Nov 16, 2009

Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake

I had eggs on my grocery list. Jim asked me why I was getting eggs since we had nearly a full carton. I told him that the cake I was baking required 17 eggs. He said, "Holy shit!" I understand his surprise, but that exclamation is actually more appropriate for when you take your first bite of this cake. You'll be amazed that you made something that tastes this good. (Well, maybe you won't be amazed, but I'm still surprised when a bake a cake that comes out of the oven looking okay, so anything that turns out way beyond okay is a treat for me).
The cake has three components: the cake itself, the white chocolate buttercream, and the lemon curd. Since both the buttercream and the lemon curd had to be made ahead of time, I decided to spread the baking of this cake out for the entire weekend--curd and buttercream on Saturday; cake on Sunday. I was glad I did, especially because the buttercream-making was such a traumatic event.
The curd took 7 egg yolks (7 down, 10 to go!) and was pretty easy. It's basically just stirring all the ingredients (egg yolks, lemon juice and zest, sugar, and butter) over low heat until it's thickened but not boiling.

If you boil it, it will curdle! I read the directions carefully, but couldn't quite figure out how I'd know when it was done. (I knew how I'd know if it was overdone). The most amazing thing happened--I just felt it when it was done. I can't quite explain how you can feel something that you're stirring with a spatula or how you can "know" by feel. I can't explain it, but I felt like I'd just passed my midterm exam for Baking 101.

My euphoria didn't last long. I'd already made the white chocolate custard base for the buttercream, and refrigerated it. This is the custard when it's just butter and white chocolate:

This is the custard with 4 eggs added (11 down, 6 to go):

I'm using my old-fashioned glass thermometer because I'm used to it. Also I haven't ordered a better instant thermometer yet. Also I couldn't find my new one.
I wasn't sure whether I was going to finish the buttercream on Saturday or wait until Sunday, but I finally decided just to do it. Finishing it just meant mixing more butter, and then adding the white chocolate custard base until it's smooth.

Smooth, I say! I did not say curdled. And yet curdled was what I got. I refused to start all over again, so I ran to my computer and Googled "curdled buttercream." I got a lot of hits, and one of them told me that I had tried to assemble the buttercream when it was too cold (Doh! The custard base was just out of the refrigerator). It told me that I could fix it by putting the bowl over direct heat until it started to melt, and then mix it again. Oh, right, I thought; that sounds bloody likely. But it worked.

OK, so I failed the final exam of Baking 101, but I'm going to see if I can do something for extra credit so I'll squeak by with a D-. I put everything in the refrigerator and opened a bottle of wine.
By Sunday, I had recovered and was ready to go.
The cake was pretty easy. White chocolate,

the last six egg yolks, milk, flour, sugar, and baking powder, more butter and some lemon zest. Only a teaspoon, so the cake would clearly be much less lemony than the lemon curd.

Have I mentioned how much I love not having to scrape down the bowl now that I have my BeaterBlade?
The last time I made a layer cake, I ended up with one layer that was significantly bigger than the other, so this time I weighed the batter that I put in each pan.
Have I mentioned how much I love my scale?

But, again, pride goeth before a fall. My second big mistake was forgetting to spray the cake pans with Baker's Joy. I always spray the pans at the same time I put the baking strips around the pan and the parchment circles on the bottom, but this time I didn't. And I didn't realize it until the cakes were in the oven. I was pretty sure that I wouldn't be able to get the layers out in one piece, but somehow it worked.

I don't like splitting layer cakes. I tried the dental floss trick, but it just didn't work for me. Maybe there's a dental floss especially made for cakes?

Filling the split layers with lemon curd went pretty well.

But I got confused and one layer of filling didn't get put in between the layer; I accidentally put the crust part facing the layer and the cake part facing up (if you know what I mean).

The result of this mistake was that one layer of lemon curd looked brown because it took on the color of the crust. It also made it hard to frost the top of the bottom set of layers.

I've just been told that my extra credit project is not going to save me, and I'll have to repeat the course. Fine.

