Lemon Layer Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

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It has been a while! Life has caught up to me, and I am sorry for that! However, let’s get things rolling again with a fantastic cake to help round off the month of February! A very good friend of ours came down to Lethbridge for the weekend to celebrate his birthday. That only meant one thing – a fancy, home-cooked dinner and a fabulous dessert to go along with it!

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Paul decided to make a rotisserie chicken with cheesy broccoli and cauliflower and a rice pilaf. When I asked Darren what he wanted for a birthday cake flavour, his answer was “Something simple like vanilla or lemon.” Well, vanilla and lemon are both simple concepts, but I decided to combine the two to make something simply amazing!

Of course, the first place I went was the wonderful Annie of Annie’s Eats. Her cakes have been inspiring me for years, and this recipe was no exception! Combining a luscious lemon cake with a light, lemony mousse-like filling, and a vanilla buttercream frosting? This cake sounds like heaven!

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The only real change I made was substituting extra vanilla extract for the vanilla bean seeds. I do not currently have any vanilla beans, and I need to make this change very soon, but I decided to just put the extra punch of vanilla in the frosting instead.

I will note that in Annie’s recipe, she says you will have frosting left over. I didn’t, and I mixed the frosting up even slightly longer than she recommended, just to make sure it was as light and fluffy as I could get it.

This cake does take some time to make, and its various components are worth the work. Still, if you like lemon, vanilla, or a combination of both, take a day and make this cake! You won’t be sorry!
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Ingredients

Yield: 1 8 inch cake

For the cake:

3 c. cake or all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
16 tbsp. (1 c.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Zest of ½ lemon
2 c. sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
1¼ c. buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tbsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:

4 oz. mascarpone or cream cheese, chilled
2½ tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ c. icing sugar
2 tsp. lemon extract
Zest of ½ lemon
1 c. heavy cream, chilled

For the frosting:

1½ c. plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 c. icing sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 tsp. vanilla extract (2 tsp. if you do not have any vanilla beans)
2 tbsp. heavy cream

For the candied lemons:

1 lemon
1 c. sugar
1 c. water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms and sides of 3 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper. (To help the paper stick to the pans, I butter the edges of the pans.)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Add the butter to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and add the lemon zest to the bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat for one minute more.

Add the sugar to the butter mixture, about a ¼ cup at a time, mixing for about a minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Combine the buttermilk, lemon, and vanilla extracts together in a liquid measuring cup. Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture in alternating increments, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Mix until just incorporated, then beat for about 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter equally between the three pans, and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Be sure to rotate the pans halfway through baking. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks to cool completely.

For the filling, combine the cheese and butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth and well-combined. Mix in the icing sugar and beat until just incorporated. Blend in the lemon extract and lemon zest, on medium high speed until the mix is light and fluffy. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and set aside. Wipe out the mixer bowl, and attach the whisk attachment. Pour in the heavy cream and beat until stiff peaks form. Mix a third of the whipped cream into the butter mixture, and blend until smooth and evenly incorporated. Gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream until evenly incorporated. Refrigerate until needed.

For the frosting, add the butter to the mixer bowl fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip about 1 minute, until smooth. Add the icing sugar and beat on low speed until just incorporated. If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the pod and add them to the butter, along with the salt. Continue to beat until smooth. Mix in the vanilla extract and heavy cream on low speed until just incorporated. Increase the mixer speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Refrigerate until needed.

For the candied lemon slices, wash lemon and dry thoroughly. Slice as thinly as you can with a serrated knife, and poke out any seeds with a toothpick. In a saucepan, combine the water and sugar over medium-high heat. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves, and add the lemons in a single layer, none overlapping. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer 20 minutes, turning at least once so both sides are exposed to the mixture. Remove from heat and store in a container with the syrup until ready to use.

To assemble the cake, level cake layers if necessary. Place one cake layer on your cake stand or serving platter. Top with half of the whipped cheese filling, and spread evenly across the layer. Top with second layer of cake, and the rest of the filling, and spread evenly. Lay the last cake layer on top of the filling. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the vanilla frosting. Using any remaining frosting, pipe accents on the cake. Garnish with candied lemon slices. (I also drizzled the candied lemon syrup over the top of the cake for an extra lemony punch.)

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