layer cake that I brought… why not bake a 9” lemon cake on top of the cupcakes, so that we will have a cake to cut into. Who says wedding cake should be at lease 20 inches and 3 tiered? That’s something I will definitely work on the next few weeks.
Lemon Luxury Layer Cake, with Lemon Cream Filling and White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream Recipe
Cake batter and white chocolate lemon buttercream frosting recipe is adapted from Woody’s Lemon Luxury Layer Cake, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Lemon cream recipe is adapted from Lemon Cream recipe, Tartine, by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson
Cake Batter Recipe
makes two 9” round cake
6 ounces white chocolate containing cocoa butter and vanilla, chopped
6 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups sifted all purpose flour, or 3 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup + 3 tablespoons white granulated sugar
4 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1. Butter and flour two 9 by 2 inch round cake pans, bottom line with parchment rounds.
2. Twenty minutes or more before baking, set the oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350F.
3. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, stir with a silicone spatula every 15 seconds, until almost completely melted. Remove the white chocolate from the heat, stir until fully melted. Allow it to cool until it is no longer warm to the touch but is till liquid.
4. Mix the liquid ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks, 1/3 cup of milk, and the vanilla, just until lightly combined.
5. Make the cake batter. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter in small pieces and the remaining milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture to the batter in three parts, beating on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the melted white chocolate and beat to incorporate it. Using the silicone spatula, scrape the bather into the prepared pans and smooth the surface evenly with a small offset spatula. Each pan will be almost half full (21 ounces).
6. Bake the cakes in the preheated 350F oven for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown, a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, and the cakes spring back when press firmly against the pans. Then invert the cakes onto wire rack, reinvert the cake so that the tops are up. Cool completely.
Lemon Cream Recipe
makes 2 1/2 cups
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp lemon juice
3 whole large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly cooler than room temperature
Make a double boiler with simmering water underneath, combine the lemon juice, whole eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and salt in a stainless steel bowl over the simmering water, not touching. Whisk the ingredients together over the heat, never let the egg yolks and sugar sit together without stirring for more than a moment; the sugar will cook the yolks and turn them granular. Continue to whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180F on an instant-read themometer. This should take 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the bowl from over the water and let cool to 140 F, stirring from time to time to release the heat.
Meanwhile, cut the butter into 1 tablespoon cube pieces. When the cream is ready, leave it in the bowl using an immersion blender, or pour it into a blender. With the blender running, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, blending after each addition until incorporated before adding the next piece. The cream will be pale yellow and opaque and quite thick.
Use the cream immediately or pour it into a storage container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream Frosting Recipe
makes 4 1/2 cups
Make the white chocolate custard base first:
10.6 ounces white chocolate, containing cocoa butter and vanilla
10 1/2 unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
In the top of the a double boiler set over barely simmering water, melt the white chocolate and butter, stirring often until smooth and creamy. Whisk the eggs lightly to break them up and then whisk them into the melted white chocolate mixture. Continue whisking and heating until and instant-read thermometer registers 140F. The mixture will have thickened slightly. Remove it from the heat, cover, and refrigerate for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until cool to the touch. An instant-read themometer should register 65F to 70F.
Completed white chocolate lemon buttercream
10 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups white chocolate custard base made from the previous steps
6 tablespoons lemon cream
2 teaspoons poppy seeds for decoration
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the butter on medium-low speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually beat the white chocolate custard base into the butter, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised. Cover the set aside for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the mixture is slightly thickened and spongy. It should be no warmer than 70F. If necessary, chill it in an ice water bath for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Beat on medium-high speed for 30 seconds until smooth, light, and creamy. Add the lemon curd and beat just until incorporated.
Finally, Compose the Cake
Cut each layer in half. Spread 1/2 cup of the lemon cream on the bottom layer of each of the two sets of layers. Set the upper layers on top of each bottom layer. Spread it almost to the edges as the weight of the upper layer will push it out just to the edge. Reserve the remaining lemon cream to garnish the buttercream.
Spread a little buttercream on a 9 inch cake cardboard or serving plate, and place one set of layers on top. Spread the top of the first set of layers with about 3/4 cup of the buttercream. Set the second set of layers on top of the first. Frost the top and sides with the remaining buttercream. Refrigerate the cake for about 1 hour to set the buttercream. Serve at room temperature.