White Cake with Lemon-Lime Curd

A dear friend recently turned 40 and in honor of such a milestone birthday she had a pretty big birthday bash. She’s definitely known as an amazing baker (although… ahem… she hasn’t baked anything for me… hint hint) and I knew she would be expecting an awesome cake. While the initial plan was a store-bought cake, after a few drinks I came up with the brilliant idea of making her cake(s). Thankfully this wasn’t a solo project. I had an awesome partner-in-crime and the two of us whipped up some great desserts for our friend’s special day.

While cupcakes are a great way to go, there’s something special about blowing out candles and slicing a cake, so we knew there would be cupcake and cake involved. Wanting to bake to impress, we decided to do a tiered cake, with the bottom layer being the following cake.

The white cake was incredibly light and fluffy. It had an amazing texture and it felt like you were eating a cloud. The decadent richness of the curd (which has a fair amount of butter) provided a great juxtaposition in texture while the immense amount of citrus still kept it light. The initial recipe calls for a whipped cream topping, which I think would be very nice. But seeing as we were eventually covering the cake in fondant, we opted for a simple, vanilla buttercream.

Lemon-Lime Curd

From Chow.com

  • 12 large egg yolks (save 6 of the whites for the cake and either save the remaining 6 whites for another baking project or discard)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely grated lemon zest (from about 6 to 8 medium lemons)
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 6 to 8 medium lemons)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated lime zest (from about 4 to 6 medium limes)
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 4 medium limes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 1/4 sticks (9 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 9 pieces, at room temperature

Zest, zest, zest, and zest… and then juice, juice, and juice. It took a bit to zest and juice all the citrus. It was fun though. I guess.

In a double boiler (water just simmering), place all ingredients except butter and cook over medium-low heat for roughly 13-15 minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken and should resemble the consistency of an aoli, or yogurt. You’ll want to periodically lift the top of the double boiler off to ensure the water isn’t boiling. If the water boils, reduce heat to ensure the eggs don’t curdle.

Once you’ve reached the desired consistency (mine took exactly 15 minutes), remove from heat and immediately whisk in your butter, one cube at a time, waiting until each piece of butter has melted before whisking in the next piece.

Set a fine-mesh sieve or strainer (or cheese cloth) over a large bowl and strain the curd. You’ll see there’s a tremendous amount of zest that would otherwise get in the way of the silky texture of the curd. I typically skip the straining step with a custard, but with a curd I think it’s pretty important. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the strained curd (to avoid skin forming) and refrigerate at least three hours, or up to 3 days.

White Cake

From Chow.com

  • 2 cups cake flour, plus more to coat the pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature, plus more to coat the pans
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from about 1 large lemon)*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature

*note: the original recipe called for 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 1 teaspoon lime zest. While I enjoyed the flavor the lime brought into the cake, I found it a bit disconcerting to see bits of green in the cake and would double up on the lemon in the future. I believe my exact words after seeing bits of lime zest were: “is the cake moldy?!?!?!”

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans; set aside.

Whisk the measured flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the 6 egg whites on high speed until medium peaks form, approximately 1 minute. Add ¼ cup of sugar and continue whisking until glossy, stiff peaks form, a minute or more longer. Remove egg whites into another bowl and switch the whisk attachment with the paddle attachment (you don’t really need to even clean the bowl).

Place the remaining 1 1/4 cups of the sugar and the measured butter in the bowl of a stand and beat on medium speed until the mixture is airy and light in color, about 5 minutes. Add the zest and vanilla and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl.

Add a third of the reserved flour mixture and turn the mixer to low speed, mixing until the flour is just incorporated. Add half of the milk and mix until just incorporated. Continue with the remaining flour mixture and milk, alternating between each, until all of the ingredients are incorporated and smooth.

Using a rubber spatula, fold a quarter of the egg whites into the cake batter until evenly incorporated; gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined and no pockets of white remain.

Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and spread into an even layer. Bake until the surface of the cakes springs back when pressed and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 30 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven, place on wire racks, and let cool for 15 minutes before removing cakes from the pans and cooling completely.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or half a pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk together the sugar and butter on low speed until blended (to avoid clouds of powdered sugar, I find it helps a bit to add the sugar first, with the butter on top), then increase speed to medium and mix together for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and whipping cream (start with 1 tablespoon) and mix for one minute. Add remaining tablespoon of cream, if needed, to further thin frosting. Use immediately.

To assemble:

Using a serrated knife, trim a very thin layer from each cake top, just enough to even out the surface (we skipped this step, as the top of our cake was naturally pretty even).

Slice each cake in half horizontally so that you have 4 layers.

Re-whisk the lemon-lime curd until smooth. Place a cake layer on your serving dish (it helps if you have a few strips of parchment underneath the cake, as it keeps your serving dish neater and cleaner).

With a knife or offset spatula, evenly spread a third of the lemon-lime curd (about 1 cup) over the top of the cake, leaving a 1/2-inch border.

Top with a second cake layer and evenly spread another third of the lemon-lime curd over the top of the cake, leaving a 1/2-inch border.

Repeat step with third cake layer, before topping with the fourth and final layer of cake.

Refrigerate for at least half an hour to firm up.

Once cake has set, remove from refrigerator and frost. My frosting skills are… ummm…. They could use improvement. The crumbs of this cake kinda got in the way. I would highly recommend starting with a crumb coat (which is where you put on an extremely thin layer of frosting on your cake and freeze for 15 minutes) before fully frosting. Thankfully we covered our cake with fondant, so ugly frosting wasn’t the end of the world.


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