I really love this cake.
I mean really love it.
So much so, it's my new best friend.
It's like sunshine on a plate. The citrussy aroma tempts you while the sultry lemony pucker hits you full in the mouth.
And who can resist anything with 'Limoncello' in the title? The mere mention of the word transports you to to the Sicilian sun.
It's one more reason I have to thank Random Recipes for getting me to delve into my cookbooks.
This month's challenge had a bit of a twist. Dom, of Belleau Kitchen (who runs the challenge) created a Randometer thingummy-bob to test us. You had to enter how many cookbooks you owned, and then it would generate a random number. You counted along your shelf to that book, and then entered the number of pages, to generate another number and so find your Random Recipe.
The gods must have been looking favourably on me this month, as I ended up with this gorgeous lemon cake, from Peggy Porschen's 'Boutique Baking'.
It's easy to make, although there are five components - sugar paste decorations, sponge layers, limoncello syrup, limoncello lemon curd and buttercream icing - and if you make them all from scratch Peggy recommends that you spread the making over two days. I didn't bother with some of them, adapted others and took a few shortcuts. It still tasted heavenly.
It has soft, moist sponge soaked in a lemon and Limoncello syrup, layered and iced in a buttercream that has some lemon curd added to it. It got rave reviews all round in our house. Even from Sam, who at 18 months old surprised me by how much he liked it, given the clear sharpness of the flavour.
So here's what I did.
Ingredients (makes one 15cm / 6 inch cake)
For the sponge layers
200g softened unsalted butter
200g golden caster sugar
pinch of salt
finely grated zest of 2 lemons (unwaxed or washed well)
4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
200g self raising flour
150ml lemon juice (about 3 lemons' worth)
150g caster sugar
50ml Limoncello liqueur
160g softened unsalted butter
160g icing sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
80g lemon curd (I used Tesco Finest)
Some sugar flowers to decorate, or make your own
Preheat the oven to 155 Fan / 175 Conventional / 350 Fahrenheit / Gas 4.
Grease and baseline three 15cm / 6 inch loose bottom sandwich tins.
To make the sponges, cream the butter, lemon zest, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until pale and fluffy. It will take a good few minutes to get it to the stage where the sugar has dissolved.
Add the eggs a little at a time and beat in (if the mixture looks like it's starting to curdle, add a tablespoon of the flour and this should help it hold together). Once the eggs are all incorporated, gently fold in the flour until it has just combined.
Divide the mix evenly between the tins and level the surface. I find it easier to get an even split if I weigh my mixer bowl when empty and again with the mixture to get the weight of the mix. Divide this by three, and that will tell you roughly how much to then weigh into each tin.
Place the tins in the centre of your oven and bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until risen and golden, and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
While the sponges are cooking, make the syrup. Place the lemon juice and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the Limoncello, stirring it in. Leave to cool slightly.
When the sponges are ready, remove from the oven and let them cool in the tins for about 10 minutes. While they are still warm, brush the surface generously with the Limoncello syrup. Allow to cool completely.
To make the buttercream icing, place the butter, icing sugar, salt and lemon curd into a stand mixer and beat using the paddle attachment until smooth and creamy. [Note: the recipe as given in Peggy's book did not give me enough to cover the whole of the cake, so I doubled the quantities here to allow for sufficient.]
To assemble the cake, trim the layers if necessary so that you have a flat, level surface. Brush the cut surface with a little more of the Limoncello sugar syrup. I trimmed the two lower layers slightly, but kept the top one as it was (so it was slightly domed). This can be a little tricky and is one reason why Peggy recommends making the sponges the day before, then wrapping them in cling film and chilling overnight so that they firm up a bit. This, she says, stops them crumbling as you cut them. However, I did them the same day and as long as you are careful and the cakes are fully cooled, I think you'd be OK.
I then sandwiched together the layers using a little buttercream, and then crumb coated the outside. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes, before adding the final layer of icing. Decorate with some sugar paste flowers, or other of your choosing (I used some sugar flowers from my local Asda).
So there you go. I may not have discovered this yet if it hadn't been for a random selection. Boy am I glad I did. The April Random Recipes round up will appear on Dom's blog, Belleau Kitchen at the end of the month.
And if, like me, you love lemon cakes, you'll love this one. It keeps well, and two days after baking was still lovely and moist due to the syrup infused in the sponge.