Saturday, April 4, 2015

Light Lemon Layer Cake

As Spring arrives we're all looking to shed a little winter weight, so today I'm making a light lemon layer cake with homemade lemon curd. Just because you are watching your weight doesn't mean you can't have a little dessert.

Julian's Light Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd
While the photo above looks like a standard layer cake, it's actually much shorter. A "little dessert" doesn't hurt anything if indeed, it is little. So this recipe makes a smaller than usual cake and removes much of the fat and sugar you find in other recipes. Of course there's always a trade off in flavor and texture. To counter this, make sure you do not over bake the cake. Check it regularly and pull it out as soon as a pic comes out clean. Do use the lemon curd, because it keeps it more moist and adds flavor.

Zesting the Lemons
With that said, this recipe can be made ever lighter and lower in calories than my method below by making these small adjustments. Bake in a single layer 9-inch round. Omit the frosting and just dust the top with a little bit of powdered sugar. Substitute skim milk for the cream. Make lemon curd as noted, but serve it in a separate bowl and let anyone that would like it, spoon on a little or put a small pool on the plate next to the cake, with a few fresh blueberries. This super light version will taste just fine and look good too.

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE
Vegetable oil, cooking spray
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon,\
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

FOR THE LEMON CURD
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup water
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

LEMON BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
1/2 cup of salted butter, softened
2 cups of powdered sugar
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1-3 tablespoons lemon juice
milk or water to thin to consistency

1 1/3 cups blueberries, optional garnish

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Make the cake: Coat two 8-by-1 1/2-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Line bottoms with parchment. Spray parchment; set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, the milk, oil, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a large bowl; set aside.

Put egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until foamy. Raise speed to medium-high. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.

Add half of the flour mixture to the milk mixture; whisk until smooth. Fold in remaining flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the egg white mixture. Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn out cakes onto rack. Remove parchment; reinvert. Let cool completely.

The cakes will not be brown. Do not over bake.
Make the lemon curd: Put egg yolks into a medium heatproof bowl; set aside.  Whisk together lemon zest, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups water and the lemon juice; whisk until sugar and cornstarch have dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium-high
heat, whisking constantly. Cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; gradually whisk one-third of the lemon mixture into the reserved egg yolks. Pour mixture into pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 2 1/2 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour into a bowl; place plastic wrap directly on surface. Refrigerate until firm and cold, at least 1 hour (up to 1 day).

Delicious Lemon Curd
Note: Extra lemon curd can be served on the plate, or saved in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. It makes an excellent spread using it as you would jam.

Make the lemon frosting: Beat butter with the paddle attachment (or standard beaters) of an electric mixer. Add powdered sugar, a little at a time, beating continuously until all combined. Mix in lemon zest. Add lemon juice, one tablespoon at a time tasting between each addition. Once it is as 'lemony' as you like, switch to milk or water to thin to a consistency that is easy to spread on the cake.

Julian's Light Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd
Assemble and frost:  Set the bottom layer on a cake plate and slice off the domed top, if any. Spread with 1 cup lemon curd. Top with untrimmed layer.

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