I know that some of you experienced cake bakers are going to turn out a finished product better-looking than this, but I'm actually pretty pleased with my icing job. True, there are some crumbs showing, and it's not completely level, but it doesn't slant (much) and its shoulders are straight.

See what I mean about one layer of filling looking brown?
I didn't mind that much about the amber-appearing lemon curd, because the whole thing was just so good! The cake was only mildly lemony, and had a very appealing crumb and texture. It's a good thing it wasn't strongly lemon, because that would have made it fight with the lemon curd--very lemony and tart. But not too tart, because it was balanced by the sweet buttery lemon of the buttercream. Okay, I know I'm fickle, but now this is the one I want for my birthday.


Laurel: "Better than lemon pie--and lemon pie is my favorite."
Doug: "The lemon filling really makes it."
Jan: "I could get used to this."
Jim: "Great lemon flavor. The cake is light despite all the eggs and butter."
Rachel: "That cake is very good."
Ben: "This may be the best one you've made."


faithy said...

Hi Marie! Your cake looks great! As usual, great posts! Your comment that making the buttercream was a traumatic event made me laugh..cos i felt the same way too! You'll be comforted to know your dark crust still doesn't look as bad as mine..hahahaha..mine look like egg, ham & cheese sandwhich! LOL!

Rebecca said...

my white chocolate custard base is cooling in the fridge as I write this...cake is waiting to be cut and lemon curd is ready... i'm a little nervous about the buttercream and I still have to let it sit for 2 hours... it's 9pm now so it's going to be late by the time i get a piece. Great post Marie and lovely cake!

Melinda said...

You know I love and adore lemon cakes. I want this one for my birthday, too.
I'd give you an A+ if you would make it for me.
I think your cake looks scrummy good.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Oh Marie, I'm already tortured by my decision to not make this cake! Ahhhh!!!


Patricia @ ButterYum said...

PS - I've never heard of cutting a cake with dental floss. Cheesecake yes, regular cake no.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Another PS - great save on the buttercream. And it's great to hear your cake baking intuition (lemon curd) is developing as your experience increases.

doughadear said...

I love my beater blade and I ask what took so long for its invention? I knew that the last two "birthday" cakes would once again get bumped, one can only imagine how many more there will be. I know, all your neighbours can make all your favourite cakes for you birthday and have a birthday cakes party for you.
The cake really does look pretty amazing.

Marie said...

You've made me so curious to read your post! I think there will be a few traumatized people with this cake, but it's worth it.

I hope you enjoyed your midnight cake!

I thought of you and your love for lemon cakes when I was making this cake. As I recall, you made one for your own birthday, but it wasn't lemony enough. You really must try this triple lemon cake, and I know that you would not be daunted by it one bit.

Several people told me they had great luck cutting layers with dental floss, but it would have to be a particular kind of floss to work, I think. You'll make this cake eventually, and when you do, your version will be beautiful.

Great idea about the neighbors all making me different birthday cakes! Somehow I don't think that's going to happen.

evil cake lady said...

Marie, your cake looks lovely! Great save on the buttercream, and I love that you felt the doneness of your lemon curd! I totally believe in the power of feeling through the spatula. I agree; this would make an excellent birthday cake!

Vicki said...

Hahahahhhaa! You've given me a good chuckle this morning. And never has there been a better use for 17 eggs and white chocolate.

Jenn said...

Marie, I thought your cake looks lovely. Your layers looks really even and I can see the filling in between. I wish I could say the same thing for mine :)). I'd say you get an A in this course (knowing when the curd is done deserve extra points!). And another A in writing of course.

Marie said...

I love the "power of feeling through the spatula." It sounds very new-agey.

I'm with you there.

Are you kidding? I love your cake! I would never had have the courage to try those lemon roses.

Jenn said...

Marie, the lemon roses are so much easier than the lemon cake :). You should try it sometimes, it's pretty cool to do!

Mendy said...


Well done Marie!

Love your old school thermometer. :)

marie said...

Well, they do look more do-able than roses made out of frosting. I'll give it a try.

