A cake for spring dreaming

As soon as our city’s stay-at-home protocols went into effect in March, I developed a manic craving for lemon-elderflower-flavored things. I’d been dreaming about lemon-elderflower cake since late February, so I’d provisioned myself with a bottle of St. Germaine in preparation for a first-day-of-spring cake. Between working at home, gardening, doing the grocery shopping and navigating the weird world of staying home all the rest of the time, I didn’t get my cake made until Holy Saturday. But it was just the ticket for closing out our Easter feast.

As this was my first go at making the cake I’d been imaginging for so long I started with this recipe by Honey Blonde and adapted it here and there. It turned out tasting marvelous, but the cake layers were a lot shorter than I was expecting — I’m not sure whether this was just because my pans were 8- to 9-inch, or whether I did something wrong somewhere. At any rate, in my next round of experimentation I might double the recipe, as I’d prefer the cake to be a little taller (which would allow for more lemon curd!). My frosting was also somewhat experimental and, while it tasted great, it was a little runnier than I’d intended. I might use a traditional cream cheese frosting recipe as a base next time and substitute mascarpone. But we’ll see. At any rate, this yields a very scrummy dessert, regardless of how it looks.

Lemon elderflower cake

Makes a 2 tier 8-9″ cake

Ingredients

Cake
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt (I used gray Celtic sea salt, just because I had it)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
zest of two eureka (regular yellow) lemon and two meyer lemons
3 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk (what did I use? It may have been regular milk plus heavy cream)
1/4 cup lemon juice (from the regular and meyer lemons)
2 tbsp elderflower liquor

Simple Syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup elderflower liqueur (such as St. Germaine)
1/2 cup lemon juice (left over from the lemons you’ve zested and juiced, plus whatever additional you need to get up to 1/2 a cup)

Frosting
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
most of a small tub of mascarpone cheese
1-3 tbsps or so lemon zest
powdered sugar (1-2 cups)
Additional elderflower liqueur and/or Belvoir elderflower cordial (this is non-alcoholic)

Lemon curd (I used Bonne Maman)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of two 8- to 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper, spraying the bottoms and sides with baking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift and whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a small measuring cup, combine milk/cream, lemon juice, and elderflower liqueur.

In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the lemon zest, then mix in the eggs one at a time until eggs and butter are combined and no longer appear separated.

Spoon about a third of the flour mixture into the butter and egg mixture and mix until flour is almost completely incorporated. Pour in half of the liquid ingredients and mix until combined. Repeat with half of the remaining flour and the rest of the liquid, mixing the rest of the flour into the batter at the end.

Spoon the batter into the two cake pans — if you have a kitchen scale with which you can weigh them, that’s grand, but otherwise eyeball it to split the batter evenly — then bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. I think I baked mine around 35 minutes.

While the cakes bake, make the simple syrup. Combine the lemon juice, sugar and liqueur in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until sugar is completely dissolved then transfer to another bowl or measuring cup to cool.

After cakes have baked, allow them to cool to room temperature, then wrap and place in the freezer to chill for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Once cakes are chilled, carefully cut each cake in half with a serrated knife, so that you have four layers in all. Brush the top of each layer generously with the simple syrup four or five times. The layers should not be sodden, but you do want them to be very moist. Let them dry for about 10-15 minutes while you make the frosting.

Put the mascapone cheese, butter, zest and powdered sugar in a bowl, and then add enough liqueur or cordial to form a spreadable frosting, beating it all together with a hand mixer.

Put a dab of frosting on your cake plate and place the first layer of cake (one of the bottom halves) on it. Cover this with a thin layer of lemon curd. Carefully frost the underside (the non-syruped side) of the upper part of this cake layer with frosting. Carefully turn this over and place on top of the initial layer, so that the frosting and the lemon curd are touching. Spread a thin layer of frosting on the top of this layer, then place the bottom layer of the second cake on top. Repeat the frosting/spreading of curd so you have another frosting and curd sandwich for your top layer.

When this is done, frost the sides and top of the cake. I did mine with a lighter, rather than heavier layer, partially to give it a semi-“naked” look, and partially because I was surprised at how short my layers of cake turned out.

Let the cake rest for a few hours before eating — and it’s even better the second day!