This is an old-fashioned cake and a half, let me tell you upfront. This cake is no walk in the park. But it’s worth it. This is cake the way your great-grandmas made it, meaning–it’s not easy, but it’s delicious! It’s a special cake, worthy of special occasions. Make it for an ordinary day and you can make any day special because it’s pretty amazing.
You can make this cake in one day if you’ve got your calendar cleared, or break it up into three different days and it won’t seem nearly as challenging. I made the lemon curd a couple of weeks ago, before I went out of town unexpectedly. The lemon curd was just as good as the day I made it, so now you know–lemon curd stays good in the fridge at least two weeks. For the lemon curd, see Making Lemon Curd. You will need a total of 3 1/3 cups of lemon curd for this cake. So don’t eat it all before you make the cake. (That recipe makes more than enough for this cake and the frosting.)
I baked the cake layers one day and stored them between layers of parchment paper in a sealed container then made the frosting and put the cake together the next day. If you’ve got a special occasion coming up, I’d definitely recommend making the lemon curd in advance then baking and frosting the cake at the last minute. (The cake must be stored chilled.)
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar (divided)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3/4 cup lemon curd
8 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Note: I actually used cake flour for this recipe (which is very rare for me) because I wanted to follow the directions exactly and I just felt like it. It’s not necessary. I know, someone will smack me for saying that, but it’s really not. I bake cakes all the time using all-purpose flour and I never notice a difference when I use cake flour. Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose and makes for a light, tender crumb. I’ve never had trouble making a light, tender cake crumb with all-purpose flour, but you do what you want! (Our great-grandmas didn’t have cake flour and they made better cakes than we can ever hope to see come out of our ovens.)
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans with 1 1/2-inch sides; line bottoms with parchment paper. (If you don’t use parchment paper when baking cakes, why don’t you? It makes getting perfect cake layers out of the pan so much easier.)
Whisk cake flour, 1/2 cup of the sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the 4 yolks, vegetable oil, orange juice, lemon peel, and 3/4 cup lemon curd to bowl. (Do not stir.)
Combine the 8 egg whites and cream of tartar in another large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining cup of sugar until stiff but not dry.
Using the same beaters, beat flour-yolk mixture until smooth. Fold whites into flour-yolk mixture in three additions.
Divide batter equally between the three prepared pans.
Any time you bake a cake that includes beaten egg whites, you know you’re going to have a very light cake because of all the air that’s whipped into the egg whites.
Bake cakes about 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. (Watch carefully. Twenty minutes was enough for me.) Cool on wire racks 15 minutes before turning out of pans onto wire racks. Peel off parchment paper and finish cooling completely.
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups lemon curd
2 cups chilled whipping cream
Beat powdered sugar and lemon curd in a large bowl until blended. Beat cream in a medium bowl until firm peaks form. Fold cream into curd mixture in three additions. Chill until firm, at least four hours. (Or do what I did, which was stick the frosting in the freezer for 30 minutes.) This will make 4 cups frosting. Place one cup of frosting in a pastry bag with a decorative tip, leaving remaining three cups for the initial frosting.
To assemble the cake: You will need three baked cake layers, the frosting mixture, plus an additional 1 1/3 cups lemon curd.
Place one cake layer on a cake platter. Spread top of cake with 1/3 cup plain lemon curd then spread frosting on top of the lemon curd. Repeat with remaining layers. (Reserve the one cup of frosting in the pastry bag and 1/3 cup plain lemon curd for the final topping.) Be sure to save enough frosting to also frost the sides. I use strips of parchment paper slipped under the cake all the way around to keep the cake plate clean while I’m frosting. When finished, just whip the parchment pieces out and you have a perfect presentation.
Spread the final 1/3 cup plain lemon curd over the top. Pipe the reserved one cup of frosting in the pastry bag around the edges. Decorate with lemon slices, halved and patted dry.
Store chilled until serving. Remember that you can also make fruit curds from just about any fruit, so if lemon isn’t your thing, you can make this cake in another fruit flavor.
Now back off because after all that, I’m eating this cake by myself. You’ll have to make your own!
See this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.