I asked my mother-in-law what kind of dessert she would like me to make for her birthday, and she said, "Lemon cake!" An idea was instantly implanted in my brain and I knew exactly what I wanted to create. Except, I couldn't find my vision anywhere in recipe form. I ended up piecing together a few different recipes in order to create this cake. I gambled big time, which I guess isn't terribly surprising considering I'm a risk-taker by nature. In this case, it paid off because my three-layer lemon cake turned out great. Phew!
If you plan to decorate your final masterpiece with candied lemon slices like I did, I would suggest doing this step first, and preferably a day ahead of time.
If you are in the mood to make your own lemon curd, do this, as well, ahead of time. Otherwise, you can purchase it at the store.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 9-inch round cake pans and set them aside.
Sift together in a medium bowl:
3 1/2 cups cake flour
4 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a food processor, pulse until well combined:
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lemon zest
In a large bowl, beat the following ingredients with a hand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes):
1 1/8 cups butter
Lemon-sugar mixture from the food processor
Add 2 1/3 cup sugar to the mixture and beat until smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes. Beat in 1/2 cup whole milk until well combined.
On low speed, add the flour mixture alternatively with another 1 cup of milk (in addition to the 1/2 cup already added), in three batches, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Beat until well combined.
In a separate bowl (is this getting confusing yet?), beat 7 egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar and increase the speed to medium-high. Beat until the whites form stiff peaks.
Add a quarter of the egg whites to the batter and gently fold in with a rubber spatula. Continue to gently fold in the whites, a quarter of the mixture at a time, being careful not to deflate it.
Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Let cakes cook completely.
While the cakes are cooling, grab your lemon curd from the fridge.
And prepare a batch of Lemon Buttercream Frosting.
Place one of the cooled cakes onto a serving platter and top with approximately 2-3 tablespoons of the lemon curd. Or more. Have I mentioned how delicious lemon curd is?
Repeat the process and top with the remaining cake.
Cover the entire surface of the cake with the Lemon Buttercream Frosting, being careful to keep the cakes aligned with one another. With lemon curd as the filling, the cakes tend to slip around a bit. I had my husband help by holding them into place with his hands while I frosted.
Decorate the cake with candied lemons, or however you desire!
By the way, the candied lemons are edible, but I removed them from the cake just before cutting since they are difficult to cut through. I had a few adventurous people ask to taste-test the lemons, which made me feel like my lemon-candying efforts were doubly worthwhile.
And that, my friends, is how you create a delicious and beautiful 3-layer lemon cake.