Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lemon Curd Cake

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Like the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or in my case, lemon coconut macaroons, chiffon cake, sables au citron, lemon bars, french yogurt cake and this lemon curd cake from Emily Luchetti. It's not a cake with alternating layers of cake and curd like the name may imply. Instead the lemon curd is incorporated into the batter.

I learned to make this cake about 10 years ago when I attended a baking class taught by Emily Luchetti in Berkeley, California. I don't remember much about the class itself, but I do remember loving the cake (and the other desserts) she made for us. Of course, I went home, signed cookbook in tow, and proceeded to make the cake for my family. They thought it was just a plain 'ole lemon cake but, as a lemon lover, I knew it was so much more.

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There's an almost custard-like quality to this cake which I can only assume comes from the addition of lemon curd to the cake batter. The cake's appearance is so simple, but the taste just screams "lemon". It can take you by surprise if you're not expecting it. My co-worker said that it was so lemony that it couldn't be made from real lemons. But I assured her that no artificial flavorings were involved. Just the goodness of fresh lemons.

And I want to thank my dear husband for taking care of our meyer lemon tree so that it can continue to produce tons of juicy fragrant lemons year after year. I might complain about the abundance of lemons but it's better than complaining about not having enough. And there is something so satisfying knowing that we grew them ourselves.

When he pruned the tree last month, we got over 50 pounds of lemons. Yup, we weighed them. That's not bad for a couple of city folk with one tiny little tree. Our meyer lemons aren't pretty to look at but, boy, do they taste good! We had a lot of people willing to take them off our hands and the lemons were all gone in a blink of the eye. Hopefully this will be last time I post something lemon until next season's crop. Although I can't be 100% sure since we still have fruit on the tree.

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before (above) and after (below) pruning
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Lemon Curd Cake
(from Emily Luchetti's Four-Star Desserts)

Curd Ingredients
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cake Ingredients
2 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/4 cup granulated sugar (divided into 3/4 cup & 1 1/2 cup)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp (=half stick=2 oz) unsalted butter, softened at room temp.
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
6 large egg whites

To make the lemon curd
Fill a medium pot 1/3 full of water and bring to a very low boil.

In a medium heatproof bowl whisk together egg yolks, egg, 1/2 cup sugar. Whisk in 1/2 cup lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pot of water making sure water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, about 10 minutes.

Strain the curd into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd (to prevent a skin from forming). Chill curd until cold (but it's okay to chill it until it's cooled down to room temperature).

To make the cake
Preheat oven to 325F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round x 3-inch high cake pan.

Sift together cake flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside dry ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together butter, lemon juice, zest, and cooled lemon curd. Stir in dry ingredients.

Using the whisk attachment, in the bowl of a stand mixer beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Increase speed to high and gradually add the 1 1/2 cup sugar. Whip until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into batter.

Spread batter into you prepared cake pan. Bake at 325F until cake tester comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes. Cool on rack and then remove cake from pan.

Dust with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar if desired.

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50 comments:

Anh said...

Oh mary, what a wonderful cake you have here! I love Emily Luchetti, and this cake is so exceptional!

Carolyn said...

Oh, gosh, that cake sounds SO SO good. I adore lemons. We have a Meyer tree too (Southern California) so I'm always looking for new ways to use the zest and juice. In case you're interested, I also make a Meyer Lemon ice cream that is sensational. Check it out on my blog:
http://tastingspoons.blogspot.com/2007/05/luscious-lemon-velvet-ice-cream-or.html
During Meyer lemon season I squeeze and zest the right amount of juice to freeze so I can make this year around.

Parker said...

oh man, that reminds me that I've always wanted to try a meyer lemon and I've never had the chance yet. Bah. :( I can only imagine how delicious that cake is. I love me some lemons!

Anita said...

That looks like a cake full of Meyer lemony goodness. Emily Luchetti's recipes never fail to please!

Judy said...

I don't think I have ever been as hungry for something as I am right now for that cake. Oh my.

Cynthia said...

It's no wonder you are a daring baker. Your work is perfection.

Peabody said...

It sounds so good. How lucky were you to take a class by her.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

You've got triple good luck here - the class, the husband and the lemons. This is perfection to me. I must make this right after the challenge.

Meeta said...

WOW! This was a great post Mary! How I wish I had a lemon tree as gorgeous as that. I certainly would give your lemon curd cake a try - it sounds too good!

eatme_delicious said...

That cake looks and sounds good! And the way you describe how lemony it is and with almost a custard texture, I really want to try it! How lucky you are to have all those lemons grown in your backyard. :)

Deborah said...

I would LOVE it if I could grow lemons here!! Your cake looks amazing - I want some right now!!

Andrea said...

Mary, I am absolutely coveting your Meyer lemon tree (and the cake, too)!

lynn said...

Your cake looks so moist and delicious! I love the idea of incorporating lemon curd in the batter. Thanks for posting the lemon tree pictures - it's a beautiful tree and a hard worker. What a bumper crop!

Patricia Scarpin said...

The tree looks beautiful, Mary!
You have made so many delicious things with those lemons! Like this cake!

