I never got to make my mom a birthday cake this year. I don't know why, but somehow, we were traveling on her special day and then school started and then I got sick and then finally my cake loving cousin came to town, and it was time to make her a cake.
This is a lemon cake. I adapted it from several Dorie Greenspan recipes. So I think I can say with some pride, that this cake is of my own invention. My dad christened it Sunny Side Up Lemon Curd Cake. If the name doesn't make you happy then probably nothing can.
It is extremely delicious. My mom said it was her favorite ever. I'd believe her, except she says that every time.
I love you so much. You are my mom. You carried me for 9 months in your womb. So obviously I am grateful. You remind me of irises, royal blue, pure white vases, grecian urns, birkenstocks, gardens, freshly baked bread, and lemon flavored desserts. Especially lemon bars.
You have let me play dress-up in your closet since I was two. You let me clunk around in your heels, and steal your scarves and wear your lipstick and twirl in that beautiful crazy colorful skirt that makes me think I have a career as a flamenco dancer. You let me tear it and play with it, because you knew that I NEEDED to play with that skirt.
You make me feel good when I'm blue and brought me breakfast when I was sick. And insist I take water with me where ever I go so I don't get dehydrated. And you always have to pee whenever we go to the library, just like I do. And you buy me treats and tell me not to worry so much. And you make beautiful things with clay, because you're a potter, which is something I tell everyone I meet with great pride.
"My mom is an Artist." I say.
And you don't know that but I guess you do now.
Anyways, I love you, happy belated birthday.
Sunny Side Up Lemon Curd Cake
Adapted from several recipes in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
For the Cake:
2 1/4 cups cake four
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
For the Buttercream:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Lemon Curd:
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1 large egg
6 large egg yolks
Freshly squeezed juice of 4 lemons
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9x2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. But the pans on a baking sheet.
To make the cake:
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them togehter with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remainging dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2 minute beating to ensure that it is throughly mixed and well areated. Divide the batter between teh two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch--a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooking racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cool cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)
To make the buttercream:
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or other large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will loook like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or witha hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6 to 10 minutes. During this time, the buttercream may curdle or separate--just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny, smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.
To make the lemon curd:
Put all the ingredients in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir witha heatproof spatula to moisten the sugar. Put the pan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring without stopping, until the butter melts and the mixture thickens like custard, 4 to 6 minutes. Keep your eyes on the pan, because the curd can curdle quickly. It is cooked enough when you can run your finger along the spatula and the curd doesn't run into the track you've created. Don't worry if the curd looks thin at this point--it will thicken more as it cools. Remove the pan from the heat and scrape the curd into a heatproof jar or bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the curd to create an airtight seal and cool to room temperature before storing in the refridgerator.
To assemble the cake:
Place a cake layer on a cardboard round or cake plate. Spread layer with a thick layer of buttercream. Over this, carefully spread about 3/4 of the lemon curd. I'd suggest refrigerating or letting the lemon curd/frosting set before topping with the second cake layer.
After adding the second cake layer, gently frost cake with the rest of the buttercream. With the remaining 1/4 of the lemon curd dot decorate the top of the cake with large happy polka dots.