Vanilla cake with citrus meringue buttercream and lemon curd

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A couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon ombré wildflowers on Bowen Island and was inspired to make a vibrant cake that reminded me of Summer. If you imagine how an orange creamsicle in cake form would taste, this would be it.

You’ll need two 6″ cake pans for this recipe and a candy thermometer for the buttercream. If you’d like to break apart the tasks, make the lemon curd and cake the night before and set them in the refrigerator. The next morning, take on the challenge of the buttercream and assembling the cake.

This cake is worthy of dating for several weeks. The only thing stopping me from marrying it is that it doesn’t contain chocolate. A woman has to set parameters.

Makes one three-layer 6″ cake.

Ingredients

Cake
2/3 cup whole milk
3 egg whites
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Citrus meringue buttercream (Italian meringue style)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold water
4 large egg whites
2 cups unsalted butter, chilled
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
Orange and yellow gel food colours

Lemon curd (optional but recommended!)
You could use any recipe for lemon curd, really. I used Ina Garten’s here because her method is failproof.

Method

Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 6″ round cake pans with parchment and grease the sides. Set aside.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a paddle attachment, blend in the butter on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add the milk and mix until just incorporated. Increase the speed to medium, and beat for a couple minutes.

In the meantime, combine the egg whites and whole egg, plus remaining milk and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the batter in three batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Beat for 15-30 seconds after each addition.

Divide the batter equally into two cake pans. Bake for 40 minutes or until a fork comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cakes.

Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for five minutes, then scrape the sides with a knife or small offset spatula. Invert them onto a rack, and wrap in plastic and refrigerate once cooled.

Citrus buttercream
In a saucepan, heat the sugar and water on medium until the mixture measures 258 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium until frothy, about 5 minutes. Slowly pour in the sugar in a steady stream. Beat on high for around 10-12 minutes until the steam has dissipated and the bottom of the mixer bowl is room temperature. Reducing the speed to low, add the butter piece-by-piece. You are creating an emulsion, so all the ingredients should be fully incorporated. Beat for 5 minutes.

Add the vanilla, orange extract, salt and orange juice. Beat until all the ingredients are combined. Refrigerate the mixture for 10 minutes then return the bowl to the stand mixer and beat on medium for 5-10 minutes, or until thickened. If the buttercream is curdled, keep mixing it until thick and silky. The last stage is to add the food colouring.

Assembly
Remove the top domes off each cake. Slice the cakes in half so there are four layers. Place the bottom layer on a cake board and pipe a border of buttercream around the circumference. Fill the center with lemon curd. Top with another cake round and repeat the process three times, always ensuring the cake is level.

Add a thin layer of buttercream to the outside and top of the cake. Then apply a thicker layer around the whole cake, making sure to use all the buttercream.

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