Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

14 Aug

It is not often that I bake cakes from scratch. I’ve probably made less than 12 homemade cakes in my lifetime, for friend’s birthdays or other special events.

When my mom asked for a homemade lemon cake, I thought “no sweat.” If I only knew what adventure I was embarking on for the next 36 hours.

Wednesday afternoon I got the cake up and running. Going off a Paula Dean recipe, I thought, how could I go wrong?

Well guess what, y’all? It went pretty wrong.

40 minutes and three flat-as-pancakes and hard-as-frisbees cakes later, into the garbage they went and I got back to work.

I pulled out a William-Sonoma cookbook dedicated to cakes (I know this because it is called Cakes), and got back down to work. Ends up, the secret to fluffy, spongy cakes is in how you separate the eggs and properly beat them.

White Cake, c/o William-Sonoma


1 C sugar

6 eggs, separated (yolks in one bowl, whites in the other)

1 C cake flour*

1 tsp vanilla

*If you don’t have cake flour, just all-purpose flour, don’t fret. Just reduce your flour measurement to 3/4 C and add 2 TBSP of corn starch.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9″ cake pans.

Pour egg yolks into a large mixing bowl. With either a stand-up mixer or a hand mixer, beat the yokes until a light and creamy color, about 3 minutes.

Add in 1/2 C sugar and mix well. Add in your vanilla and mix until blended. Remove, and set aside.

Pour egg whites into large mixing bowl. With either a stand-up mixer or a hand mixer (if you are using the same mixing bowl, clean it thoroughly to allow your egg whites to fully expand), beat the eggs until soft peaks form, about 2-4 minutes. Add in 1/2 C of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, another 3 minutes or so.

Sift your flour (or if you are using all-purpose, sift that with the corn starch).

Pour your egg white mix over the egg yolk mix, in batches of 3. Using a spatula, gently fold the mixtures together.

Once your egg mixtures are blended together, add your sifted flour in the same way. In batches of 3, gently folding the mixtures together.

Pour batter evenly between cake pans, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden on top and set.

Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes in pan, then gently wiggle cakes out onto cooling racks. Allow to completely cool before frosting.

The frosting was yet another adventure. I started with a complex recipe that required me to boil sugar as if I was making candy. After scalding the sugar to a nice amber-y brown, I started again. I thought the second attempt took until I sampled the frosting, and realized it was just too grainy. Back to the drawing board for a 3rd round.

Like a moth to a flame, I knew one of my Real Simple cookbooks had a recipe for frosting. And even better, it was only four ingredients.

Vanilla Frosting, c/o Real Simple


1 lb of powdered sugar

1 lb butter, room temperature (they don’t call it buttercream for nothing)

1 tsp vanilla

dash of salt


Beat butter with hand-mixer or stand-up mixer until creamy, 3-5 minutes. Slowly add in powdered sugar, allowing the sugar to be incorporated before adding more. Once blended add in vanilla and salt, and beat just long enough to mix together.

Store in covered container in the fridge or frost right away.

Lemon Filling


8 egg yolks

1 1/2 C sugar

1 C butter

Juice and rind of 3 lemons


Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan, and heat over the stove on low heat. Cook and stir periodically until mixture has thickened.

Remove from heat and allow to cool (ideally overnight) before using. Great filling for in between cake layers.

Cake Assembly

To me, this is the most challenging part. Start with adding a small amount of filling to the bottom of your cake stand. I use a rotating stand for easy frosting.

Add one cake layer. Poke holes going about half way through cake top so lemon filling can seep into the cake. Add filling and allow to set on top and in cake.

Add your second layer and get to frosting. Use a nice flat metal spatula or butterknife to evenly distribute frosting. Work with more frosting than less, to avoid digging into the cake by accident and getting crumbs mixed with the frosting.

Add your garnishes. For this cake, I used a few lemon slices, some mint, red and white raspberries and a few blackberries.

Tip – Not ready to use your cakes right away? Once cooled, wrap tightly in saran wrap and store at room temperature (on the counter, for example) for up to three days. Unwrap and frost when ready to use!

2 Responses to “Have Your Cake and Eat It Too”

  1. meghan August 14, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    That cake looks delicious! I am impressed with your hard work and dedication to making this cake. I think I would have got angry and frusterated with all the trial and errors.

    • tealandtulle August 14, 2012 at 9:12 am #

      Ha! I’ll admit I had a nice glass of wine after the first round of cake disaster. But I chalked it up to a good learning experience. Now I know a bit more about how to make a decent cake. It’s NOT easy, that’s for sure!

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