Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Lemon Cake

Lemon Cake, Lemon Cake Recipe, High Altitude Lemon Cake, Dried Lemon Slices, Lemon Garnish for Cake, Cake Decorating Ideas, Cake Photography
A while back, I started reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.  I was intrigued by the title, but for whatever reason, I couldn't quite get into the book.  I used to love reading, but haven't had much time for it since my little boys joined our family.  Actually, I think the last time I committed to any serious reading was the summer before our first son was born, when I read through all of Harry Potter.  Since then, I just haven't had the time, and I do miss reading something other than the same Curious George story that our toddler loves to read night after night.

But, back to lemon cake...

I've made more lemon cakes over the years than I can remember, and it was one of the cakes I made for our wedding almost five years ago.  But my favorite lemon cakes were doctored up box mixes, while my homemade ones just weren't quite right in texture or flavor, so I set out to perfect my from-scratch lemon cake recipe.

What I wanted in a lemon cake was something impossibly light and fluffy, moist and perfectly balanced between the sweet and tart flavors, and this cake is all of that and more.  With milk that's curdled with lemon juice to create lemon buttermilk, sifted cake flour, a couple of extra egg whites, and a bit more sugar and baking powder than what most of my cake recipes contain, this cake is light as air, with a fluffy, delicate crumb that's amazingly moist, beautifully lemony and perfectly sweet without being cloying.




Lemon Cake, Lemon Cake Recipe, High Altitude Lemon Cake, Dried Lemon Slices, Lemon Garnish for Cake, Cake Decorating Ideas, Cake Photography

Lemon Cake, Lemon Cake Recipe, High Altitude Lemon Cake, Dried Lemon Slices, Lemon Garnish for Cake, Cake Decorating Ideas, Cake Photography

Lemon Cake, Lemon Cake Recipe, High Altitude Lemon Cake, Dried Lemon Slices, Lemon Garnish for Cake, Cake Decorating Ideas, Cake Photography

Lemon Cake, Lemon Cake Recipe, High Altitude Lemon Cake, Dried Lemon Slices, Lemon Garnish for Cake, Cake Decorating Ideas, Cake Photography

Lemon Cake, Lemon Cake Recipe, High Altitude Lemon Cake, Dried Lemon Slices, Lemon Garnish for Cake, Cake Decorating Ideas, Cake Photography



Let me tell you, there's nothing sad about this lemon cake; even before the first delicious bite, the pale sunshiny color makes me happy.  If you'd like to fill the layers with lemon curd, I'm sure it would be wonderful, but I prefer just the buttercream to fill and frost each layer, to really let the flavor of the cake shine through.

When a cake is as good as this one, it's so, so hard to eat one piece and send the rest to work with my husband, but I can't have something this tempting sitting at home.  Today was an afternoon-cup-of-coffee kind of day, and when my husband texted me that someone had just finished the last piece, I sipped my coffee and wished that I could have just one last bite of that sweet tart lemony frosted goodness with my coffee.




How to Make the Dried Lemon Garnish

Making dried lemons to garnish a cake is incredibly easy, and while they do have to dry in the oven for a few hours, there's very little active prep time.  They retain a beautiful color when dried on low heat, and can be made ahead of time and stored for later, as well.  You can follow this exact process for dried lemons, oranges or grapefruit.

Preheat the oven to 175 F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Thinly slice the lemons; I find that about 1/8 of an inch is the right thickness.  Lay the lemon slices in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake on the center oven rack for 2-3 hours, turning every 30 minutes and rotating the pan if you have hot spots in your oven, until mostly dry and still vivid in color; don't let them get overly brown.  Turn off the oven, and let them finish drying in the oven for several more hours, or overnight.

Place on the cake, using a bit of buttercream as "glue".  Any leftover lemons can be stored in an airtight container for as long as they still retain their color.

Obviously, these are not the same as candied lemon slices, and are intended only as garnish, and not to be eaten, since they will taste bitter and not sweet.




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Lemon Cake, Lemon Cake Recipe, High Altitude Lemon Cake, Dried Lemon Slices, Lemon Garnish for Cake, Cake Decorating Ideas, Cake Photography

Lemon Cake, Lemon Cake Recipe, High Altitude Lemon Cake, Dried Lemon Slices, Lemon Garnish for Cake, Cake Decorating Ideas, Cake Photography

Lemon Cake, Lemon Cake Recipe, High Altitude Lemon Cake, Dried Lemon Slices, Lemon Garnish for Cake, Cake Decorating Ideas, Cake Photography

Lemon Cake, Lemon Cake Recipe, High Altitude Lemon Cake, Dried Lemon Slices, Lemon Garnish for Cake, Cake Decorating Ideas, Cake Photography

Lemon Cake, Lemon Cake Recipe, High Altitude Lemon Cake, Dried Lemon Slices, Lemon Garnish for Cake, Cake Decorating Ideas, Cake Photography





Recipe Notes
  1. I've only made this recipe using cake flour, and it produces a very light, fluffy cake.  All-purpose flour will not give you quite the same result, but should still be fine.  Be sure to sift the flour to get out any lumps.
  2. It's a good idea to set out your dairy products (eggs, milk, sour cream) an hour or two before you mix your batter, to let them come to room temperature.  Large eggs can vary in size, but they should average about 1/4 cup each in volume; three large eggs plus two whites should fill one cup.  If your eggs are on the small side, add another to get a full cup.
  3. Lemons also can vary in size, as well as how much juice they contain.  You might need 4 small lemons to get 1/2 cup of juice.
  4. Although there is plenty of fresh lemon juice and zest in the cake, for the buttercream I decided to only use lemon extract.  Adding lemon juice to buttercream runs the risk of curdling the butter; I have had this happen sometimes, and other times not, but based on experience, I think it's best not to add the acidic juice and risk ruining a whole bowl of buttercream.
  5. These cakes are extremely light and fluffy, and will stick to your cake pans if you don't line them with parchment paper.  Take this extra step to ensure easy release.
  6. For a Lemon Poppyseed Cake, add two tablespoons poppy seeds to the dry ingredients.
  7. To add even more tart lemony goodness, you can spread a bit of lemon curd between each cake layer.
  8. Be sure to review my Baking FAQs and this post for my other tips on cake baking.

Lemon Cake
printable

Cake.
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • zest of 2 small lemons
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Buttercream.
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder (optional)
  • pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk or cream

Cake.
Preheat the oven to 350.  Line three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper in the bottoms of the pans, and spray the paper with non-stick spray.  In a measuring cup, stir together the lemon juice and milk; set aside for about 15 minutes to let the milk curdle.

Sift the flour.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice/milk mixture, eggs, egg whites, sour cream, oil, lemon zest and vanilla until smooth.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk by hand until smooth, about one minute.

Divide the batter between the pans.  Bake for 25-27 minutes, until a cake tester in the center of the cakes comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly touched.  Set the pans on a wire rack, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and cool completely.

Buttercream.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for one minute until smooth.  Scrape the bowl down.  With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar, meringue powder and salt, mixing to combine.  Add the lemon extract and vanilla.  Beat on medium high for about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl down occasionally, until very light and fluffy.  Add the milk as needed for desired consistency.

Fill and frost the cooled cakes with the buttercream.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

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