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a cake fit for brunch

May 15 2009 by Kristin at The Kitchen Sink in Dessert,Recipe » 25 comments


I want to tell you about this cake—a lemon cake with buttery lemon curd between the layers and a thick jacket of lemon zest-flecked cream cheese frosting.  Its a cake that deserves a gushing essay of its own—wherein I would tell you how fun it was to make and how delicious it was to eat.  But I’m just too distracted.   You see, we’re boarding a plane in a few hours and heading to Minnesota for the weekend to see my family.  And I can’t wait.  I’m so excited that I’ve got a case of tunnel vision: I can’t seem to concentrate at work and or to give this cake its due.


The weekend forecast in Minnesota, per weather.com, is currently boasting big yellow sunshine icons.  What’s more, we’ve got a full roster of plans: dinner out tonight, a brunch at my sister’s apartment tomorrow, a big home-cooked meal tomorrow night, a trip to the Minneapolis farmers’ market.  And that’s just the official agenda: I fully expect to play some heated games of Doodle Dice, to swap recipes with my mom, to talk to my grandpa about his garden, to places bets on the Preakness.


More than all of these things, though, I cannot wait to see my family.  We haven’t been home for what seems like ages and I just can’t wait to all be in the same state, under the same roof, around the same dinner table. 


So, no, none of this has anything to do with this lovely cake.  But I still want you to have the recipe.  It has filled a void in my cake repertoire that I didn’t know existed: a cake that’s tasty and celebratory, but not overly dessert-y or heavy.  A cake fit for brunch, in other words.   I hope you try it and I hope you have a wonderful, delicious weekend.


Lemon Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Bon Appetit (cake and frosting) and Gourmet (lemon curd)

Printable Recipe

This is a make-in-advance kind of cake, because there is a lot of chilling time built in.  I recommend making the frosting and lemon curd two days before serving.  Make the cake the day before serving.

Lemon Cake Layers:

6 large eggs, separated
14 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line bottom of two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides with parchment paper (do not grease pans or parchment). Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 7 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until mixture is very thick and slowly dissolving ribbons form when beaters are lifted, about 4 minutes. Using clean dry beaters, beat whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining 7 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff and glossy. Fold half of whites into yolk mixture, then sift half of flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt over and gently fold in until incorporated. Fold in remaining whites, then sift remaining flour and scraped vanilla beans over and fold in just until combined, being careful not to deflate batter.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool in pans on racks.

Run knife around edge of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto 9-inch-diameter cardboard rounds, tapping on work surface if necessary to release cakes. Cut each cake horizontally in half (layers will be thin). Peel off parchment.

Place sugar in small metal bowl. Add 1/2 cup boiling water; stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in lemon juice.  Brush cake layers with syrup.  (Note, use all the syrup.) 

Lemon Curd:

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 3/4 sticks (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces

Whisk together zest, lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and a pinch of salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Add butter all at once and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubbles appear on surface, about 10 minutes. Immediately pour curd through a fine sieve into a bowl, then chill for at least four hours (and preferably overnight), covered.  [Can be made 2 days in advance.]

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Beat in lemon peel and vanilla.  Chill until ready to use.  [Can be made up to 2 days in advance.]


Place one of the four cake layers on cake stand, lined with strips of parchment or wax paper.  Slather the surface of the layer with one-third of the lemon curd, spreading evenly.  Repeat with the remaining cake layers.

Spread frosting over the top and down the sides of the cake, using an offset spatula to smooth the frosting.

Chill at least four hours before serving (preferably overnight).  [Can be made up to 1 day before serving.]

25 comments so far. »
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  1. rose says on May 15 2009 at 1:04 pm:

    OOOOOOHHHHHHHH! That looks so delicious, light and crumbly soft! Have a great time visiting your family :)

  2. The Duo Dishes says on May 15 2009 at 1:17 pm:

    The frosting is undeniably delicious-looking. So fluffy. It’s lemon overload! In a good way!

  3. Tracey says on May 15 2009 at 1:18 pm:

    Gorgeous! I love lemon cakes and this looks like a great one! Have a wonderful time with your family.

  4. Allison says on May 15 2009 at 2:00 pm:

    This cake and you coming HOME are both deserving of a: Yea-Bay-Bay!!!!

  5. annie says on May 15 2009 at 2:01 pm:

    Looks heavenly! I love love love lemon. I’ll be making this next week! Thanks for the recipe.

  6. Whitney Merritt says on May 15 2009 at 4:01 pm:

    Have such a fun weekend! Lovely cake.

