We had a party for my friend Dorene’s birthday and I made a a citrus cake that was very popular. Every time I make this cake, people rave about it. The original recipe is Apollina’s “Stella Cake” (and as she comments, it looks even more stunning if you can find blood oranges to decorate it.)
I use her recipe pretty much unmodified for the cake batter and the filling, with the added detail that I use fresh-picked Meyer lemons since we have a tree in the backyard. Meyer lemons, if you don’t know them, are citrus fruit native to China thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange. They have a gentle, not quite sweet but less biting flavour, extremely fragrant. Plus, the zest of home-grown and freshly picked fruit is lighter and fluffier than that of store-bought fruit picked green for shipping and ripened artificially in containers.
The icing, however, didn’t work for me (if only because the quantities listed there yield enough icing for two cakes!) so I’ve replaced it with a “rich butter icing” I had from my mom’s staple recipes. (Recipe after the cut.)
- 1 cup (1/2 lb, 2 sticks or 250 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
- 2 ½ cups (625 mL) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pans
- grated zest of 2 oranges
- grated zest of 2 lemons
- 1 ½ teaspoons (7 mL) baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon (1 mL) baking soda
- ½ teaspoon (2 mL) salt
- 1 ½ cups (375 mL) sugar
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup (250 mL) whole milk
- Blood oranges, regular oranges, lemons, limes sliced to arrange on top of the cake
- fresh mint, also to arrange on top of the cake
- Heat oven to 350°F. Butter two 8″, 9″ or 10″ round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter again, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the grated zest of the oranges and lemons. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until combined (don’t over mix).
- Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans, leveling the top of each with a large spoon or rubber spatula. Bake until a toothpick from the center of the cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes for 8-inch pans, 22 to 25 minutes for 9-inch pans and 20 to 22 minutes for a 10 inch pan. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely. (After they cooled, I wrapped and froze my cakes until the next day).
- Transfer one of the cooled cakes to a plate and spread with the lemon curd. Top with the remaining cake and refrigerate to set, 30 minutes. Then frost the rest of the cake!
Lemon Curd Filling
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup (250 mL) sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) finely grated lemon zest
- ½ cup (125 mL) fresh lemon juice
- pinch salt
- ½ cup (1/4 lb, 1 stick, or 125 mL) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and salt. Add the butter. Set the bowl over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture has thickened (like the consistency of mayonnaise), 12 to 15 minutes. UPDATE: the lemon curd could take longer than 15 minutes to thicken up, just keep on whisking, I promise, it will happen.
- Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper directly on the surface of the lemon curd and refrigerate until completely cool, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Rich Butter Orange-Lemon Frosting
- ⅓ cup (⅙ lb, ⅔ of a stick, or 75 mL) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 egg
- 3 cups (750 mL) icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla
- 1 ½ tablespoons (25 mL) orange juice (freshly squeezed is best, you have all these extra oranges you just zested anyway!)
- grated zest of 1 lemon
Using a mixer, beat the butter on medium-high until fluffy, then add the egg and beat until light and foamy. Gradually add two-thirds of the sugar and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the lemon zest, orange juice and vanilla; add the rest of the sugar gradually until you get good texture for icing.
If the icing is a little thick, add more orange juice, a few drops at a time; if it’s a little thin, gradually add more icing sugar.