Several times I have made a lemon cake from scratch, but have not found a recipe that I had as good results as when using a box mix and making additions. I will continue to try, but I find this often with “white” (non-chocolate) cakes, I just can never get the texture to be as good and consistent as when I use a box.
This particular recipe is based off of a tried-and-true favorite doctored box cake recipe, the “White Almond Sour Cream” usually referred to “WASC” cake, which is also a very nice solid white cake, quite stable for stacking. You will find it is very dense and moist. The recipe for this can be found all over the internet.
For this one, start with a box lemon cake. Personally I prefer the Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme.
Add 1 C. flour (I have used cake flour and all-purpose and it doesn’t seem to make much difference), 1 C sugar, 3 T. cooking oil, 1 C. sour cream, 3 eggs, ½ C milk and ½ C lemon juice, and a generous amount of vanilla (usually 1 1/2 T.) Mix for 2 minutes.
Add to your prepared pans. If you want your cakes to have a flat top, the easiest way I have found is to place flower nails or heating cores in the center this allows the heat to transfer more evenly. Since I use parchment rounds in the bottom of my pans, I will poke the flower nails up through the middle. I also prepare the pans by adding a generous layer of “cake release” to the outside wall and corner. Cake release is made up of equal parts shortening, oil and flower (mixed in a mixer). I usually keep it in the freezer so it doesn’t get an off aroma.
For this cake, I used 2-8 inch round pans. I will sometimes use 3 (and actually prefer it, I just couldn’t find my third pan this time)…3 is really nice because you can get extra filling in when it’s torted.
Bake in a 350 oven until finished, around 35 minutes if you use 2 pans, 3 pans will be less time. You know a cake is done when you gently tap with your fingers and it springs back. Because I’m going to be filling this cake, I typically will go more to the done side than underdone.
Allow to cool. Let cool in pans for a few minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Typically, I will make my cakes the day ahead of my event, then do the prep work for them the morning of the event. When I do this, I will wrap the layers in food service film or Saran wrap, and leave at room temperature overnight. This prevents the outside from getting too hard and crusty, making torting the cake difficult.
Torte your cake. Torte is a fancy term for “slice horizontally”. This can be done using a long serrated knife or a cake leveler (something like this) If you’re going to be doing this a lot I highly recommend getting one. I’ve had better luck with the wire rather than the serrated/knife levelers, particularly if you’ve wrapped your cake overnight. Either way though, you don’t have to be too particular about how it’s torted, if it’s crooked, just make sure it goes back together the way you cut it! If you need it to be perfect, a level can help when you’re getting it all put back together. For this cake, I just sliced each of the layers in half. You can do thirds if you’ve used 2-8 inch pans (which allows more filling) but I find that cutting in thirds is difficult to handle with this cake.
Place a small amount of Lemon Curd on the bottom of the cake plate to hold the cake in place, and begin layering. Between each of the layers, spread a generous amount of lemon curd but not so much that it squeezes out of the sides. I usually pick the prettiest (most flat) cake bottom and make that end up as the top so the top is as square as possible.
Frost the cake
For this recipe, I used Swiss Meringue buttercream, and frosted use the “Rose Swirl” technique. When I use this technique, I typically do not do a base layer as the YouTube video shows, and typically do not have a lot of problems with the cake showing through or having the frosting stick to the cake. When I do, I just pipe a little star in that area (you have to do that sometimes regardless if you add the lower layer). The advantage to this frosting technique is that it puts a HUGE amount of frosting on the cake, which is great because the Swiss Meringue buttercream is so delicious. Use a 1M or 2D star tip for this technique.
The easiest way I find to fill a pastry bag is put it in a very large cup. I use the super large pastry bags because they’re easier to fill, and my hands stay cleaner (although truth be told, it’s a lost cause and I’m typically up to my elbows in frosting by the time it’s all over).
I used lavender because it was Mother’s day, but yellow is quite pretty for this too.
To create the ombre effect, I start with a small amount of my food color, always the gel. I prefer the AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste. I will frost the part of the cake that I want the lightest roses on, then squeeze any excess back into the mixing bowl, and add more gel color. Repeat. That way the color gets successively darker.
And voilà. The finished product.