  7. Polly Rice says on May 15 2009 at 4:02 pm:

    OMG. This cake looks like sheer divinity to me, oh big fan of lemon as a cake ingredient. I might have to make my own birthday cake next month :-) (I don’t think I trust my fiance to handle this recipe)

  8. dawn says on May 15 2009 at 4:24 pm:

    I’m so speechless, just drool.

  9. mary says on May 15 2009 at 5:32 pm:

    Dear, Lemon. I love you. I love you more in lemon cake.

    This one is bookmarked.

  10. Lindsey says on May 15 2009 at 8:07 pm:

    This looks fantastic! I definitely need an excuse to make it. Have a great time with your family.

  11. gastroanthropologist says on May 16 2009 at 4:14 am:

    Lemon cake, layered with curd + a cream cheese frosting. Seriously?

    Have a great trip home – I’m living away from my family right now and your weekend sounds like the best thing ever.

  12. Emily says on May 16 2009 at 10:29 am:

    Your weekend sounds amazing, and this cake looks delightful. I’m terribly jealous of both. Have a great time at home!

  13. Anticiplate says on May 16 2009 at 6:21 pm:

    I was waiting to see either buttermilk or yogurt in this cake, but in fact I was wrong. I love the lemon curd and cream cheese frosting combo. Gorgeous photography as usual.

  14. Andrea [bella eats] says on May 16 2009 at 6:23 pm:

    I think that lemon is my favorite flavor in baked goods, and this cake looks absolutely delicious!

    I hope you are enjoying a fabulous weekend with your family!

  15. Cookin' Canuck says on May 17 2009 at 10:51 am:

    What a delicious, refreshing-looking cake. I think you gave this cake it’s due attention with your beautiful photos! Have a great time with your family.

  16. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on May 18 2009 at 2:03 pm:

    Thanks, everyone! I’m glad to hear I have so many fellow lemon lovers out there. The weekend in MN was lovely (if chilly!).

    Anticiplate: You know me too well! I was actually excited to try out the sponge cake technique for the first time. So, alas, no buttermilk or yogurt. : )

  17. Culinary Cory says on May 18 2009 at 6:18 pm:

    I’m totally drooling right now. The lemon curd between the layers sounds absolutely delicious.

  18. codfish says on May 18 2009 at 6:54 pm:

    I love those icing shots–so fluffy and tempting!

  19. ingrid says on May 20 2009 at 8:17 pm:

    The cake sounds perfect. Love all the photos! Thanks for sharing & I hope you have a fabulous time.

  20. Patricia Scarpin says on May 21 2009 at 9:43 am:

    That is heaven in form of cake. I wish I could have a slice!

  21. Panya says on May 23 2009 at 1:10 am:

    I made this cake, and it tasted utterly delicious. I had a bit of trouble making it though. To be fair, I’ve only made a handful of layered cakes, and they’ve all turned out pretty badly.

    With this one, while making the curd I burned myself twice, the curd seeped out of the layers [even though I left a margin between the curd and the edges], and the layers slid around a lot when I was trying to frost the cake [the second one ended up about an inch off of the others]. I gave up and left the majority of the frosting on the top layer, since I couldn’t frost the sides with the curd going everywhere. I’m an experienced baker, I just have no luck with layer cakes!

    I think that the next time I make this, I’ll make mini cakes in ramekins, that way the curd and cake layers won’t have anywhere to go. ;-)

  22. Panya says on May 23 2009 at 1:15 am:

    Had a thought…
    Do you think refrigerating it after assembling the layers and curd would work, to make it firmer before frosting?

    Oh, and I’ll definitely be using this as my go-to cream cheese frosting recipe from now on. I even saved some to use on the carrotte cake muffins I’m making later.

  23. BigSis says on June 13 2009 at 2:27 pm:

    This is such a beautiful summery cake! I can’t wait to try it!

  24. Lynn says on August 11 2009 at 9:26 pm:

    I finally made this cake after weeks of lurking and drooling over this post… I have to say the flavors are WONDERFUL. My layers weren’t quite as tall as the photos above (maybe 3/4-1″ thick each — imagine then slicing that in two!). I love love love the lemon curd and the frosting too. I might make it again with a different layer cake — I didn’t think this one was worth the extra effort of separating the eggs, beating them separately, etc. But as you can tell, I’d definitely make it (or some version of it) again — I love lemon, and this recipe showcases it for sure! (Btw, I didn’t have the problems Panya mentioned, but was thankful she prepped me so I didn’t spread the curd too far out to the edges)

  25. Die Eule says on September 25 2010 at 3:20 am:

    Congratulations on a superb recipe. Thanks muchos for posting. love and peace from Berlin.

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