Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lemon-Lime Layer Cake with Raspberries

Last Friday night we had this Lemon-Lime Layer Cake, with Raspberries. I made it for my mother, whose birthday was soon, and for my Nana and Papa, whose anniversary was sooner, and for my uncle and his wife and their four beautiful daughters, my cousins, who were all out for a visit from Georgia. I wanted something fit for all of these occasions, something whimsical and fun but still mine to give, and since my mother has been wanting lemon everything these past few years, and since one birthday cake is never enough (her real birthday cake coming soon) this citrus number was the celebration cake du jour.

Lemon-Lime Layer Cake with Raspberries

It is on the stately side: three layers of white cake (spiked with lemon, lime, and almond); stacked and sandwiched with lemon-lime curd cream and a scattering of raspberries; frosted on the sides and top with more of the same, and then a double row of raspberries on its crown. It has a carefree summer lift to it from the cream, a tart clarity that lemon brings, and an almost moody edge from the lime, though I'm not sure why. The raspberries though, make it sing.

The cake fed sixteen of us with leftovers. Big, and yet I can't say that I would ever think of cutting it down.  I have gotten so accustomed to buttercream that I had quite forgotten cream icings were so delightful and unfussy. Even when the cream is gussied up with curd, it doesn't feel overdressed - as if it were the cake version of a silk-wrapped, loose-haired sprite of a girl, frolicking up and down the raspberry cane rows, barefoot. Sure, it might also be able to straighten up and settle down for something fancy, but this cake is free spirited through and through. No, no need to be concerned with quantity; we'll always want more of a cake like that.

And I realized when I finished it Friday that it is rare in my kitchen for the icing amount to perfectly match a cake's needs, but this one is spot-on: a batch of this and a pint of that and voila! So the recipe feels straightforward and planned and precise, because it is. Sweet success.

I sat next to my father during dessert, who takes ice cream with his cake. He was relieved and a bit excited, leaning in towards me over his slice. It was good, he said. I had (finally?) figured out a frosting that went well with ice cream. (Ah, the ice cream people.) It had never occurred to me to look for such a frosting, but he was more than right, and I was thrilled he made the connection for me. Buttercream does not fair well with a cold accompaniment, and that is usually my go-to. I knew that. But I haven't made a cream-based icing in years. I thought maybe they were boring. So for those who are with my father on the ice cream and cake front, rest assured that a cream-based icing like this one, one without even a nub of butter in it, is the perfect frosting for a cake served with a scoop of the cold stuff. Come to find out (this may be a subconscious theme), what I thought was boring - the cream based frosting - turns out it isn't boring at all. I'm sure my father would want you to know.

Happy birthday(s), happy anniversary, and happy California visit. So good to celebrate. (So good to be in cake season:) Welcome to June!


Lemon-Lime Layer Cake with Raspberries

Inspired by Stephanie's cake.

1 recipe (about two cups) Lemon-Lime Curd
1 recipe Triple-Layer White Cake
1 pint heavy whipping cream
3-4 wee baskets red raspberries (about 2 full cups)
1 extra lime and 1 extra lemon for decorations

Lemon-Lime Curd (adapted from Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts, inspired by Molly)

Keep the order of events here, and work at a meditative pace. I have curdled many a curd in a bad way by turning on the stove too soon or too high. This recipe is very simple if you allow it to take the time it needs: stir all the stovetop ingredients well, keep the fire low, and add the butter one small piece at a time. It will take longer than you might think it should. But a smooth curd—as opposed to a grainy or scrambled one—is your reward. 

And (!) for those of you wondering: this is my basic recipe for plain old lemon curd as well. Same directions and quantities, simply stick to lemons instead of the combination of lemons and limes.

3 whole eggs, beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup citrus juice, about a third of it lime and the rest lemon
pinch of sea salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces the size of large peas
1-2 tablespoons lime zest

Strain the beaten egg through a fine mesh sieve into a medium-sized saucepan. Add the sugar, salt, and lemon juice, and stir well. Over medium-low heat, stir the curd constantly for 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil. (If your heat is too low, this can take up to 45 minutes! So don't be too timid.) There is a clear transformation that happens. So keep a close eye.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir for about a minute, until the curd cools a little, then start adding the butter, one nub at a time, until completely incorporated. Stir in the zest. Place in a clean jar and let cool completely, then refrigerate undisturbed for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Triple Layer White Cake (adapted from

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 1/2  cups cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups whole milk
9 egg whites
1 teaspoon each almond, lemon, and lime extracts
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease three nine-inch cake pans (I like butter), line the bottom with parchment, and coat everything with flour. Set aside.

Measure out the flour, baking powder, and salt into a sifter set over a medium-sized bowl. Sift and stir well to combine. Set aside.

Whisk together the egg whites, milk, and extracts in a another medium-sized bowl. And again, set aside.

Now! Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth, add the sugar, and beat until pale and fluffed, voluminous, even. Be sure to scrape down the sides from time to time.

Starting and ending with the flour, add the flour to the sugar fluff in three parts, alternating with the milk. Halfway through this process I get nervous and stir by hand. There is no shame in that. Stir until just combined. Do not overmix.

Divide the batter amongst the three prepared cake pans and smooth the surfaces. Slide them into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the center of each individual cake comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then slip a knife around the edges and invert (right side up, you will need an extra cooling rack for this) onto cooling racks to cool and rest completely before frosting.

Assemble your cake:

When all is cool and rested, whip the cream with a tablespoon of sugar until stiff. We want good structure here for icing the cake but don't go overboard and make butter. Fold in a third of the lemon curd, then fold in the remaining two-thirds.

If you want the pretty double raspberry crown: Take one of the cake pans you used to bake the cakes and flip it bottom side up. Pick through the berries, selecting only the best, most solidly structured and uniform among them. Starting with the outer-most circle, line raspberries shoulder to shoulder around the cake bottom until they meet. Do the same with the inner circle: shoulder to shoulder raspberries all around the ring. Reserve the remaining berries for sandwiching between layers.

Level the cake rounds and place the first round on a cake board or cake plate bottom side down. Frost with a generous cup of lemon curd cream, you want a healthy, thick layer. Scatter half of the reserved berries evenly over the cream, keeping a little distance from the edges. Slide the second layer onto the first bottom side up, pressing down to match and make it level. Repeat with cream and berries.

Ice the triple layer cake with what is left of the curd cream. Again, I use it all. And it doesn't feel like too much. Go with it.

Finish the cake by transferring, one by one, shoulder to shoulder, the laid out raspberries as they were on the cake pan.Zest the extra lemon and lime and sprinkle over the raspberries and on the cake plate. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Should last a day or two for leftovers in the fridge. But I do not recommend assembling this much ahead. Serve cold, by itself or with ice cream, if you like. Enjoy!


  1. Ya know - you make it sound all so simple and elegant and doable - with a cat underfoot, a husband wanting to "help" and a busy toddler hanging around at the baby gate into the kitchen! But it sounds so delicious, I'm tempted to tackle it. The 1,2,3,4 yellow cake was fun - I might just do this one for a birthday coming up.

  2. Do, Debbie! But it is true: cakes turn out better for me when made in an atmosphere of peace and focus. That means I'm alone. Some of us are better grounded than others. Maybe you are one of the lucky few who can stabilize the beauty of kitchen chaos! Love to hear if you can and do.