It's only appropriate--I'm pretty old school myself.

jini said...

oh my, i think i want this one for my birthday too. it looks delicious and combining white chocolate with lemon curd sounds dreamy to me.
you will probably get a lot of orders! :)

Rachelino said...

Marie- your cake looks great and very complicated for someone with you baking experience! BRAVO!
I agree with Patrincia/ButterYum that I have never heard of floss for cutting anything other than cheesecake. Only a serrated knife or cake cutter.
Also, I was much happier making european buttercreams once I got a digital instant read thermometer (CDN, cheap).
Well, again my ambition to bake this cake was foolhardy. I am still elated from my dear friend's wedding and finishing a dark chocolate pomegranate wedding cake with the FABULOUS lacquer glaze from the book. So I have posted a RHC related item today, just a different recipe.
Because lemon is my absolute favorite, and my husband would not be pleased if I skipped it, I am still making this lemon cake this week darnit!

faithy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
faithy said...

Hi HCBs, not sure where to post this..not lemon related..but i just saw on Rose's blog that she has made some changes to her recipe for Devil's Food Cake on Page 99...she suggest to print and paste on our books. I can't wait to bake the Devil's Food Cake..looks so yummy!

Marie said...

I'd have to charge about $500 for this cake to cover my time and the ingredients, so I might not have too many orders after all.

Thanks--I'm getting more experienced by the week! I'm very interested in hearing how the lacquer glaze went, so I'm glad you blogged about it.

Thanks for the update. I have a feeling that Rose is often not quite satisfied with a recipe, so even her published cookbooks are works in progress.

Raymond said...

Marie, your cakes always look so tasty. I look forward to Mondays just to see what you've made. Thank you for starting this bake through and encouraging the rest of us to come along for the adventure. I am loving it.

PAM said...

Great job on your lemon cake. I am so dissapointed that I got sick and could not make this cake this weekend and now I'm going crazy at work so I guess I'll have to skip it. I never spray my pans with release agent. I like the cakes to stick to the sides of the pans so they rise evenly. You can always run a knife around the edge to release it if it doesn't release after cooling. Just make sure you always use parchment on the bottom!

Marie said...

Thanks. I really enjoy seeing everybody else's versions, and you're right--it's an adventure.

Sugar Chef,
I didn't know that cakes would rise more evenly if they stick to the sides of the pan. I did have parchment on the bottom, and did use a knife around the edge, so no harm done, but I'm still a big fan of Baker's Joy. Hope you're feeling better now.

Bungalow Barbara said...

Love your post! You do get an A as a writer. And if you have to repeat the cake course, you'll probably have company. Several of us (myself included) forgot to add key ingredients to the cake batter and one baked a different lemon cake so plainly it was "just one of those weeks." But a very delicious, lemony week!

Marie said...

Thanks for the A grade!

hector said...

i am extremely sad of the dramatic curdles on all your buttercreams. this is really one of the most delicious buttercreams i have experienced as you can see on my rendition of the Golden Dream Wedding Cake ( cake preview 4).

curdling will NEVER happen if you have an accurate digital thermometer and follow the very many temperature notes on the recipe.

digital thermometers are extremely affordable nowadays, ranging from $20 to $90. both price ranges are accurate thermometers, my preferred one is the thermapen. the thermapen is the fastest to read, but any of the lower priced digital thermometers that i use are just as accurate. i have several listed on

there are 2 things i ask my students to own: a thermometer and a scale. it is a reasonable request nowadays because gone are the days of the $1000 electronics. it pays for itself after you make 3 cakes or so.

Anonymous said...

hi Marie,
Can u advise how long can the lemon curd keep in the refrigerator? I made this cake abt 7 weeks ago n forgot all abt the wonderful lemon curd in the fridge. Is it still safe to consume or should i just throw it away?

Perth, Australia

marie said...

I wouldn't use lemon curd after 7 weeks, and would sadly throw it out.

Anonymous said...

Thks for the info, marie. Sigh! Wht a terrible waste. I really must remember to freeze my leftover lemon curd next time!