Belinda said...

This cake sounds positively dreamy! And your lemon tree...oh, my! Its absolutely beautiful, what a wonderful blessing to have a tree laden with lemons in your yard. :-)

Dolores said...

What a wonderful cake! Any advice from your gardener husband about transplanting/grafting a meyer lemon tree? We're finally ready to put my childhood home on the market. The cherry, apple and orange trees are long gone, but the meyer lemon stands proud. I would so love to keep a piece of it with me...

Barring that, I'm headed into Oakland tomorrow to pick a few from this year's crop to try your recipe.

Amy said...

This cake looks fantastic! I love lemon curd so this looks like the perfect reason to make more curd. After seeing pictures of your lemon tree, I'm going to go out and buy one next year, love the idea of having fresh lemons at your fingertips. :)

TBTAM said...

How jealous am I of that meyer lemion tree?

I wish our climate here in NYC could support a lemon tree, I'd plant one ina heartbeat...

Mary said...

Anh - I always find myself going back to Emily's recipes. I really appreciate her style of desserts.

Carolyn - Meyer lemon gelato is a great idea. I am so coveting that Cuisinart ice cream machine.

Parker - I absolutely love meyers. It imparts a flavor and fragrance that is unmistakably lemon but with a certain je ne sais quoi.

Anita - Emily's books are my most used baking books.

Judy - Thanks! It's the power of food porn. I find myself craving all sorts of food when I'm blog surfing too.

Cynthia - Being a daring baker really forces me to practice in the kitchen. And like the saying goes, practice makes perfect. :)

Peabody - I took a lot of classes back then. I was still trying to "find" myself and decide if I wanted a career in pastry.

Tanna - Yes, I thank my lucky stars that I found such a great man (and with a green thumb too).

Meeta - It's a small tree since we're on a tiny lot in the city, but it's all ours. :)

Eatme_delicious - I've always wanted a meyer lemon tree and we were so lucky that this house had one in the yard.

Deborah and Andrea - Meyer lemons are almost the only fruit that we can grow reliably in our foggy neighborhood. How I wish I could grow tomatoes!

Lynn - Yes, it was a lot of lemons. A few were beyond ripe, so sadly they went into the compost bin.

Patricia - I've been trying my hardest to keep up with the tree but I don't think it's possible. But it's been fun.

Belinda - Dreamy is right. I might have to call it "Lemon Dream Cake" from now on.

Dolores - Keeping a bit of your family's tree sound like a wonderful idea. It would be like an "heirloom" meyer lemon. We've never tried it, but, in theory, grafting should work. I've read that the best way is to buy a lemon root stock that is meant for grafting and then graft your meyer cutting to that. Or if you don't mind a "mixed" tree, maybe try grafting your cutting to a 5 gallon dwarf meyer lemon from the nursery.

Amy - I love growing my own. I can just dash to the backyard and grab a lemon and continue with my cooking.

Tbtam - I think I would give up my lemon tree to live in Manahattan. So I think we're even. :)

steph said...

your meyer lemon tree is spectacular (you are so very lucky!), and so is your cake! luchetti's recipes are great.

Dee Light said...

Lemon Curd is one of my all time favorites!!!! I'll have to try your cake!!!

veron said...

Oh my goodness, I know you said you had a ton of lemons but I did not know you had a TON of lemons. If only I wasn't a lazy as* I would beg you for some lemons to take back with me to Richmond. Alice made lemon curd in class without putting it on a double boiler but over direct flame. She said she wanted to be daring that day...maybe we can ask her to join the DAring Bakers :).

Mary said...

Steph - One of the best things about having the lemon tree is that I can smell the flowers from our bedroom when the window is open.

Dee Light - Yes, lemon curd is an absolutely delightful food. Sorry for the pun.

Veron - You probably would've shipped them back to VA if I had brought you some. :)

Anonymous said...

Does your husband have any tips/tricks he'd like to share on the care of the lemon tree? Our meyer and eureka are just now flowering...cake looks amazing!
Thanks!

Tartelette said...

Send me some Meyer Lemons..I'll pay for shipping!
The cake looks wonderful. I am sure it tasted great!

Mary said...

Anonymous - He hoses off the tree once a week to remove any pests. He thins the branches every 2 years. He also (organic) fertilizes once a year (sorry, can't remember what time of year he does that). And whenever we can, we will remove some excess buds to redirect nutritional resources.

Helene - I'll try to pick some this weekend for you.

Susan said...

Oh, baby! What a lovely recipe - I hope mine tunrs out just as well as my imagination says. Thanks for sharing.

What a great blog you have.

Mary said...

Anonymous - My husband just informed me that he fertilizes about 3 times a year. First application is in the spring and then twice more until early autumn.

Jenny said...

OMG - this looks amazing. One of our favorite breakfast treats at my house are oven pancakes spread with lemon curd. And scones with lemon curd. Just... anything with lemon curd. If I felt like being lazy and using storemade curd, do you have a sense of about how much the recipe made?

Mary said...

