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Chasing Delicious | Summer Lemon Cake
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Summer Lemon Cake

Summer Lemon Cake at chasingdelicious.com. Recipe by @rvank.

The delicate sting of sunshine falling on bare skin. The rhythmic cackle of faraway cicadas singing in the treetops. Swaying white and yellow flowers poking up through the greens and tans of a desolate field.

 

I adore summer. I smile under the sweltering heat. I bask in the sounds of a million summer insects. And I hunt through fields and parries, woods and dry creek beds, and radiant streets for others in love with summer as much as me.

 

In the south, most of us enjoy the heat. We’ve spent our lives in towns and cities with more days above 80 than below it, where summers poke into triple digit heat on a regular basis, and we’re not planning on leaving anytime soon. We wipe sweaty brows and fan ourselves with the loose bits of paper we carry with us. We tough it up in jeans, though we sometimes admit defeat with shorts and sandals. We pour tall glasses of lemonade and water, always filled to the brim with ice. And our air conditioners buzz away constantly; yet, we spend most of our time outdoors always.

 

We cook our meals over hot grills and warm BBQs. We brunch on sunny patios and shop on small town Texas main streets.  And when we get hot,  we read our books on shady porches or under old oaks. We fill our glasses with more ice and lemonade. And sometimes, we sneak into the ice box for a cool summer dessert.

 

This lemony cake is exactly that: sweet, tart lemon on top of more delicious lemon. The lemon chiffon cake is light, airy, and still moist with the sweet, floral notes only lemon can deliver. The lemon curd adds a tart citrusy bite. And the vanilla swiss buttercream wraps it all in a sweet, creamy, pillowy blanket. It’s not too rich, just tart enough, and plenty sweet to make this a perfect summer cake.

Summer Lemon Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This recipe is adapted from a Bo Friberg Recipe. You will need the following tools for this recipe: 2, 8"x3" cake pans, stand mixer with paddle attachment and whisk attachment, bowls, cake round, large offset icing spatula & small icing spatula. Store the cake at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Recipe by:
Difficulty: Intermediate
Great for: Dessert
Makes: 1, 8" layer cake
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup oil
  • 8 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 lemons, zested
  • 14 oz. cake flour
  • 14 oz. sugar
  • 1½ tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 8 egg whites
  • 2 cups lemon curd filling, recipe below
  • 1 qt. buttercream frosting, recipe below
  • Yellow food coloring
Instructions
Bake the cake layers:
  1. Preheat an oven to 375°F. Butter and flour the bottoms (but not the sides) of the two cake pans
  2. Sift together the flour, 4 oz. of the sugar (reserve the other 10 oz. for later), baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the oil and egg yolks until evenly blended.
  4. Add the lemon juice, water, vanilla, and lemon zest. Mix in well.
  5. Add the dry ingredient mixture and mix in until evenly distributed. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed for a minute. Set the batter aside.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until a foam forms. Slowly add the 10 oz of the remaining sugar. Whip at high speed until the meringue forms stiff peaks.
  7. Carefully fold the meringue, in three additions, into the cake batter.
  8. Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared cake pans.
  9. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back when pressed lightly.
Prepare the filling and frosting:
  1. Set out to cool. In the meantime prepare the curd and the buttercream frosting.
  2. Separate 1 cup of the buttercream frosting and mix a little yellow food coloring into it to create a bright yellow color. Set aside.
Assemble the cake:
  1. Once the cake layers have completely cooled, slice each into 3 separate layers, each about 1" tall.
  2. Place the first layer on a cake round or cake plate. Spread a fifth of the lemon curd over the top layer.
  3. Repeat this four more times, topping with the last layer of cake. You should have a 6-tiered cake, with lemon curd between each layer but not on top.
  4. Spread a very thin layer of uncolored buttercream frosting on the top and sides of the assembled cake. You should still be able to see the cake through the thin layer of icing, but no crumbs or cake should be visible. This is called dirty icing and makes the final icing much easier as it keeps the cake or crumbs from getting mixed into the frosting. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes until the frosting has hardened.
Decorate the cake:
  1. Once the dirty icing layer has hardened, remove the cake from the fridge and spread the uncolored buttercream frosting on the top and side of the cake. Using a large offset spatula, smooth the top of the icing with one gentle movement. Clean the spatula off and now run it along the side of the cake in one fluid movement to smooth the side of the cake.
  2. Using a small icing spatula, apply small dabs of yellow frosting to the side and top of the cake. Using the small spatula, create small horizontal streaks and stripes with the yellow frosting.
  3. Using a clean large offset frosting spatula, run it along the top of the cake in a smooth motion to even out and dissipate the yellow stripes. Clean the spatula and repeat on the side of the cake to reduce the intensity of the stripes and to blend them into the white frosting.
Note: Spatula marks (whether created from the edge of the spatula, or from the spatula being lifted from the cake) are okay and fine to leave on the cake as it gives it a more homemade feeling. The frosting doesn't need to be perfect.
 

