Last year, for my daughter’s fifteenth birthday party, she wanted a lemon layer cake — with four fluffy layers, a lemon curd filling, and a lemony seven minute frosting.
I baked her cake layers the evening before, and for the first time in my life, my cake fell. Now, I grew up with the high altitude cooking, and know how to adjust, so I don’t think that was the problem. I have a very old oven in the home that I rent, and the oven is full of hot spots and the temperature varies like crazy — if I set it at 350°, it might decide that means 250° one minute and 500° a few minutes later. Sturdier cakes, like yellow cakes or snacking cakes, can survive my oven, but a white cake is just too delicate.
Nonetheless, the morning of her party, I tried again. And it fell again.
With only two hours until her party, to try a third time, I would have to run to the store for more ingredients. I had already made the lemon curd, so I decided that she’d have a birthday trifle instead of a birthday cake.
I cut the cakes up into chunks, and layered them in my trifle dish with the lemon curd and heated raspberry preserves. I whipped some cream to top the trifle with, and just stuck those candles in the top.
It really looked pretty — and it tasted absolutely wonderful.
It tasted so good, I ended up making this trifle again for a potluck I attended a couple of months later.
I won’t post a recipe for the white layer cake, since I haven’t made it successfully, but here’s a recipe for the lemon curd:
(For a cake filling or a trifle layer – or just on toast. Yum!)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs + 6 large egg yolks
A few hours before you start to make the curd, cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and put it in the freezer. When it’s frozen, juice the lemons. Put 1 tablespoon lemon juice into a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside.
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the rest of the lemon juice, the sugar, and the salt for about a minute, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot, but don’t boil it.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks together. Slowly whisk in the hot lemon mixture, and then return it to the saucepan and and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, or until it’s thick enough to run a spatula across the bottom and leave a trail. Remove from heat.
Stir the gelatin and lemon juice mixture until the gelatin dissolves. Stir in the frozen butter until it’s melted and smooth. Strain the curd through a mesh strainer into another bowl. Cover it with cling wrap that’s pressed onto the surface and refrigerate until firm.
Makes 3 cups.