I think cake is almost always way too sweet. Super sweet frosting without any obvious flavour other than slick, fatty, sweetness with the faintest whiff of a mirage of vanilla. I never liked super sweet cakes and I think that's why I like to make cake. I want cake to be its best self. Floofy and light and flavourful and intense and not quite so damn sweet all at once. It is possible! This cake combats over sweetness in two ways: super tart and thick lemon curd, combined with extra strength lemon syrup soaked cake layers; and a fluffy, tangy whipped cream cheese frosting.
Layering the lemon in syrup and curd gets this cake intensely lemony: zingy and tart and puckering and bright. It's a summer time, sunshiney cake. This frosting is a little different that other cream cheese frostings, it's whipped up with whipping cream. It makes a really fluffy and light frosting that is pipeable and holds it's shape beautifully.
Note about amounts: This cake recipe makes at least twice as much as you will need for the petite cake I made here. Either extra freeze raw batter in mason jars (make sure to leave 1" of space at the top of the jar and freeze without lid, put the lid on after batter is frozen) for using later, or just double the frosting, syrup and curd amounts and make a mega cake! The frozen cake batter will work great thawed, more on this coming soon. Frozen cake batter will change your life.
adapted from smitten kitchen
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (or two cups milk soured with a splash of lemon juice)
Heat oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of two 6" cake pans with parchment paper.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Cream butter and sugar together until light in colour. Add vanilla and eggs and beat to combine. Scrape the sides of the bowl and eat again until well incorporated.
On the lowest speed, beat in buttermilk. Add flour mixture in three additions. Hand mix with a spatula a little to avoid flour explosions. Scrape down bowl to make sure there are no unmixed spots.
Reserve half the batter for another use. Divide remaining batter between two prepared 6" pans. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until cakes are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool cakes and run a knife around the edge so they come out of the pan cleanly.
adapted from Martha Stewart
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon juice
zest from one lemon
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cub cold butter, cubed
Combine yolks, lemon juice and rind, and sugar in a small saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and stir in cubed butter, mixing until well combined. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, transfer to a glass jar and chill in the fridge until cool and very thick. The curd can be made several days in advance.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
Combine sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Chill.
whipped cream cheese frosting:
adapted from Just a Taste
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tbs whipping cream, chilled
1/2 vanilla bean innards, or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese until soft. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until well incorporated. Whisking at a medium-high speed, pour whipping cream into mixer bowl in a slow stream. Frosting should become very fluffy.
Trim cakes as required to flatten the tops, I like to cut the side crusts off too to get nothing but the super fluffy middle cake. Drizzle lemon syrup generously over the cake layers and let soak in for a couple minutes.
Place one cake layer on a 6" cake board if you have it, or a flat plate or cake stand. Cover cake with a very generous layer of curd, it should be quite thickly set so you can really pile it on without oozing over the edge. Leave a thin boarder of uncovered cake around the edge to make space for squishing when you add the next cake layer. Sandwich next cake layer on top and cool in the fridge around 15 minutes to set up, to help the curd not ooze out into your frosting. This is a good time to make the frosting.
Frost the chilled cake quickly all over with an offset spatula, making sure to cover all exposed cake. Adding more frosting as you go, use an offset spatula, or bench scraper to tidy up and give the cake some nice clean angles. I used a cake comb to make the ridges along the side on the cake.
Optional: decorate your cake with some sprinkles. You really should do it though, look how cute they are.