Jenny - I don't remember how much curd there was. My guess is about 1.5 cups.

Anonymous said...

I am so jealous I cannot have a lemon tree as yours. I live in the middle of Canada. ( too cold ) However I did make your lemon curd cake and it is so good. I found it to be dense, perhaps it was my eggs whites...any suggestions?

Suzer said...

I think you may like these Lime Curd Bars if you liked the lemon cake:

http://whatsonthetable.blogspot.com/2006/11/coconut-lime-curd-bars.html

Anonymous said...

Mary, perhaps with you lemon experience, you can help me. I have made lemon curd a couple of times (using different recipes and cooking methods) and it comes out having a metallic taste every time. Any suggestions?

Mary said...

Anonymous: I always use a vessel (to cook or store) that is non-reactive. Stainless steel, anodized aluminum, enamel, or glass are non-reactive. Using unlined copper, aluminum, or cast iron can give your lemon curd a metallic flavor due to reaction between the acid in the lemons and the metal. I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

I have used stainless steel and a glass bowl. I thought perhaps it is because I am using regular lemons as opposed to meyer lemons. Will this recipe turn out ok if I use a commercial lemon curd?

Anonymous said...

I made this cake last night and although the taste and texture were lovely, the cake fell in the middle while baking. Any suggestions as to why? I think my egg whites were spot on and I only opened the oven once.

lemonlover said...

Can I use normal lemon's for this recipe too?. I've already asked this about your lemon bars.

Mary said...

Lemonlover - Yes, you can use regular lemons.

Anonymous said...

oh I LOVE meyer lemons. Ever since I've been exposed to these, I'm hesitant to use regular lemons, especially in winter. I just know this cake is 100 times better with meyer lemons. But I might make it anyway ;-)

Anonymous said...

I just made this cake using meyer lemons I found at Whole Foods ;-) It was yummy, but my texture was sorta springy/rubbery, like how angel food/chiffon cakes can be. What did I do wrong? I think next time I make it I'll cut back on the sugar in the egg whites...

Farmgirl Susan said...

Your cake looks wonderful - and your meyer lemon tree is stunning! As someone who believes that lemon curd deserves to be in its very own food group, I'm suffering from serious citrus envy. ; )

Marcy said...

I just made this cake for Easter. It was really different and good. It has a bit of a denser consistency not unlike a coffee cake, and a little crumbly around the edges. It is rich enough on it's own without frosting- the powdered sugar was enough. I served it with a dollop of whipped cream mixed with lemon curd and sliced strawberries. Got a lot of positive feedback from family. It has kept well for the last several days- still very moist. I did use meyer lemons that I had and made the recipe exactly as written. The only aberation was that it took longer to cook than stated- about 70 minutes. Of note, my oven is not convection, so that may be the difference. I was in a hurry and since at 55 minutes it was still pretty wet inside, I turned the oven up to 350 for the last 15 minutes. It got a little browner on top than the photo- not bad, but not as pretty. I will probably try not to have to do that next time I bake it, I'll just allow for more time. I will definetely be making this again!

Ruth from London said...

Wow. I had never really eaten lemon curd before - but I bought a jar as it was on offer. Then I tracked down a way to use it. So glad I ended up here. This cake is amazing. Really realy good. It has a quite unique consistency - almost chewy. Delicious.
Another tip for a recipe like this that only uses the egg whites is the marvellous Two Chicks egg white in a carton (UK brand)as unless you want to make some custard or mayonnaise with the left over yolks, it is always great to not have any waste.

Oh yes, I know it is second best to use shop bought lemon curd - but if you do I found the whole jar (so about 1 and a half cups) was perfect!

antwerpster said...

Could you please give me an approximation of how much lemon curd this recipe yields? I was given a batch by a friend (just less than one cup it looks like) and your cake looks fabulous. Thanks so much!

Liza said...

Made this cake today- it was lovely and moist. Didn't have Meyer lemon but used store bought ones. Had made lemon curd as had leftover lemon juice from making lemon tart - used about 1.5 cupful for the recipe. I'm in the UK, so couldn't find cake flour but found a tip on the internet to mix 3/4 cups all purpose flour with 1/4 cup cornflour/cornstarch. Will definitely make again. Thanks!

Anne Decker said...

I made this cake in a heart-shaped cake pan for our 24th Anniversary. It is AMAZING! To simplify the recipe, I used Curdelicious Lemon Curd, which I found online. It is the best Lemon Curd I've ever tasted and makes this recipe so much more do-able if time is short. Can't wait to try it with their Orange, Key Lime or Raspberry Curd! Thank you Mary! Brightest Blessings from Sedona, AZ
*I am not affiliated in any manner with Curdelicious. Just LOVE their product!

Noabeth Bruckenthal said...

Good Lord. If the batter is any indication of how this will turn out, Im pumped about this cake!

Noabeth Bruckenthal said...

Also, I can neither confirm nor deny that I put some Limoncello in the curd.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Alpineberry, thank you for delicious 'lemon recipes', they are all very tasty. Happy Holidays! Take care, rgds One scandinavian baker