Serves 10 to 12
This soft, moist, towering cloud of a dessert lies somewhere between a cake and a trifle, its lemon syrup—soaked cake layers alternating with lemon mascarpone cream. Meyer lemons are especially fragrant, but this cake is outstanding even with supermarket Eureka lemons. There are a few steps here, but almost everything can be done ahead, which makes putting it together pretty easy.
Two Ungreased 9 by 1-3/4-inch Round Cake Pans Lined with Parchment Paper, Pastry Brush, Small Offset Spatula, Icing Spatula, Pastry Bag Fitted with a 1/2-inch Star Tip
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Position oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven.
2. Make the sponge cakes: Place the egg yolks and 7 tablespoons of the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip on high speed until the mixture is thick and very light in color, 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside while you whip the egg whites.
3. In a clean bowl with a clean whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed to soft peaks. With the mixer running, gradually add the remaining 7 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating until the egg whites hold firm peaks. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the beaten yolks, then sift half of the flour over the top and gently fold it in. Repeat. Fold in the last of the egg whites until no streaks of white remain.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until the top is golden, firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of crumbs. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely.
5. Make the lemon syrup: Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Stir in the lemon juice.
6. Make the mascarpone filling: Place the cream and sugar in a bowl and whip to soft peaks. Refrigerate. Place the mascarpone and one cup of the lemon curd in a bowl and stir until blended—it should be the consistency of pudding. Gently fold in the whipped cream until the mixture is homogenous and thick. If the mixture becomes overworked, it will look grainy or separated. If this happens, stir in several tablespoons of cream with a rubber spatula—stir just until the mixture has smoothed out again.
7. Unmold the cakes: Run the thin, flexible knife or spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen a cake. Turn the pan upside down and give it a sharp rap on the table to release (don't worry, these cakes are very sturdy). Turn the cake right side up, leaving the parchment paper attached. Repeat with the remaining cake. Level the cakes, if necessary (see page 308 of the book). Using the serrated knife, slice each cake horizontally into two layers (see page 308). Set aside one of the bottom layers to use last, and remove the parchment from the other layer.
8. Assemble the cake: Place a cake layer, cut side up, on the cake cardboard or serving plate. Brush the cake with 1/4 of the lemon syrup. With the icing spatula, spread 1/3 of the mascarpone filling on top. Place 3 level tablespoons of the remaining lemon curd on top of the filling and spread evenly to the edge. Place a second cake layer on top, cut side up, and repeat with lemon syrup, mascarpone filling, and lemon curd. Place third layer on top, cut side up, and repeat.
9. Top with the last cake layer, placing it bottom up (cut side down). Remove the parchment paper. Voila!—a crumb-free surface for frosting. Moisten it with the remaining lemon syrup. Use the cleaned icing spatula to spread the mascarpone reserved for frosting mixture over the cake, spreading it quite thinly on top with more on the side.
10. Finish and serve the cake: Spoon the piping mascarpone into the pastry bag and pipe rosettes (page 310) over the entire top of the cake, starting around the outside edge and working your way to the center. Put a few tablespoons of the remaining curd into a resealable plastic sandwich bag and squeeze it into one of the corners. Snip off the corner and pipe a center of lemon curd into each of the rosettes. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving, so the flavors and textures have a chance to meld. To serve, slice with a thin, sharp knife.
The cake will keep, refrigerated, for 3 to 4 days. Once cut, there is no need to wrap the whole cake with plastic; simply press a piece of plastic wrap firmly against the cut surfaces to keep it fresh.
Substitute Passion Fruit Curd (page 421 of the book) for the lemon curd.
Blending mascarpone with the whipped cream filling adds not only flavor and a delightful richness, but also stability. Whipped cream alone can deteriorate quickly, becoming watery and losing volume as the hours tick by. But when mascarpone is combined with whipped cream, it stabilizes the mixture, allowing the cream to keep its shape and texture for days. And though this recipe uses a pound of mascarpone, even a small amount—a couple of tablespoons for each cup of cream—will have the same effect.
The sponge cakes can be made up to 3 days in advance, wrapped in plastic, and stored at room temperature. Be sure to leave the parchment paper on (it will help stabilize the layers and aid in moving them without breakage). The cakes can be frozen, double-wrapped in plastic, each inside a resealable plastic freezer bag, for up to 8 weeks. To thaw, unwrap and defrost at room temperature for 1 hour. The lemon syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance. The lemon curd can be made up to 3 days in advance.
This page created December 2008
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