Lemon Mascarpone Layer Cake

I have been wanting to make this cake ever since I bought this cookbook, and that was a while ago. But first I didn’t find kosher mascarpone cheese, then I didn’t have an occasion to bake it for, and then I had a baby who didn’t really allow me to do much multi-step cake baking. Well I baked it. It took a while. I juiced lemons one day, made curd another, worked on the frosting the next morning, and that afternoon finally baked the cakes. So it took a while, but it was done, decorated, and waiting in the fridge to eat. I wanted to skip lunch and just eat cake.To be honest, this cake got mixed reviews. Some loved it for the dense cake and fluffy frosting. Others took one bite and said, “too tart!” I thought it was great. Of course it’s tart, it has lemon everywhere. A lemon simple syrup soaks the cake. There’s lemon curd mixed into the frosting and between the cake layers, then more on top for decoration. So if you don’t like tart desserts or lemon flavor, skip this one. Or make it with passion fruit or oranges. Otherwise, I highky recommend it.

This cake has a bunch of steps, so read through all the directions before you attempt it. It also needs to cool completely before assembling and to sit in the fridge for a while to set, so plan ahead.

The original recipe called for baking the cake in 2 layers and cutting each of those in half to make a 4 layer cake. I skipped that and only made 2 layers. If you do it my way, you’ll definitely have extra cream. It’s delicious on top of sugar cookies, so bake up a batch of those to serve with the leftovers. Or eat it plain.

The original recipe also called for piping fancy rosettes on top. I skipped the pastry tips and just put a thick layer of cream and piped a lemon curd design over the top. I was still told it was hundred dollar cake worthy, so I don’t feel bad for skipping that labor intensive step.

A note about mascarpone cheese – when I sent my father shopping for ingredients to make this cake, he said, “I’m not buying that, I don’t even know what it is. And eew, cheese!” Well it’s not a smelly aged cheese. It’s an Italian cream cheese. It’s thick, creamy, and spreadable and delicious to use in desserts.

Lemon Mascarpone Layer Cake, adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking

For the Lemon Curd:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces

For the Cakes:

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 7 tablespoons plus 7 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour

For the Lemon Syrup:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the Mascarpone Filling:

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 7 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 pound mascarpone

Directions:

1. Make the lemon curd (can be made up to three days in advance!): fill the bottom of a double boiler with at least 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Make sure the water is at least 2 inches below the top portion of the double boiler (read: glass bowl on top of pot).

2. Off the heat, place the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar into the top of the double boiler and whisk until blended. Add the lemon juice and mix well.

3. Reduce the heat of the double boiler under water is at a gentle boil.

4. Place the egg mixture over the water and cook, stirring constantly but leisurely, scraping the edges so the eggs don’t scramble, until the curd is very thick, about 7 minutes or 180 degrees on the thermometer.

5. Immediately strain the curd through a strainer set over a medium bowl. Use a spatula to press it down.

6. Add the cold butter pieces to the curd, burying them so they melt quickly. Wait one minute.

7. Whisk until butter is completely melted and blended with the curd.

8. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface and place the bowl in a larger bowl with ice water. Place in fridge when cool.

9. Make the cakes: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fit two 9″ round cake pans with parchment, but do not grease.

10. Whip the egg yolks and 7 tablespoons of sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer on high speed until thick and very light in color, 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a separate bowl (OR this is when having a second mixer bowl, like me, comes in handy!).

11. With the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed to soft peaks. While the mixer is running, gradually add the remaining 7 tablespoons of sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

12. With a spatula, fold one third of the egg whites into the beaten yolks.

13. Using a fine mesh strainer, sift half the flour over the top and gently fold in.

14. Repeat with the remaining egg whites and flour. Fold until no streaks of white remain.

15. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans.

16. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until the tops are golden, firm to the touch, and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on racks.

17. Make the syrup: Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the liquid is clear.

18: Remove from heat and cool completely. Stir in the lemon juice.

19: Make the mascarpone filling: Place the cream and sugar in the mixer bowl and whip until soft peaks form.

20. Place the mascarpone and 1 cup lemon curd in a large bowl and stir until blended (it should be the consistency of pudding).

21. Gently fold in the whipped cream until the mixture is homogenous and thick.

22. Transfer 2 1/4 cups of filling to a medium bowl. Then transfer half the remaining mixture to another bowl, and keep the remaining in a bowl. Refrigerate all three bowl of mascarpone.

23. Unmold the Cakes: Unmold the cakes by running a thin knife or spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen. Turn upside down and give the cake a sharp rap on the table to release. Repeat with second cake.

24. Turn the cake right side up, leaving the parchment paper attached. Repeat.

25. Level the cakes, if necessary.

26. If you want to make a 4-layer cake, do this. If you make a two layer cake, skip this step: Using a serrated knife, slice each cake horizontally into two layers. Set one of the bottom layers to use last, and remove parchment from the other bottom layer.

27. Assemble: Place a cake layer, cut side up, on a serving plate. Brush the cake with 1/4 of the lemon syrup. With an icing spatula, spread 1/3 of the mascarpone filling on top. Place 3 tablespoons of the remaining lemon curd on top of the filling and spread evenly to the edge.

28. Place  second layer on top, cut side up, and repeat with the lemon syrup, mascarpone filling, and lemon curd.

29. Place third layer on top, cut side up, and repeat with the lemon syrup, mascarpone filling, and lemon curd.

30. Top with the last layer of cake, placing it bottom up (cut side down). Remove the parchment paper. Moisten with remaining lemon syrup. Use your clean icing spatula to spread the mascarpone reserved for frosting over the cake. Spread the top thinly and make the sides thicker.

31. Spoon the piping mascarpone into the pastry bag (or plastic zip top bag) and pipe rosettes over the entire top of the cake, starting around the outside and working your way in. Or just spread the frosting neatly over the top.

32. Put the remaining lemon curd into a plastic bag and make a very small snip in the corner. pipe a center of lemon curd on each rosette or a design over the top of the cake.

33. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Slice with a thin, sharp knife and SERVE!