Happy Birthday to Sis & Me!

28 Apr

Sassy Lemon Cake

My sister’s and my birthdays both fall in March and our mom always spoils us by making our favorite Korean dishes for a big birthday feast. I’ve been experimenting with desserts for our recent family gatherings – pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving, strawberry champagne cake for Christmas, green tea cake for New Year’s — so I wanted to make something special for our birthdays.

I love the flavor of lemon and thought it would make a lovely, light cake. I saw some pictures online of cakes decorated with candied lemons, so figured I would give it a try.

First, gotta make the candied lemon slices. These need to be made the day before you want to use them.

  • 2 lemons, very thinly sliced
  • 2 cups water to blanch lemon slices
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar


Slice the lemons into very thin slices (next time I will use a mandolin to get the slices perfectly even). Boil 2 cups water and blanch the lemons for 5 minutes, then remove from the pot and drain the water. In the same pan, stir 1 cup water and 1-1/2 cups sugar; let the mixture boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add the lemon slices; simmer uncovered for 1 hour. The aroma was amazing, made the kitchen smell so refreshing.

Remove the lemon slices one by one and let them dry on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, let them dry overnight. They will still remain sticky.

I decided to get a little fancy with the lemon slices for decorating the cake. The next day, I took about half of them and cut a slit from the center through one edge of the rind. Then holding the lemon slice by the cut edges, I twisted them into an “S” shape and set aside.

Now time to make the lemon cake.

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature so can be mixed easily), plus extra butter for cake pans
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two round 8” cake pans. In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt together. I find sifting the dry ingredients helps make the cake fluffier. Then whisk together with lemon zest.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. I use a hand mixer for all my baking and it works great. With mixer on low, beat in  eggs and then the yolks one at a time. Then beat in the lemon juice. Now beat in the flour mixture and buttermilk, alternating both until the batter is combined.

Divide batter between the pans. To avoid air bubbles in the cake while it bakes, lift the cake pans and slightly bang them down on the countertop and smooth the tops. Bake for 33-35 minutes. I always slightly undercook the cakes, this keeps them really moist. I usually test the cakes at around 28-30 minutes with a toothpick. If it comes out dry, then its done. Let the cakes cool completely.

While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. I decided to make a whipped cream frosting because the lightness wouldn’t compete with the lemons. I use marshmallows in this frosting because they add a bit more body to the frosting.

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 5 large marshmallows
  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar

In a pre-chilled bowl, whip the cream with a whisk attachment until soft peak forms. This usually takes about 4-5 minutes. Heat marshmallows in the microwave for 15 seconds and add to the whipped cream with the confectioner’s sugar. Whip together on low until all combined. Sometimes the marshmallows don’t blend all the way into the frosting and you end up with some lumps, just take them out before you frost the cake. Keep chilled in fridge until you’re ready to use.

Invert the cakes and place onto plates or cookie sheet to frost. Spread some frosting on top of one cake half in an even layer to the edges. Add second cake on top. Frost the cake all over with the whipped cream. Let the cake sit in fridge while preparing the candied lemons for decorating.

Take the “S” shape lemon slices and decorate the top of the cake. I made a circular pattern and then used two slices crisscrossed in the center. With the remaining lemon slices, cut them in half moons and use those to line the bottom of the cake. If you have any leftover lemons, I think they would make a great topping for ice cream or add to a hot cup of tea for a special treat.

Here’s the finished cake right before we blew out the candles. It was a success! Light and fluffy, full of lemon sass. I will definitely make this cake again, the lightness and flavors will be perfect for the summer heat.

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One Response to “Happy Birthday to Sis & Me!”

  1. Danielle Bermond June 4, 2012 at 7:04 PM #

    Cake looks gorgeous! Very special recipe and story. More please!!

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