This lemon curd layer cake is a lemon lover’s dream! It has layers of lemony cake, lemon curd, and it is topped with a white chocolate buttercream and candied lemon slices.
My pairs partner’s birthday was earlier this month. Since he has the hard job of keeping me safe on the ice, I wanted to thank him by baking him a special cake. While he has never turned down a baked good (yet), I wanted to make sure that I made something that he really enjoyed.
Rather than ask him directly, I asked his wife, who did some recon work for me. She said that he enjoyed lemon and shortbread desserts, and he also liked some salty things like pretzels. I took the idea of the lemon and came up with a lemon curd cake. A few months ago, our skating friend K had a birthday, so I had made a lemon cake for her too (a different one). My pairs partner really enjoyed that cake, so I figured that a lemon cake would be good for him as well.
I made this cake over the course of several days so that I wouldn’t have to be crunched for time. About 4 days before my pairs partner’s birthday lunch, I made the lemon curd. About 3 days in advance, I made the candied lemon slices. I baked and assembled cake 2 days in advance and just let it sit in the refrigerator.
As I normally do with cakes for friends, I did not cut into this to photograph. I believe that the recipient should be able to cut into it on their own, so I was unable to get a cross-section of the cake. However, the birthday guy was very happy with his cake, so that made my day.
Husband’s rating: N/A (he did not have any, but he had some cake scraps and leftover frosting)
Addie’s rating: N/A (she also only tried some cake scraps and leftover frosting)
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Lemon curd layer cake with white chocolate buttercream
Lemon curd (can you make this ahead of time)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
- ⅓ cup freshly squeeze lemon juice (about the juice from 1 large lemon)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter cold and cubed
Candied lemon slices (can make this ahead of time)
- 2 large lemons washed, dried, and sliced thin
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 and ½ cups cake flour
- 2 and ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 and ½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
- 2 Tablespoons freshly squeeze lemon juice
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup milk of choice
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
White chocolate buttercream
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 3 large egg whites save the yolks to make ice cream!
- 2 and ½ sticks (20 Tablespoons) unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 ounces white chocolate melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- candied lemon slices from above, optional
- crushed graham crackers optional
Make the lemon curd (can do this a few days in advance)
- In a small saucepan, mix together the sugar, zest, lemon juice and eggs until well blended. Place the saucepan on the stove over medium low heat and continue to stir.
- Keep stirring until the mixture starts to resemble a loose pudding consistency (it will not be fully thick like pudding). Take the saucepan off of the stove and stir in the chilled butter. Keep mixing until the butter has completely melted and the curd is smooth.
- Pour the curd through a fine mesh sieve to remove any bits of cooked egg. Cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Make the candied lemon slices (can do this a few days in advance)
- In a large skillet (preferably bigger than 12 inches in diameter), mix the sugar and water together. Turn the stove on medium heat and put the skillet on the heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Place the lemon slices in the skillet and turn down the heat so that the sugar water mixture is at a low simmer. Cook the lemon slices for 20-30 minutes, flipping them a few times while cooking.
- Once the lemon slices have turned translucent (note that the sugar syrup should NOT be turning dark at this stage - if so, your mixture is too hot and your lemon slices will turn out bitter), lay them on a sheet of parchment paper and allow to dry for at least 24 hours. The lemon slices will still be a bit sticky after 24 hours, but they will be fine to use in a recipe.
Bake the cake
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously grease and line two 8-inch round baking pans and set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter with the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
- Turn the mixer down to low and add in the eggs one at a time. Mix well before each addition.
- In a measuring cup, mix together the milk and lemon extract.
- With the mixer still on low, alternatively add the dry ingredients and the milk mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until the batter is smooth and lump-free.
- Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared pans. Rap the pans on your counter a few times to get rid of any bubbles that my have formed. Bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Allow the cakes to cool completely before assembling.
Make the buttercream
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a handhelder mixer later) sitting over a pot of boiling water (on the stove), whisk together the sugar and egg whites. Turn the stove down so that the water is simmering. Keep whisking the egg white mixture until it reaches 140°F on a candy thermometer.
- Remove the bowl from the stove and place it in your stand mixer (if using a handheld mixer, place the bowl on a towel). Using the whisk attachment, beat the warm egg white mixture on high speed until you achieve stiff peaks, at least 4-5 minutes.
- Add the butter and whisk until smooth. Then add in the white chocolate, vanilla and salt. Mix until smooth and set aside until ready to use.
Assemble the cake
- Once the cakes have cooled, slice each in half horizontally so that you have 4 cake layers.
- Place one layer, flat side down, on top of a cake stand or plate. Add ⅓ of the lemon curd on top and top with another cake layer. Repeat. The top layer of cake should have the flat (non-cut side) facing up towards the ceiling.
- Spread a thin layer of the buttercream on the top and sides of the cake. Chill the cake in your refrigerator for about 20 minutes so the crumb coat firms up.
- Spread a thicker layer of frosting on the top and sides of the cake, smoothing it out as best as you can. If desired, you can pipe some decorative designs on the top of the cake. You can also garnish the cake with the crushed graham crackers on the top and/or side of the cake as well. If you made the candied lemon slices, you can add those to the top of the cake for a prettier presentation.
- Chill the cake again before slicing and serving.
Other cakes lie awake at night wishing they could be this good.
Haha – love it!
This cake is awesome. I would fight for this cake. I would co-sign a loan for it. I would help it move into its third-floor apartment. If the lemons knew they were headed for this greatness, they would have jumped off the tree by themselves.
That’s quite an endorsement – glad you loved the cake, Kenneth!