Lemon Velvet Cake

We love this recipe from A Piece of Cake. Our daughter, Anne, found the recipe at the public library and made it for my birthday one year when she was a student at UC Berkeley. We loved it! I’ve made this cake several times since.

Makes 10–12 servings

1-1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 cup sifted cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon butter

Lemon Buttercream Frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened but not melted
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 to 4-1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons heavy cream or milk, as needed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Position rack in lower third of oven.

2. Prepare two 8- or 9-in round layer pans: grease lightly and sprinkle with flour or trace, cut out and place a circle of wax paper on the bottom of each cake pan (I always use waxed paper in the bottom of each pan for a layer cake. I had to rebake a different cake for our daughter’s birthday one time when I didn’t take the extra minute for this step, and the layers broke apart as I was trying to get them out of the pans).

3. Sift together dry ingredients. Set aside.

4. In the large bowl of electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and smooth. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the lemon extract and grated zest. Alternately add to batter the flour mixture and lemon juice, beginning and ending with flour. Beat slowly to blend after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl often.

5. In a clean bowl with a clean beater, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Stir about 1 cup of whites into the batter to lighten it, then gently fold in remaining whites (I was very careful with this step the last time I made the recipe. I think making sure the beaten egg whites are not too dry, and folding in 1 cup of whites first, and then the remaining whites made a big difference in the lightness and moistness of the cake.).

6. Turn batter into the prepared pans. Level the batter, then spread it slightly from the center toward the edges of the pan so it will rise evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 min., or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and the top is golden and lightly springy to the touch.

7.  While the cake bakes, prepare the lemon glaze. Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set the glaze aside, but warm it just before using.

8.  When the cake is baked, set the pans to cool on wire rack. With a bamboo skewer or 2-tine roasting fork, prick holes over the cake. With a pastry brush, paint the warm glaze all over the hot cake; wait a few minutes, and apply remaining glaze.

9. Cool cake layers completely. Top each layer with another rack, invert, and lift off pan.

10. Make frosting: in an electric mixer or food processor, cream the butter until soft, then beat in salt, lemon zest and lemon juice. With the mixer on low speed or pulsing the processor, add about  1/4 cup of the sugar. Beat smooth. Alternately add cream (or milk) and remaining sugar, blending smooth between additions. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add more cream (or milk) if too stiff. Chill frosting to harden if too soft.

11. Fill and frost cake.

12. Enjoy!

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