I had to think of a cake to make for a recent Saltaire Clandestine Cake Club event. The theme was ‘All Things Bright & Beautiful’ and, as I had some spare lemons in the fridge that needed using up, I thought something using lemon curd would do just fine. Maybe I had the image of yellow daffodils somewhere in the back of my mind as a symbol of spring and made the connection to yellow lemons? Granted, they had already been zested which the recipe called for. Undeterred, I thought the juice would suffice for the flavour in the curd and cake and the zest would go largely unnoticed. The idea of how to make it look ‘bright & beautiful’ began to develop and I got to thinking about using some yellow colouring in different shades in the decoration. I am not a huge fan of butter cream and got the idea to use whipped cream mixed with some of the lemon curd as the ‘icing’. It worked really well, and the feedback from my fellow cake clubbers were very happy tasters.
The quantities are can be halved if you want to make a smaller cake.
For the cake:
Grated zest 1 lemon
2 tablespoon lemon juice
350g self-raising flour, sifted
2 level teaspoons baking powder
350g butter at room temperature (I always use unsalted but you can use salted if you prefer).
350g caster sugar
6 large eggs
For the lemon curd:
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice 2 lemons
150g caster sugar
4 large eggs
For the icing:
600ml of whipping cream
Leftover lemon curd after filling the cake – I think I had about 100ml
Before you start, it’s very important to have your butter as soft as possible. Why? Because the method for this cake is to beat all the ingredients together in one go. If the butter is hard, it won’t get mixed in properly with everything else. You’ll always have little lumps of butter dotted throughout the mixture which will lead to an uneven bake. So, if you are like me and keep your butter in the fridge, I recommend you measure out the quantity you need, chop it into small cubes (easiest way to do this is using a very sharp knife) and leave it out to come to room temperature for a good few hours.
You can always soften it slightly in the microwave if you are short of time but you don’t want any melted butter as it will affect the outcome of your cake so watch it like a hawk! Another method recommended by Mary Berry, which I haven’t tried I hasten to add, is to cut the hard butter into squares and put it into tepid water (not hot water otherwise you’ll have a big mess!) for 10 minutes. After draining, the butter was perfect for creaming with sugar.
Hopefully you’ve not given up by this stage as this is only the butter! I assure you to soldier on as the rest of the recipe is a doddle.
- Grease and line the base of three 20 cm round, 4cm deep sponge tins. If you are halving the recipe, use 18 cm round tins.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
- Measure out each ingredient and pop them all into one mixing bowl. If you are not using something like a Kenwood Chef, and will be using an electric hand beater, a high sided mixing bowl is best otherwise you’ll end up with mixture splattered over your kitchen. You could beat by hand but that’s something I wouldn’t recommend; you’ll have a very sore arm if you do!
- Beat until the mixture is creamy and smooth. This can take anything from 5-10 mins depending on the size of your butter cubes and how soft it was when you put it in and the power of your electric beater.
- You then need to divide the mixture up evenly between the three cake tins. I use some digital scales to ensure each tin has more or less the same quantity of mixture. This ensures all three cakes have the same depth on baking and adds to the finished effect of the cake.
My oven won’t take three tins of this size on one shelf so I put two on one shelf and one on another. However, I have my oven set to a programme that circulates the air to achieve an even bake regardless of the shelf the tins are on. If you don’t have this, don’t worry, you will probably find that the cakes on the upper shelf will bake quicker than the one lower down. You can remove the top two when they are done, move the lower tin to the upper shelf and leave to bake for a little longer until it’s done.
- Bake the cakes for 25-35 minutes or until they are lightly golden and a skewer comes out clean.
- Remove them from the oven and after about a minute carefully turn them out on to a wire rack.
Now for the lemon curd:
- Put some water in a saucepan, to a depth of maybe 5cm, and set on a medium heat to start warming up while you prepare the ingredients for the curd.
- Put the caster sugar and lemon zest in a heatproof bowl (such as pyrex) that can be placed over a pan of simmering water and that fits the pan correctly so that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the simmering water.
- Whisk the lemon juice with the eggs
- Then pour this over the sugar and zest.
- Give it a good stir to ensure everything is mixed in.
- Chop the butter into small chunks and add this to the bowl.
- Set the bowl over the saucepan and set it to a heat so the water is barely simmering.
- Stir the mixture at frequent intervals until it is thickened. It should take about 20 minutes.
- It’ll start to form little lumps in the early stages.
- Don’t worry about this; it isn’t ruined! As the mixture continues to thicken throughout, the lumps will finally be incorporated and will disappear.
- Remove from the heat, put a double layer of cling film directly onto the top of the curd with minimal air pockets and leave to cool completely in the bowl. The application of the cling film will prevent a skin forming. If you have made the curd a day or so in advance of needing to ‘ice’ your cake, keep the curd in the fridge until required.
When the cakes and curd are completely cold here’s how to make up the cake:
- Put a blob of curd into the middle of the plate you will be putting the cake on and then place the bottom layer of cake onto it, ensuring you place the flattest end of the cake onto the plate (this helps with the final look and finish once it’s iced). Press gently down to secure it. This prevents the cake slipping about when you are icing it.
- Then take a good dollop of curd and spread it thickly onto the top of this bottom layer. It doesn’t matter if a little bit of curd oozes down the side, but you don’t want to be putting curd directly onto the sides.
- Then take the middle layer of cake and place that directly onto the bottom layer (it doesn’t really matter which way up this one goes). Repeat the thick layer of curd onto top of this layer.
- Then take the final layer of cake and ensuring that the flattest part of the cake ends upper most, place it onto the middle layer and press down gently to secure.
- Pour about 200ml of cream into a large mixing blow and beat until it holds its shape firmly. This will be used to do the ‘crumb’ layer of icing. This is basically a rough and ready layer of icing to catch any crumbs that are on the edges of the cake.
- Using a clean spoon, put a generous dollop onto the top of the cake.
- Using a palette knife, start to spread the cream down the side of the cake, scraping it to a roughly smooth finish. Add more cream if you need more using the clean spoon (you want to prevent spreading crumbs about)
- Pour the rest of the cream into your bowl, adding it to any cream left from the crumb layer, and beat again until it holds its shape. Gradually add a tablespoon of curd at a time, folding it in gently to incorporate it and to ensure you still have a consistency that is not too runny and still holds its shape. You may need to beat it again to thicken it as you go. Add as much of the remaining curd you like to taste but being careful that you don’t add too much and are not able to beat the creamy mixture to hold its shape.
- Using a clean spoon again, put a generous dollop of the curd cream onto the cake.
- Taking a clean palette knife (it is important you don’t use the palette knife from the crumb layer is it will have residual crumbs left on it which you don’t want on your outer layer), spread the cream down the side of the cake as with the crumb layer, until all the cake is covered and the finish is smooth.
- Divide the rest of the leftover cream mixture evenly into three separate bowls.
- Add some yellow food colouring to two of the bowls in differing amounts to get two different shades of yellow.
- Put the three shades of curd cream into three separate piping bags with the nozzle of your choice.
- And pipe away!
My piping needs some practice but I was still pretty pleased how this came out and it tasted great. Most importantly in my opinion, it wasn’t too sweet as there was no sugar added to the curd cream on the outside but was just nicely tart with the hint of lemon curd.