RECIPE: Lemon Poppyseed Lady Cake

This cake was in an old Martha Stewart magazine from 2003 featuring lemon recipes. It was shot beautifully, and enticed me to make it for my mother for her birthday. Now, embarking on a "Martha" recipe is brave. Her recipes are usually very time consuming. (I remember doing her Pistachio Charlotte one year and it too all weekend!) I considered doing one short cut for the lemon curd. I have seen lovely, preserved lemon curd at our European market that would have worked. I decided not to because of the amount of left over egg yolks I would have to throw away from the cake batter. If I wasn't being so frugal these days, I would have just bought the lemon curd, dumped the egg yolks and saved quite a few steps. That being said, homemade lemon curd is fresh and delicious, so if you have the time, go for it! I also added vanilla in the seven minute frosting. It was the first time I made this frosting, and it was like whipped heaven. I don't know why it is called "seven minute", it took longer than that. But it had a meringue-marshmallow fluff-like consistency that added to the dreaminess of this cake. It is quite a cake. But my mom is quite a mom and she deserved it!

Lemon Poppy-Seed Lady Cake:

2 sticks butter
PAM cooking spray
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds, plus more for garnish
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 cup milk
8 large egg whites, room temp (conserve 6 egg yolks for the lemon curd if making homemade)
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup chilled heavy cream
Lemon Curd (recipe below)
Seven-Minute Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray 2 8x2 round cake pans and line with parchment paper. (I actually had enough to fill one extra round pan lower than the others, so I got one extra "layer" on my cake to make 5 layers) Set aside.

Into a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt twice, set aside. (I did it once, no prob)

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar, beat until fluffy (3 minutes). Beat in vanilla, poppy seeds and lemon zest. Turn mixer to a lower speed and add the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk. Beat until thoroughly combined after each addition. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, whisk egg whites with cream of tartar on low until foamy. Increase speed to medium-high and gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in egg whites to the butter batter, but careful not to over mix.

Divide batter between pans, and bake until golden and a toothpick in the center comes out clean (about 40 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. To get the cakes out, I invert the pan with the cooling rack right under it, pull the pan off, peel the parchment, and then flip them right side up using another cooling rack on top of it and flipping it gently.

To make the filling, whip the whipping cream in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Fold in lemon curd, cover with plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

To assemble, use a serrated knife to evenly slice the cakes horizontally in half. If you were able to make a small "5th" layer, that layer will be the same size as the other 4 so that one will not need to be cut. Brush away any crumbs.

Place on layer on a cake plate and spread with roughly 1 cup of chilled lemon filling. Repeat until all layers are filled, finishing with a cake layer on top. Wrap in plastic and CAREFULLY and steadying it with your hands to keep the layers from sliding,  put cake in the refrigerator to set, about 2 hours.

When set, frost with Seven Minute Frosting and garnish with poppy seeds and sugar covered lemon rind curls. Gently place toothpicks in the cake to recover with plastic wrap again until serving time. Toothpicks keep the plastic from ruining the frosting.

Lemon Curd:

6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Combine yolks, lemon zest and juice in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 8-10 minutes. Pass mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Add butter pieces, stirring until butter is dissolved. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the surface so a "skin" doesn't form. Chill until firm, about 1 hour. Use as a great breakfast condiment or on fruit-or in the cake filling above.

Seven-Minute Frosting:

1 3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
6 large egg whites

In a small sauce pan, combine sugar with corn syrup and 1/4 cup water. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar as dissolved. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, and cook for 5-7 minutes,or until a candy thermometer registers 230˚. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form, gradually beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp vanilla. Reduce speed to medium low.

When syrup reaches 230˚, carefully pour the syrup into the egg whites in a steady stream. Beat until frosting is cool, thick and glossy (10 minutes). Use immediately.



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