A light vanilla and lemon scented layer cake filled with lemon curd and iced with vanilla italian meringue buttercream.
Over the weekend I turned the big 3-0. A big milestone, sure, but not as big of a deal as I thought it was going to be. I guess by the time you actually reach 30, it no longer seems so old and scary. I had a lovely birthday, filled with pampering and love from friends and family. And of course, there was cake.
Baking my own birthday cake definitely doesn’t bother me at all, and I actually rather enjoy it. I get to pick out exactly what I want (and I spend weeks making that decision, you only get one birthday cake a year!) and I have a lot of fun putting it all together. I decided this year that I wanted a vanilla cake with a burst of something fun in the middle.
I try to take advantage of any opportunity to make lemon curd as it is one of my most favorite things, and I knew it would be perfect as a filling alongside a vanilla cake. To ice the cake I used my go-to fancy icing, vanilla Italian meringue buttercream, and its lightness contrasted nicely with the bold flavor of the lemon curd.
(Incidentally, I have photo tutorials on how to make lemon curd and how to make Italian meringue buttercream, if you are interested. Both are a lot easier than they seem and more than worth the effort.)
I tried a new recipe for the cake itself, a white cake flavored with vanilla bean. It’s light and tender, and incredibly fragrant. You’ll know exactly when it’s done because all of the sudden the house fills with the incredible aroma of warm vanilla.
All three of these components come together to make a lovely layer cake, one perfect for this birthday girl. One thing I love about this cake is that the lemon curd requires a lot of egg yolks, while the cake and icing call for almost as many egg whites. It’s perfect, like they were made to go together. Another thing I love about this cake? Well, it’s just delicious.
I’m in a bit of a sugar coma from my celebrations over the weekend and I’m still making my way through this cake. I’ve gotten a little help eating it, but I admit I’m not eager to get rid of the leftovers. Even a few days later it’s still moist, and a large slice after dinner makes me happy. You only turn 30 once , right?
VANILLA LEMON LAYER CAKE
For the cake:
- 3 cups (325 grams) cake flour
- 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
- 4 1/2 teaspoons (12 grams) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
- One vanilla bean
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (254 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/3 cup (11 fluid ounces) whole milk
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the lemon curd:
- 1 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 cup (230 grams) sugar
- 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3-4 lemons)
- Zest of 3 lemons
- 10 large egg yolks
For the Italian meringue buttercream:
- 1 cup (230 grams) sugar
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
- 4 large egg whites
- 2 cups (1 pound, 452 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
To make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a fitted attachment combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix for 30 seconds. Use a paring knife to cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds from the pod. Add the vanilla seeds, butter, and 1 cup of the milk to the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed for 1 minute until combined, then increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes, scraping the bowl down as needed.
- In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/3 cup milk, egg whites and vanilla extract. Add to the mixture in the stand mixer in 3 additions, mixing after each addition until smooth.
- Divide the batter between the 3 prepared pans and bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let sit in the pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Can be baked in advance. Store tightly wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer (double wrapped) for a few months.
- Place one cake layer on a cake stand or display plate. Fill a pastry bag with a small round tip with 1 cup of the buttercream. Pipe a wall of icing around the edge of the cake layer. Spoon approximately 1 cup of the lemon curd into the center and spread evenly. Repeat with the next cake layer. Place the third cake layer on top and ice the entire cake with the remaining buttercream.
- Store the cake in the fridge for up to 4 days. Let come to room temperature before serving for best results.
To make the lemon curd:
- In a large saucepan combine 1/2 cup of the butter butter, 1/2 cup of the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
- In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Slowly add the heated lemon juice mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously. When fully combined, return the mixture to the saucepan and continue to cook until thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup butter until melted and smooth.
- Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer into a shallow dish. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the curd to prevent a skin from forming and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Can be made in advance. Store in the fridge for up to one week.
To make the Italian meringue buttercream:
- Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it boils, stop stirring and insert a candy thermometer.
- Meanwhile, whip the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixture to soft peaks. When the sugar is at 238 degrees, add it to the egg whites in a slow steady stream with the mixer on medium speed.
- Increase the speed to high and beat until cooled to room temperature.
- Add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, while continuing to mix on medium high speed. Add the vanilla. Increase the speed to high and beat until smooth.
Have you tried this recipe?