Citrus Cake with Citrus Curd

I have to admit that the initial motivation for making this cake was a need to use up some lemon icing that I had too much of, but I still enjoyed the end result!

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Last week, I felt inspired to do some weeknight baking when I found myself with too many lemons from a friend and some blueberries that kept attacking me by falling out of the freezer. I was making this Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberry Compote when it went in the oven and I realized I had completely forgotten to add the lemons that I had just spent 10 minutes zesting and juicing. It was definitely too late to add them into the batter, so I decided to make a lemon icing to drizzle on top. Little did I know, but it takes a LOT of powdered sugar to make lemon icing from ⅓ cup of lemon juice, so I had a ton left over and had to find something new to do with it.

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The inspiration for this cake comes from one that I photographed and tasted at work. I loved the light sponginess when I last tasted that cake last spring, and I would never say no to lemon curd. In exchange for the mascarpone frosting, I added the aforementioned lemon icing and candied some kumquats and a variety of other citrus peels to decorate. The result was a very light cake full of tart curd and covered with lemony icing.

I was originally not pleased with my slightly poor mixing skills, which resulted in a layer that was quite flatter than the others, and felt that I did a horrible job of splitting the cake layers into two. But at the end of the day, it tasted lovely and sometimes things aren’t perfect and that is okay.

So to celebrate it almost being the end of February, spring blooms blossoming everyday, and daylight savings time being just around the corner, here is a cake in which you can use any type of citrus you desire to create different citrus flavor profiles. I was partial to lemon and Cara Cara oranges but you could certainly make it all with limes or blood oranges or sour orange or… it’s up to you and what you have on hand!

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I’ll miss citrus when it’s not in season, but I can’t wait for strawberries!


Citrus Cake with Citrus Curd

Adapted and inspired by this cake from Nugget Markets

Yields: one 8-inch cake

Notes

As mentioned above, feel free to use any citrus or combination of citrus that you’d like. Lemon is a classic but others will yield flavorful results as well.

The Candied Citrus, Citrus Curd and Citrus Icing can be made the day before. Store in airtight containers before using and place in the fridge.

Ingredients

Candied Citrus (Optional)

  • ⅓ cup kumquat slices, mandarin slices, orange peel or lemon peel

  • 1 cup sugar

  • ½ cup water

Citrus Cake

  • 5 large eggs, room temperature, separated (reserving 1 egg white for another use)

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon citrus zest of your choice

  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons citrus juice of your choice

  • 1 cup cake flour, sifted

  • ½ teaspoon salt

Citrus Curd

  • 5 large egg yolks

  • ½ cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon citrus zest of your choice

  • ½ cup citrus juice

  • 5 tablespoons butter, room temperature and large diced

Citrus Icing

  • 4 tablespoons citrus juice of your choice

  • 1-1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted

Steps

Candied Citrus (Optional)

If making Candied Citrus, prep your fruit. If using kumquats or mandarins, wash and slice in 1/16-inch slices, removing any seeds you encounter. If using lemon or orange peel, cut off the lemon or orange peel in strips, being careful to include as little of the white pith as possible.

In a small saucepan, make a simple syrup by bringing the sugar and the water to a simmer over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar has completely dissolved. Place citrus pieces in the saucepan. Stir gently to make sure all of the fruit is coated in syrup. Let the fruit sit in the syrup at room temperature for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 200ºF. Drain citrus pieces in a colander set over a large bowl. Be sure to save the syrup for another use (like drinks or sorbet)! Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking sheet. Evenly spread the citrus pieces on the sheet in a single layer. Bake for 1 hour. Flip the citrus pieces over and bake for another 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Citrus Cake

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch cake pans with the extra virgin olive oil, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, beat together egg yolks, ½ cup sugar and zest until pale and thick, about 5 minutes on high. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil and citrus juice, beating until combined. On low, add flour and mix until just combined—do not over mix.

Using a clean mixing bowl and whisk, beat 4 egg whites with ½ teaspoon salt on medium until foamy, then add ¼ cup sugar a little at a time, beating continuously on high until stiff, shiny peaks form. Gently fold ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly incorporating. Transfer batter to pan and gently tap against work surface to release air bubbles.

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-40 minutes. Cool for about 10 minutes then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove cake from pan.

Cool cake on cooling rack to room temperature, about 1¼ hours. Slice both cake layers in half.

Citrus Curd

Prepare a double boiler with 2 inches of water in the bottom pan, and bring to a gentle simmer. Add egg yolks, sugar, citrus zest and juice to a bowl and set atop the double boiler. Whisk ingredients until curd thickens and coats the back of a spoon or a thermometer reaches 170ºF. Remove bowl from simmering water and add butter, stirring until melted and smooth. Cover with plastic pressed down to the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until ready to use.

Citrus Icing

Whisk together citrus juice and powdered sugar until a thick icing is created. The consistency of the icing should be thick enough to fall back in thick ribbons.

Assembly

Place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving dish. Spread ⅓ of the citrus curd to the edge of the cake. Top with a second layer and repeat with the rest of the cake layers and curd. Pour Citrus Icing on top of the cake encouraging it to drip over the edge. Top with Candied Citrus in a decorative pattern.