I was tasked with baking my sisters 30th birthday cake. I wanted something a bit spectacular. I needed something that would feed quite a few and I knew her favourite cake was lemon. With all of that in mind, and my current obsession with macarons, I knew exactly what I wanted to create for her – putting it into practice, however, was a different ball game.
This is a cake with many aspects and takes time. But the finished product sat well amongst the party food. So if you have a special commission coming up, set aside the weekend and get to work…
840g plain flour
510g butter, unsalted and softened
250g lemon curd
9 large eggs
9 tsp baking powder
zest of 4 lemons
4 tsp vanilla
3 tsp lemon extract
3 tsp salt
3-4 tbsp poppy seeds
1kg icing sugar
500g butter, unsalted and softened
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pack refeshers
juice of 4 lemons
Pre-heat the over to 180°C (170°C fan)
Get your pans ready. Preparation is key for such a big cake. You’ll need: 2 x 6″ cake tins and 2 x 8″ cake tins. Both these need to be deep cake tins.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt all together into a bowl and set aside. Transfer the lemon zest to the sugar and rub together with your fingertips. In a bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment on a stand mixer.
Add the eggs to the mixture – one at a time, and mixing after each one until combined. Don’t mix too much and add the next egg just as the previous one is mixed in fully.
Once all the eggs are combined and the mixture is nice and smooth, add the lemon and vanilla extract. On a low speed, add in a third of the flour. With the mixer still going, slowly pour in half the buttermilk, followed by the flour, the rest of the milk and the final third of flour. Scrape the bowl to make sure everything is combined. Add the poppy seeds and mix again.
Pour the batter into the cake tins – you should have enough batter to fill each tin 3/4 full. Bake in the oven [you may have to do this over time] for 45 minutes for the 8″ cakes and 35 minutes for the 6″.
While the cakes are cooling, make the buttercream. In a mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until pale and fluffy. Add half the icing sugar, beating on low speed to start with, increasing on to high. Add the remaining half. When all of the icing sugar is combined, add the milk, vanilla extract, lemon juice and refreshers. Remove a tablespoon or two of the buttercream into an separate bowl and add some yellow food colouring, Mix together. Set aside.
For the assembly: Once the cakes are completely cool, place a blob of buttercream onto your cake board to prevent the cake from moving while you ice it. Take your 8″ cakes. On top of the first layer, add a dollop of the sherbet buttercream and spread evenly. Sit the second layer on top, pressing down slightly. Make sure the cakes are lining up at the sides. Add another dollop of buttercream onto the top of the second layer and smooth out. Run down the sides and give the cake a crumb coat – a thin layer that locks in all the crumbs so it doesn’t drag up any cake crumbs and ruin the smooth finish. You want spread a thin layer of the buttercream on the sides and the top of the cake – you should still see the edges of the cake through this layer. Sit the cake in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Repeat this process with the 6″ layers.
Once both are cooled, remove the cake from the fridge and spread on the remainder of the buttercream. Smooth it out – I recommend a cake scraper for this! You can get them at any cook store or online and they are relatively inexpensive. You can pile a lot of the buttercream on at this point because you’ll be removing it with the cake scraper. Keep on at it until the sides and top are smooth to your liking. Decant the rest of the leftover icing to a piping bag, fit with a star nozzle. Set aside.
Use three dowels, pressing them in to the 8″ cakes in the centre of the cake. They will be used to secure the cake above while protecting the 8″ cake from being squashed. Cut with scissors just above the cake.
Cool both cakes in the fridge for a further 20 minutes unassembled. Remove both cakes from the fridge and gently and delicately place the 6″ cakes on top of the 8″. The dowels should take most of the weight. Don’t worry if there is a slight gap between the cake below and the 6″ cake board, we’ll cover that with icing.
Which brings me to: take the yellow icing from earlier and put it in a piping bag fit with a star nozzle. Pipe all the way around the bottom edge of the 6″ cake, covering any gap or any of the board that might be showing. Take the remaining sherbet buttercream and pipe around the remaining edge so it runs adjacent to the yellow stars. Finally, pipe on top – round the edge first, working your way in until the whole of the top of the 6″ cake is covered.
Finally, add on any macarons you wish – I added half shells around the base and topped the cake with some complete macarons. For this, I used some sandwiched with the lemon buttercream above, but many flavours would also work! Check out some of the macaron ideas in the site and stay tuned for some more macaron recipes next Monday as part of #macaronmondays