Ben the Baker

Just a guy trying to get his kids to eat

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Lemon Layer Birthday Cake

Posted by osakaben41 on August 15, 2009

Lemon cake

Working under the directive that I need to dispose one way or another of each ‘project’ before starting the next one, it’s nice now and then to get a commission.  It means I get to bake late into the night, take some pictures, pass off a cake that hopefully makes somebody happy, and immediately dive back into the next idea. 

With that in mind, I was asked to make a birthday cake this weekend for a friend.  The general idea was to do something with Lemon, but without nuts, coconut, or other fruit.  It’s for a birthday, so we need to stay relatively traditional (nobody wants to blow out a candle stuck in a flan), the Lemon should make for the centerpiece (no lemon buttermilk sorbet as an side to a white chocolate bread pudding), and no exotic flavor pairings (lemon/kiwi parfaits).

Back in April I made my son’s first birthday cake from a great Smitten Kitchen recipe, but a standard yellow layer cake with a lemon filling hardly seems creative enough.  But rather than a 2 or 3 layer cake, why not 4?  Hell, why not 5 or 6?  Why not more?

(Your traditional Birthday cake look)

(Your traditional Birthday cake look)

 So with the general idea of keeping this thing small enough to fit into a regulation fridge, the challenge was to keep the cake layers thin, thin, thin.  It’s a technique thing, not a creativity thing this week then.  Originally I was just going to separate each layer with Lemon butter-cream, but even that felt too one-dimensional, and with so many layers of filling, it runs the risk of being too tart.  So rather than tone down the lemon flavor of the single filling, I alternated between a sharp lemon curd and a less aggressive vanilla butter-cream.  Technically, if you count the fillings, the cakes, and the glaze, we’re talking about a 19-layer cake.

lemon cake2

Given this many layers though, the sides had to be covered somehow or risk looking raggedy with all the loose crumbs, and runny filling.  Normally, I’d put a thin layer of frosting on then slap some crushed nuts on the sides, but there was that no-nuts restriction.  If it were a chocolate cake, I’d go with a silky ganache look, and just pour it over the top and let it run down the sides.  I suppose this could have been done with white fondant, but having never worked with fondant I’m going to reserve that experiment for another week.

lemon cake3

So the sides just got a quick butter-cream covering, scraped with a cake comb.  The ends were to be left exposed as a reveal of the multiple layers though.  As a birthday cake, some kind of inscription would have worked, but my handwriting is pathetic, and I feared would ruin an otherwise clean aesthetic.  So to contrast with all the white background, I slapped on a yellow lemon glaze and threw on some candied zest.  As always, it was tempting to start writing all over this blank yellow canvas, but at least this time I was able to resist.

lemon cake


4 Responses to “Lemon Layer Birthday Cake”

  1. Jill said

    I love lemon cake! Great idea to alternate between lemon curd and vanilla buttercream.

    • osakaben41 said

      Thanks Jill. The one pity of it all is that it was promptly given away as soon as it was done. Beyond tasting some of the scraps I didn’t actually get to eat any of it. I don’t know how you professionals ever get used to giving away your work like this.

      BTW, very impressive wedding cheesecake on your blog.

  2. LauraJ said

    The cake was awesome! We all loved it. And we’d be happy to bring a piece over so you can have some (albeit a couple days later). We’re already under directive to freeze a slice for Chris’ sister who is coming to visit in 2 weeks.

  3. […] to that night.  The other night some friends – for us, they happened to be big fans of all things lemon, so really what choice did I actually have?  What a perfect thank you gift.To put my own spin on […]

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