 

Summer Lemon Cake at chasingdelicious.com. Recipe by @rvank.

 

Lemon Curd Filling
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
This recipe is adapted from a Bo Friberg recipe. You will need the following tools for this recipe: heavy-bottomed pot & whisk.
Recipe by:
Difficulty: Easy
Great for: Dessert
Makes: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 4 lemons, zested
  • ¾ cup lemon juice
  • 12 oz. sugar
  • ½ oz. cornstarch
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 oz. unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Zest and juice the lemons. Set aside.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is even.
  3. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter. Heat the mixture over low and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  4. Cook over boiling for a few seconds until it thickens.
  5. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  6. Once at room temperature, move to the refrigerator to chill completely.
 

 

Summer Lemon Cake at chasingdelicious.com. Recipe by @rvank.

 

Swiss Buttercream: What most americans call buttercream is a farcry from the true buttercream frostings and fillings that fill pastry kitchens, bakeries, cake decorating shops. Not only is the process much different (and unfortunately for the quick-cake enthusiast, much more time consuming) but the flavors are miles apart. Here I’ve made a swiss buttercream, which relies on a swiss meringue as a base before the butter is added. The result is a delightfully airy, sweet and buttery buttercream frosting that knocks any powdered sugar and butter mixture out of the water. Is it worth the extra work? Yes.  One taste and you’ll understand.

 

Swiss Buttercream
 
Prep time
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This recipe is adapted from a Bo Friberg Recipe.. You will need the following tools for this recipe: heavy-bottomed pot, stand mixer bowl & stand mixer with whisk attachment.
Recipe by:
Makes: 1 quart
Ingredients
  • 1 lb 6 oz. sugar
  • 1½ cups egg whites (about 8 egg whites)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb 4 oz. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Add the sugar, egg whites, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over gently simmering water and heat until the meringue has reached 140°F. Be sure to whisk constantly to keep any part of the eggs from cooking.
  2. Once the egg mixture has reached 140°F, remove the bowl and place it on the stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip the mixture on high speed until the meringue has been whipped to stiff peaks and the meringue is around room temperature.
  3. Reduce the speed on the mixer, add the vanilla, and then add the butter, a little at a time, allowing it to be mixed in completely. Once all the butter is added, gently whip the mixture until it everything is evenly distributed.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is mixed in. If the mixture is too soft or runny, refrigerate to harden it, up to an hour or more.
Note: The meringue cannot be warm or hot otherwise it will melt the butter and the buttercream wont set up properly. The butter must be at room temperature and incredibly soft otherwise it will not mix in properly.
 

What’s your favorite lemon dessert?

AUTHOR - Russell van Kraayenburg

Born and raised in Texas, Russell van Kraayenburg may sit you down for a stern lecture if you confuse barbecue with grilling. Creator of Chasing Delicious, and author of Haute Dogs, his work has been featured in Southern Living magazine and on such sites as Lifehacker, Fast Co. Design, Business Insider, The Kitchn, Live Originally, The Daily What, Quipsologies, Neatorama,Explore, and Fine Cooking.

38 Comments

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  • Jenn Davis

    I too am madly in love with Summer. How can you not be with all the amazing produce available and vivid flowers bursting from the ground? I am a born and bred heliophiliac, and theres nothing better than an afternoon spent worshiping the sun alongside a large glass of ice with a splash of water and a great book. By the way- have you ever had a stalker? And/or would you like one? Just kidding! I swear! (sort of)

  • ThisBakerGirlBlogs

    As always a gorgeous photograph! I love anything lemon-y and this would definitely go great with the weather we’re having :-)

  • Sarah

    As someone from a tropical area, I can totally relate to loving the heat. A slice of this lemon cake would be perfect eaten on a sunny deck.

  • Angie

    What a beautiful cake, perfect for summer!

  • Belinda @themoonblushbaker

    I think lemons are one the great fruits that can be used in winter but also bring summery warmth. This is lovely cake and I am entranced by the icing which is ombred and swirled to perfection.

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Russel, this DOES look like summer. A perfect lemon cake with beautiful buttercream. I’m from up North and love the summer heat too, even the crazy humidity. I’ll be making this the next excuse I get!

  • Maria

    This cake makes me happy!

  • Aimee @ Simple Bites

    A lemon cake is certainly up there on my all-time favorite desserts. I’m totally on board with this.

