Best Lemon Layer Cake

This is a very time-intensive cake that I have made as a special dessert for Easter and birthdays. Its a hybrid of 3 different recipes, as I wasn’t able to get great results from any of them until I started monkey-ing with them. Its well worth the chore of making this cake- the end result is light and tart, perfect for Spring.
Prep Time2 hrs
Cook Time2 hrs
Servings: 10 people

Ingredients

For cake:

  • 3 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice (can be a combination of lemon/lime or lemon/pineapple)

For lemon curd:

  • 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 8 large egg whites (whisked until blended but not foamy)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk

For syrup:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (can be a combination of lemon/lime or lemon/pineapple)

For filling and frosting:

  • 2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 8- ounce containers chilled mascarpone cheese (cream cheese can be substituted)

Instructions

For lemon curd:

  • Combine all ingredients in heavy medium nonaluminum saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until mixture thickens and candy thermometer registers 170°F, about 8 minutes (do not boil). Pour into bowl and cool.

For cake:

  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°Butter and flour four 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Sift flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add egg whites in 4 additions, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat dry ingredients into butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
  • Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake cakes until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer pans to racks and cool 5 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool completely. Layers will be thin. (Lemon curd and cakes can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill curd. Wrap cake layers separately and store at room temperature.)

For syrup:

  • Place sugar in small metal bowl. Add 1/2 cup boiling water; stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in lemon juice.

For filling and frosting:

  • Beat whipping cream and sugar in large bowl until peaks form. Add mascarpone to lemon curd in medium bowl; whisk until blended. Fold whipped cream into lemon-mascarpone mixture.

Putting it all together:

  • Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Brush with 1/4 of syrup. Spread 1/4 cup lemon curd over, then 1 cup lemon-mascarpone filling. Top with second cake layer; brush with 1/4 of syrup and spread with 1/4 cup lemon curd and 1 cup lemon-mascarpone filling. Repeat with third cake layer, syrup, lemon curd, and filling. Top with fourth cake layer. Brush with remaining syrup, then spread remaining lemon curd over. Spoon 2 cups lemon-mascarpone filling into pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch star tip (to be used for rosettes). Spread remaining lemon-mascarpone filling as a frosting over sides of cake. Pipe small rosettes of frosting over top of cake, covering completely. Cover cake with cake dome; refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.

Notes

Makes 10 to 12 servings.