People mark the beginning of Summer in a variety of ways. To some, the beginning of the season falls on it’s astronomical date (June 20th this year,) while to many others- Summer officially begins during Memorial Day Weekend. For me, I consider the first day of Summer to be it’s meteorological date of June 1st- but putting the calendar aside- I know when it’s on it’s way because I start craving more citrus flavors like lemon and orange in my meals/desserts.
A few days ago, when a craving for something both citrus and decadent hit me- I stumbled on a lemon layer cake recipe- made even more enticing by the fact that it’s a “naked” cake. I’m not a huge fan of overly-frosted desserts- so this was right up my alley and proved to be a fun and delicious way to spend an afternoon in quarantine.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4½ cups sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup whole milk
- Lemon zest, as needed for garnish
- Berries, as needed for garnish
WHAT YOU’LL DO:
1. MAKE THE CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 6-inch cake pans.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar until pale yellow and thick- about 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Add the olive oil, buttermilk, lemon zest, lemon extract (if using) and vanilla extract to the egg mixture and mix well to combine- about 1 minute more.
5. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined- about 45 seconds to 1 minute.
6. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, approximately 30 to 35 minutes.
7. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 15 minutes and then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
8. MAKE THE FROSTING: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter while gradually adding the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time. Mix until light and fluffy.
9. Beat in the lemon zest, vanilla extract and milk. Mix well to combine.
10. ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: When the cakes are cool, use a serrated knife to cut the domed top off of each cake and then cut each cake into two layers. (You’ll have four layers total.)
11. Place one cake layer on a platter or cake stand and scoop 1 heaping cup of frosting on top of it. Using the spatula, spread the frosting into an even layer, all the way to the edge. Place another cake layer on top. Repeat until you’ve used all four cake layers.
12. Spread the remaining frosting in a thin coat on the top and side of the cake. Run your spatula around the edge of the cake to scrape away any excess frosting. (You should be able to clearly see the cake through the thin layer of frosting.)
13. Sprinkle with lemon zest and garnish with berries. Slice and serve the cake at room temperature.
The minimal frosting made the lemon flavor really stand out and somehow made the cake feel less “heavy”- if that makes sense. It was a rich, fluffy dessert that I’d absolutely make again for a party or celebration once this pandemic is over.
And because this cake is *so* big, I ended up cutting slices to deliver to some of the women in my family as belated-Mother’s Day treats (I called ahead and dropped them off on doorsteps to maintain social distancing protocols, of course.)
It was a big hit with them, too.