  • Jen @ Savory Simple

    What a gorgeous summer cake. Also, I love your writing so much!

  • Laura (Tutti Dolci)

    I love lemon desserts, such a pretty cake!

  • Renee @ Awesome on $20

    I lived in the South for 12 years and then moved to the tropics. Who goes to Hawaii to escape the heat? This cake is absolutely beautiful!

  • Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch

    Amazingly beautiful!!! I can just taste the lemony sweetness now!!!

  • Alessandra

    This looks yummy! I never tried the Swiss Butter cream, I usually do the Italian one (adding hot sugar syrup to the meringue mixture). For the rest the instructions are the same. I guess that the principle is that the egg whites get pasteurized but not cooked, and they also keep their shape better (?), but I wonder if there is much difference in the final result. Have you tried the Italian buttercream? Probably is easier too…

    Ciao
    Alessandra

    PS
    Pinning this, beautiful photos here, I’ll have a look around now!

  • Jan

    What size cake pans?

  • Julie @ Table for Two

    What a darling cake! So bright and I love everything lemon!!

  • Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen

    All those layers of lemony goodness, what a gorgeous summer dessert.

  • Fork and Whisk

    Looks like the perfect summer dessert, or even breakfast with the leftover. Beautiful pictures as always.

  • Diane {Created by Diane}

    I just love lemon and your cake is stunning!

  • RavieNomNoms

    This looks awesome! I love lemon during the summer! It is just the perfect way to enjoy a treat in the summer. I go on lemon overload

  • Alison @ Ingredients, Inc.

    This is SO gorgeous!

  • Hannah

    I too love the heat. I am revelling in it after three winters in a row between some overseas travel and moving to the US just before the Australian Summer last year. We’re enjoying the dry heat of Northern California but I wouldn’t mind a few extra degrees, if I am honest.

    I love lemon everything but this cakes reminds me of one my mother makes and now I have a hankering for delicious lemony sponge with yummy icing!

  • MacLean

    Looks lovely, makes me want to brew a pot of earl grey and sit out in the garden and soak up some sun!

  • Linda

    “3. Mix together the oil and eggs until evenly blended.” – I guess that would be the egg yolks. Lemony desserts are heaven.

  • Carolyn

    Simply beautiful.

  • Kristen

    Oh I think I’m in love with this recipe – it screams sunshine and summer!

  • The Wimpy Vegetarian

    what a beautiful ode to summer. both your post and the recipe. Love!

  • Jeanette

    What a beautiful cake Russell. I haven’t had chiffon cake in years, but I fondly remember how light and fluffy it is.

  • Run, Run, Run!

    [...] Bake this sweet summer lemon cake. [...]

  • Kiran @ KiranTarun.com

    Beautiful summery cake, Russell. Love the bright colors :)

  • Teresa

    Made this cake on the weekend for my mom’s birthday. We were very pleased and I’d make it again with two changes: I’d half the recipe so that you ended up with 3 layers instead of 6 (I had trouble with the layers sliding on the curd {but that might have been imperfect leveling on my part} and my slices didn’t present as nicely as I wanted) and I would put the lemon zest for the curd through the food processor so that it didn’t have a stringy mouth feel. We’re having higher temperatures than normal here so I felt like the buttercream wasn’t holding up well in the heat but would have been perfect in a more moderate room temperature. Thank you for a lovely recipe with some techniques that I hadn’t tried before!

  • Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes)

    That is seriously one gorgeous lemon cake! It makes me happy just looking (ok staring) at it!

  • shelly (cookies and cups)

    This cake is completely gorgeous and perfectly summery :)

  • Lynna

    I`m not sure I can pick my favorite lemon dessert. I adore lemon in almost everything. I wish I could have a slice, or two, of this beauty!

  • Chanelle

    20 eggs!?! Sheesh! Hope it’s as good as it sounds ;-)

  • Jennie @themessybakerblog

    I love summer. What I’m not too keen on is the heat that comes along with it. This cake is a towering piece of delicious art. Ah, if only I could reach through the screen.

  • Erika

    I made this with a friend the other day and we enjoyed it, although I think we both decided that chiffon cake is not our favorite. Do you list the dry ingredients by weight because it’s more accurate? We didn’t have a scale and had to convert everything, which was a bit of a hassle. Also, some ingredients in the recipe are listed out of order relative to the instructions, which was a bit confusing.

    We also only used half a stick of butter in the lemon curd and it was still DELICIOUS! Probably our favorite part. And we used a basic buttercream instead of the one you listed here (purely for ease) and overall, it was a beautiful, pretty tasty cake–perfect for summer. Thanks for the inspiration!

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