Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over 20 years. She has cooked on multiple television stations, including the Food Network.
Southern Lemon Layer Cake
This is one of the recipes that kind of launched my reputation as a baker. Lemon cake is everything you want in a Southern layer cake—it’s tall, has four layers, and is enveloped in clouds of billowy white frosting with the merest flecks of bright yellow lemon zest. You don’t have to use the lemon curd as a cake filling, but it really makes a wow if you do. Trust me when I say that if you do a bit of planning and assemble this cake with the filling and frosting, nobody will know just how easy each of the steps truly is, and you’ll make a pretty impressive presentation. Especially for the effort. That’s win-win every time.
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.
In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together butter, sugar, and lemon zest for about 5 minutes.
Add milk and flour mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl to fully incorporate ingredients.
In a second mixing blow with a hand mixer, beat egg whites, and cream of tarter until egg whites form a stiff peak. Add eggs whites to the batter, starting with a quarter of the egg whites, and fold gently together with a rubber spatula. Be careful not to deflate the egg whites.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and smooth the tops of the batter with a spatula. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Rotate pans halfway through to ensure even baking.
Allow cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks to cool completely before filling and frosting.
Before filling, cut each layer in half horizontally. This is easiest with a long serrated knife, and by pressing one hand on the top of each layer as you cut. Fill with lemon curd, and frost with lemon buttercream.
This cake is easiest to frost by using a ‘crumb coat’ first. This is simply a very thin layer of frosting applied to the cake, which is allowed to dry or set for about half an hour. This makes the cake easier to frost prettily with a second, heavier layer of frosting, without getting crumbs in the final coat.