Photo by Carli Wentworth
FOR THE PAST EIGHT YEARS, there has not been a Mother’s Day that I do not miss my mom, Frances Walker. She was the essence of spring. She loved flowers, spring festivals and most of all, she loved lemon cake. As a kid, this is one of the first cakes I learned to make. Now, this is the cake I make in honor of my mommy every Mother’s Day. I am so excited to share this easy-to-make lemon cake with fresh lemon curd. It sounds complicated, but lemon curd is a snap to make and the cake is a simple “fancied-up” cake mix.
The best part of this classic cake is the lemon curd. Many people think that lemon curd is something they get at the gourmet store – not so! It’s easy and costs pennies to make from scratch. The secret to fabulous lemon curd is to always use fresh lemon juice, never bottled. It’s so good I would put my lemon cake up against any bakery’s version!
Lemon Layer Cake with Fresh Lemon Curd
1 box yellow cake mix
1 box instant lemon pudding mix, 3.4 oz
½ c vegetable oil
4 large eggs, room temperature
½ c milk
1 c sour cream or 2% Greek yogurt
1 t lemon zest
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 containers Cool Whip Vanilla Frosting
Fresh Lemon Curd
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
½ c sugar
3 T fresh lemon zest
c freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of salt
7 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Combine the cake mix, lemon pudding mix, vegetable oil and eggs and beat in a large bowl for two minutes with an electric mixer, scraping the sides to incorporate all the dry ingredients. Add in the milk, sour cream, lemon zest and lemon juice, and beat for one minute. Pour half of the batter into each pan, smooth and then tap on the counter, releasing air bubbles to make a more even cake. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert your pans onto a sheet of parchment paper and place the pans over the top to create a steam dome. Allow cakes to cool for at least three hours for a super moist cake!
To make the lemon curd, place one cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Create a homemade double-boiler by using a metal bowl that fits on top of the sauce pan, and in it whisk together everything but the butter. Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture thickens up to the consistency of thick pudding. It’s done when it can coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, piece by piece, until the curd is thick and shiny. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
To assemble, first create an evenly sized cake by horizontally slicing the rounded top off with a serrated knife held flat, guided by the pan rim. Place one layer, cut side down, on a cake plate. Take thin strips of wax paper and tuck under the edges of the cake so any mess you make when icing can be easily removed. Spread lemon curd over the cake, then top with second layer, cut side down. Using an offset spatula, empty one container of frosting onto the cake and spread down the sides to completely cover the cake. Empty the second container on top and evenly spread over the top and sides. Decorate with fresh flowers and serve!