Feb 14, 2013

Lemon Torte

   As a nice little break from chocolate-based recipes galore, I decided to humor my mom and make something with the fresh, tart taste of lemon and a thick cream in the layers of a yellow cake torte. It makes an easy recipe to throw together for a picnic or a party because you can use store-bought lemon curd, yellow cake, and Cool Whip in place of the mascarpone filling if you’re really in a pinch. Looking back on it, I would probably make this more like a trifle, in a bowl or a deeper dish because it doesn’t hold its shape very well, but it’s fine either way. I don’t even know if you would call this a torte… I guess it’s a cake, but trifle would work too. Whatever floats your boat.

   The lemon curd recipe was taken directly from the lovely Ina Garten. It is a simple yet successful way to make lemon curd and is perfect for this recipe. The mascarpone filling is a great, light and fluffy contrast to the tart curd. It is the same type of filling used in most tiramisu recipes.

   The yellow cake is just an awesome recipe to have on hand. It is an easy, one bowl recipe and comes out moist every time, but can easily be adapted for different recipes with the addition of filling, nuts, extracts and all that fun.


For the curd:

3 lemons

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature

4 extra-large eggs

3/4 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the cake

2 ½ cups All-purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup butter, softened

1 ¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups whole milk

¼ cup mascarpone cheese


1. Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of three lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.

2. Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

3. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 15 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate (it will thicken as it cools).

4. Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a new bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs in one at a time.

5. Alternately add the milk and flour until they’re both used up, beating well after each addition. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the mascarpone until there are no more white streaks. Set the bowl aside.

6. Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans and gently spoon the batter equally into the pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then check the cakes for doneness with a toothpick inserted in the center. If the toothpick does not come out clean, then bake for three more minutes and check again.

7. While the cakes cool, make the mascarpone filling; combine the egg yolks and sugar in a double boiler over boiling water and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the heat and whip yolks until thick and lemon colored, about 5-8 minutes.

  1. Add mascarpone to whipped yolks. Beat until combined. In a separate bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks. Gently fold into yolk mixture and set aside.



1.      Once the cakes are cool, remove them from the pan by lightly tapping the sides until the cake can move freely when shaken lightly. Flip the cake out of the pan  into the (clean) palm of your hand, and quickly flip it back over onto a flat work surface.

2.      Using a serrated knife, trim off any dome the cake has so it is flat on top. Slice the cake lengthwise like you would a hamburger bun and remove the top half (I’ve found this easiest to do by sliding a thin placemat, cutting board, or piece of cardboard under it and lifting it off).

3.      Put a layer of the lemon curd on the cake and spread so the surface is covered, but barely. Then scoop a fourth of the mascarpone filling on top and spread it ALMOST to the edge with a rubber spatula. Do another spoonful of the curd over that and gently spread it around the cream.

4.      Top with the next cake layer, pressing lightly down so the cream squeezes to the edges. If the cake is slumped on a side or not even, use trimmings from the top of the cake to balance it out. Repeat this step until you have yourself a four-layer torte/cake/trifle. Top with lemon zest if you want it to look extra-spiffy.



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