Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lemon Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Man, what a busy weekend this turned out to be. Chris and I got fairly ambitious with our fondant plans -- we wanted to attempt a tiered cake, blue fondant on bottom with a smaller red cake on top, decorated with something for the 4th of July. I made the lemon cakes from my new Cake Love book but instead of baking them in two 9x2 pans I did two 8x2 pans and two 6x2 pans. Once they were cool I realized that the 8 inch cakes were awfully thin for a layer cake -- ridiculously thin in fact. So, I opted to make two more cakes...

I knew there was a problem with the cakes once the batter was all mixed up. The first time around the batter was a typically thin cake batter, the second time around it was very thick and heavy. I thought about it for a few minutes, but couldn't figure out what the difference was, so I baked them anyway. When they came out of the oven there was something clearly off about them -- crackly and fragile and just wrong looking. But, I still couldn't figure out what I had happened.

One of the cakes fell completely apart when I was taking it out of the pan, but it still tasted okay. Despite being incredibly fragile, the second one came out of the pan without too much of a problem and I figured at that point that it tasted fine, so I would use it in the layer cake anyway. Since we planned to frost and decorate the next day, I wrapped all the layers up in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge -- cold cakes are just easier to deal with. Look -- the middle layer is the funky one...

At 5 am one of the cats woke me up by sitting on my head and taking over my pillow. Highly irritated by it, I started going through all the steps I took with the cake earlier -- I really wanted to figure out what had happened. I had my eureka moment and said fairly loudly: "I forgot the eggs." The cats had woken Chris up too, so luckily he couldn't blame me for that part. But seriously... I forgot the eggs. And not just one egg or two eggs... no we're talking 4 eggs and an egg yolk. Wow.

Despite the lack of eggs in one layer of the cake we opted to stick with our plan. I made a lemon buttercream frosting and frosted up the layers. Then we started rolling out the marshmallow fondant that we had made the day before. What a disaster. It was dry. It was cracky. It ripped. We had spent hours trying to dye it -- we were aiming for blue and red -- we ended up with turquoise and pink. We decided to just roll with it and kept working the whole mess.

The blue eventually went on the cake, but we couldn't get it smoothed out, plus it kept cracking and tearing on us. We attempted to cover it up the worst spots with some fondant decorations and we were going to make it work, but then we moved on to the red/pink for the other layer. That fondant cracked and ripped and was a general pain in the ass too -- so we gave up and threw out both fondants. We figured that the cake would have buttercream frosting and blueberries and that would be good for our small 4th of July gathering, and it was. I'm not much of a buttercream fan, but the lemon really helped counteract the usually overly-sweet flavors of the buttercream.

I suppose I could have just considered the whole thing a waste since we spent hours messing with it all, but it was actually a great learning experience. Frustrating, but educating. The eggs mistake though.. that was just boneheaded. I can't believe I did that!

Adapted from Cake Love by Warren Brown
8 1/2 oz all purpose flour
2 tbsp potato starch
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

2 lemons, zested (the zest goes in the creaming stage) and segmented
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tbsp limoncello
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon oil

4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
3 oz cream cheese
16 oz (2 cups) granulated sugar
2 tbsp turbinado sugar
1 tbsp of lemon zest
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a bundt pan or put a round of parchment paper in two 9x2 round pans (no need to grease the sides of the round pans)

Zest lemon and segment it.

Cream the butter, sugars and lemon zest at low speed in an electric mixer for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition and scraping the sides as needed.

Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl, and the liquid ingredients together in another bowl. Add the liquid and dry ingredients alternately to the creamed butter mix, mixing until everything is incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes for the bundt, or 30 minutes for the round pans.

Cool and frost as desired.

For the Lemon Buttercream
1 stick of butter at room temp
2 1/2 - 3 cups of powdered sugar
1-3 tsps of lemon juice
1/4 tsp of lemon oil (optional)
1 - 2 tsps of water.

Cream the butter. Add the smallest amounts of each of the other ingredients and gradually add more of each to get the flavor and consistency you want.


Christy said...

If you used a lot of coloring (especially if you're using Wilton coloring) to get the blue of your fondant, it will tear, become crumbly, etc. MMF is awesome, but stinky for dark colors.

Have you been to Cake Central yet? More information on cakes, cookies, cupcakes than you could ever want to know!

giz said...

What a gorgeous looking cake - it's the process to get to the finished product that makes one crazy.

Anonymous said...


In the recipe for the lemon layer cake, you mentioned to zest and segment to lemons, and your directions you just use the zest of the two lemons, what's the purpose of segmenting the lemons if your not going to use the lemon wedges, why not just zest the lemons.

biscuitpusher said...

the lemon segments go into the liquid ingredients. you separate the segments of lemon, then take off the white pith holding the "meat" of the lemon, then throw the "meat" in with the liquid ingredients. hope that answers the question -- if not, email me at biscuitpusher @ gmail and I'll see if I can do better.

Jackie said...


Did you actually use limoncello, or did you leave it out of the recipe, because limoncello is really expensive. I just can't see myself buying it just to use 2 tablespoons of it.

biscuitpusher said...


so sorry for the delay in the answer. I bought a small sample size from the liquor store of limoncello -- only a few bucks and contained enough to make the cake a couple of times. However, I'm sure you could omit it without a problem.