Some recipes come and go from your repertoire and others become staples, go-tos, still others grab you and become yours…they become part of your traditions. One such recipe for us is what we have come to call Lemon Dream Cake (or Morphine cake or in this case, Kelly’s birthday cake)! I honestly don’t care that much about cake…put a chocolate chip cookie in front of me and I will be hard pressed to say no, but cake often disappoints. This changed my entire view of what cake can be; it is super lemony and not too sweet, moist and just perfect…every time! A little story about this cake: my grandmother was kind enough to let me live with her for a time and I really wanted to do something nice for her. I decided on this cake and I had none of the right equipment. We had to borrow pans from her friend (in exchange for some cake, of course), I had to do it all by hand and Grandma kept looking at all the work I was putting in thinking it couldn’t possibly be worth it. “Just go and get one!” she would tell me multiple times. I just kept at it, knowing it would be worth it, and it was. Shortly after I made it (luckily with some still safely stored in the fridge) she had surgery and when she woke up the first thing she asked for was a cup of coffee and a slice of my cake. Hence, Morphine Cake. It is still one of my fondest memories of living with her.
The first time we made this cake, we kept looking at it thinking there couldn’t possibly be a recipe with more steps (turns out we were wrong, we just hadn’t gotten that brave yet). But after investing the time and energy once, you get the hang of things and try it again, and again, and again. In fact, we have made it for more of my birthdays than I can count. Though having made it by hand on two occasions, I can tell you this recipe taught me to love the Kitchenaid! It is one of those multi-step, multi-day labors of love that really is worth it in the end. Plan 2-3 days ahead to spread out the steps and make it feel a bit less like a production and really try to follow the directions (which we are notoriously bad at), especially for the curd and the cake. If you are looking for a show stopper, try it out!
Lemon Dream (Morphine) Cake
Makes 10 to 12 servings
*You’ll need a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch star tip to create the decorative rosettes. Though we have decorated it lots of ways…Be Creative!! You will notice, ours is not perfect, but it does look homemade!
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 large eggs, separated
14 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Filling and frosting
2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
3 8-ounce containers chilled mascarpone cheese*
For lemon curd:
Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk constantly until thickened and instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 160°F, about 10 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Add butter; whisk until melted. Transfer 1 cup curd to small bowl for spreading on cake layers. Reserve remaining curd for filling. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of both curds. Chill overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled. Make extra to use on everything!!)
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line bottom of two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides with parchment paper, do not grease pans or parchment. (Try this method). Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 7 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until mixture is very thick and slowly dissolving ribbons form when beaters are lifted, about 4 minutes. Using clean dry beaters, beat whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining 7 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff and glossy. Fold half of whites into yolk mixture, then sift half of flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt over and gently fold in until incorporated. Fold in remaining whites, then sift remaining flour over and fold in just until combined, being careful not to deflate batter.
Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool in pans on racks.
Run knife around edge of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto 9-inch-diameter cardboard rounds, tapping on work surface if necessary to release cakes. Cut each cake horizontally in half (layers will be thin, you will think they are too thin, have faith). Peel off parchment.
Place sugar in small metal bowl. Add 1/2 cup boiling water; stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in lemon juice. (Can be made several days in advance and kept refrigerated).
For filling and frosting:
Beat whipping cream and sugar in large bowl until peaks form. Add mascarpone to lemon curd in medium bowl; whisk until blended. Fold whipped cream into lemon-mascarpone mixture.
Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Brush with 1/4 of syrup. Spread 1/4 cup lemon curd over, then 1 cup lemon-mascarpone filling. Top with second cake layer; brush with 1/4 of syrup and spread with 1/4 cup lemon curd and 1 cup lemon-mascarpone filling. Repeat with third cake layer, syrup, lemon curd, and filling. Top with fourth cake layer. Brush with remaining syrup, then spread remaining lemon curd over. Spoon 2 cups lemon-mascarpone filling into pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch star tip (to be used for rosettes). Spread remaining lemon-mascarpone filling as a frosting over sides of cake. Pipe small rosettes of frosting over top of cake, covering completely. Cover cake with cake dome; refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.
Decorate for the occasion as Ali did here…
And remember to Enjoy!!!!!