“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.”
~ Ernestine Ulmer
This was only my second foray into layer cakes. My first (a lemon poppyseed cake, my very first post) was…well, delicious but quite tilty and misshapen. I’ve been picking up tips and bits of advice since then and finally decided to try and put them into practice.
I had pinned this amazing-sounding (and amazing-looking, but my hopes aren’t as high!) citrus cake a very long time ago, and while I was perusing all the layer cakes I’d pinned, this was the one that kept standing out. I’ll usually choose a fruity dessert over chocolate or something rich.
I loved the combination of flavors, and it turned out so much better looks-wise than my last attempt!
Grate the heck out of two lemons and two oranges.
Step one: set butter and eggs out so they come to room temperature, then prepare the pans. This is one of the things I didn’t do correctly the first time I made a layer cake.
Soften or partially melt some butter, and with a pastry brush paint the entire interior of both pans. Then trace around them on parchment paper and cut parchment paper circles, which will fit inside each pan. Brush the parchment paper with butter (like the picture above). Finally, pour a little flour into the pans (or cocoa if you were making a chocolate cake) and rotate and gently pat to get the flour coating the entire pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then set aside.
To make the cake a little bit lighter and fluffier, I use “cake flour”. It’s in quotation marks because I’m way too cheap to buy cake flour, which is RIDICULOUS EXPENSIVE. So I just replace 1-2 tablespoons of every cup of flour with cornstarch and sift together very well. The cornstarch makes it light, and the sifting aerates it as well.
Using a good stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until it’s nice and fluffy (took about 2 minutes for me).
Mix in the grated zest of the oranges and lemons as well as the vanilla. Smells so good! Then beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go to get everything combined (but not while the mixer is on!).
Turn the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture and milk in a combination of additions (3 for the flour and 2 for the milk. Mix until just until combined (don’t over-mix).
Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans, leveling the top of each with a large spoon or rubber spatula.
Bake until a toothpick from the center of the cake comes out clean—25 to 30 minutes for 8-inch pans, 22 to 25 minutes for 9-inch pans, or 20 to 22 minutes for a 10 inch pan.
Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely.
After they cooled, I wrapped and froze my cakes until the next day, which is supposed to help set the crumb and make them easier to frost.
So we’re on day two at this point. Pull those babies out of the freezier and set the first one down on a cake stand or whatever surface you’re using to frost.
Choose your weapo—I mean, filling. I had this delightful homemade lemon-orange marmalade that I bought from a ridiculously cute old lady in a tiny town in Croatia, and had been dying to find a good use for it.
Spread a nice thick layer of your filling onto the first cake layer.
And smoosh that sandwich together. Wouldn’t it be cool if that actually was a sandwich and you could eat it like one?
Next we make the frosting. As with many great things, it starts with zesting a lemon.
In your mixer, beat the butter and lemon zest on high until it’s light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the orange juice and reduce mixer speed to low. That’s important on account of the splatter factor.
Finally, gradually add the powdered sugar and the salt, and beat until it’s smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
So this was one of the other techniques I tried, which was doing a crumb coating. Basically, you just put a thin layer of frosting over the whole cake—it’s not pretty, just functional. Once you let this set for a little while, it keeps crumbs from getting caught in your top layer of frosting and ruining the effect.
So, crumb coating. Let it set until it’s got a nice little crust on it.
Finally, ice it for real. Decorate however you’d like. I wish I could decorate cakes, but that’s just not a skill I possess.
Can you tell I was proud of it?
It was definitely a little more labor-intensive than most things I make, but the new techniques I tried really did make a difference in the LOOK of the cake.
The taste was great, fluffy and citrus-y, totally my kind of cake. And the citrus marmalade was the perfect touch—even better than a lemon curd or something would have been!
Mmmmm…only problem was I wanted to eat the whole cake myself!
Citrus Cake with Citrus Marmalade Filling & Orange-Lemon Frosting
- 1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the pans
- 2 1/2 cups of flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pans; I made my own cake flour, see above
- Grated zest of 2 oranges
- Grated zest of 2 lemons
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 1/2 cups of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup of whole milk
- Citrus marmalade (or your choice), for filling
- 2 cups (4 sticks) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons of fresh orange juice
- 1 pound of confectioners’ sugar (about 3 3/4 cups), sifted
- A pinch of salt
- Heat oven to 350°F. Butter two 8″, 9″ or 10″ round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, butter again, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until it’s fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the grated zest of the oranges and lemons. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until combined (don’t over-mix).
- Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans, leveling the top of each with a large spoon or rubber spatula. Bake until a toothpick from the center of the cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes for 8-inch pans, 22 to 25 minutes for 9-inch pans and 20 to 22 minutes for a 10 inch pan. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely. (After they cooled, I wrapped and froze my cakes until the next day).
- When you’re ready to assemble the cake, place the first layer on a plate or surface, then spread a thick layer of the filling on top and sandwich the second layer on top.
- To make the frosting, beat the butter and lemon zest on high until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the orange juice. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Gradually add the sugar, then the salt, and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Spread a thin layer of frosting all over the cake to create a crumb coating, and let it set. Then spread a thicker layer of frosting over, smooth it down, and decorate to your heart’s content (see the link below if you want it to look awesome!).
Recipe adapted from this one