This cake celebrates the vibrant fruits of winter, specifically the sweet, juicy Meyer lemon whose perfume is solace from the cold and cutting weather. Grated zest is pulsed or rubbed with fingertips into sugar to release the bittersweet oils of the lemon. The effect is a light cake infused with flavor. Slathers of curd, flavored in the same manner, gush from between the layers and a simple dusting of powdered sugar blankets the top. Serve this cake during the winter months when the fruit is in season.
Note: Be careful when moving the cake layers during assembly as they are a bit delicate.
- For the Cake
- Baking spray
- 1 3/4 cups (about 12 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons grated zest plus 1/4 cup juice from about 3 Meyer lemons
- 2 1/4 cups (about 9 ounces) cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- For the Meyer Lemon Curd
- 3/4 cup (about 5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons grated zest plus 1/2 cup juice from 4 to 5 Meyer lemons
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
For the Cake: Lightly coat two 9-inch round cake pans with baking spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper rounds and coat once again with baking spray. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Pulse 1 1/2 cups sugar and zest in food processor until no zest strands remain and sugar is damp and yellow. Alternatively, rub the zest into the sugar with fingertips.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl; reserve. Combine milk, lemon juice, and vanilla in glass measuring cup; reserve.
In large bowl, whip egg whites with whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes longer. If you used the stand mixer bowl, transfer whites to separate bowl.
Beat butter and lemon sugar with paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with milk mixture. Fold in egg whites and divide batter equally between prepared pans.
Bake until tester inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer cakes to cooling racks and cool 10 minutes in pans. Turn cakes out directly onto racks, peel off and discard parchment, then invert so the tops are facing up. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
For the Meyer Lemon Curd: Pulse the zest and sugar in food processor until no zest strands remain and sugar is damp and yellow. Alternatively, rub the zest into the sugar with fingertips.
Whisk the lemon sugar, cornstarch, eggs, egg yolks, and salt together in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add juice and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and the consistency of pudding, 8 to 10 minutes. Once mixture reaches the boil, continue cooking and whisking for 2 minutes longer.
Strain curd into medium bowl. Add butter and stir until completely incorporated. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and refrigerate until completely chilled. Alternatively, place bowl in ice bath and stir constantly until custard is completely cooled, about 10 minutes.
To Assemble: With a serrated knife, cut each cake in half to create 4 equal layers. Place one layer on a serving dish or cake stand and spread with one third (about 1/2 cup) of cooled curd. Repeat with remaining cake layers and curd.
Sift confectioners’ sugar over cake. Serve.
Two 9-inch round cake pans, parchment paper, food processor (optional), electric mixer, two cooling racks, fine-mesh strainer, medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, serrated knife