Four tiers of lemon poppyseed sponges, zingy lemon curd, pastry cream, and fresh blueberries.
We are celebrating an odd occasion this weekend…Kristin’s original wedding date. Although the wedding is only postponed with a new date already in the works, it has been odd to think through all of the preparations and events that would be taking place if covid-19 hadn’t changed the landscape of the future. As a way to honor this time and still celebrate in some way, Kristin suggested making an “Un-Wedding Cake” (inspiration from Alice’s un-birthday cake). Springtime has us dreaming of fresh, light flavors and so we went looking for recipes that “married” blueberries and lemon together.
We found Life Made Simple’s lemon poppyseed cake and decided to make our own version including the addition of blueberries throughout the layers. We followed the suggestion to whip the egg whites into a meringue and then fold this into the rest of the cake batter. The result is an absolutely moist, beautifully fluffy sponge that is absolutely divine.
LEMON POPPYSEED CAKE
with pastry cream, lemon curd, and blueberries
adapted from Life Made Simple
We recommend making the lemon curd and pastry cream the day before or in the morning if you’re making the cake for later in the afternoon. While each step of this recipe is straightforward, there are many different elements! The lemon curd and cream will hold-up well in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap pushed down to the surface to help keep a skin from forming.
Also, you can save a lot of time by juicing all your lemons and collecting all your zest ahead of time as each part of the recipe calls for juice and zest. Either Meyer lemons or standard lemons work well. In total, you will need 3/4 cup lemon juice and 3 Tablespoons of zest.
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- pinch o’salt
- 3 eggs (whole eggs!)
- 6 Tbsp. butter cubed – chilled or room temp
- 1 tsp lemon zest (either fine or course – your preference)
In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, salt, and eggs, then put over low heat. As the mixture combines and the sugar begins to melt, add the butter and whisk until incorporated. Cook, whisking every so often, until the mixture begins to thicken (this happens quite suddenly in our experience). Turning the heat to medium-high, continue cooking until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. Turn off the heat.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any bits of egg that separated from the curd. Mix in the lemon zest. Cover with plastic wrap, pushing the plastic against the surface of the curd to help prevent it forming a skin. Place in refrigerator to completely cool before use.
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups half and half
- 4 Tbsp butter (1/2 stick)
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or bean paste
In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, flour, and salt; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the half and half over medium heat until it begins to bubble (not boil).
Now it’s egg tempering time; take your time with this step and really do things gradually. Add a small about of the heated half and half to the egg mixture, whisking fervently as you do so to avoid cooking the eggs. Continue adding a little half and half bit by bit. This slowly heats up the egg mixture so that the eggs incorporate smoothly and don’t scramble.
Once all of your half and half has been incorporated, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. [Now there is a moment when your pastry cream may look like it has failed, and that your eggs have curdled. Just keep stirring and we promise the mixture will smooth out again.]
If you would like the process of painfully pushing this mixture through a sieve for an even smoother texture, go right ahead. However, we decided to skip this step. While still hot, place pastry cream in bowl and mix in the butter, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Cover with plastic wrap pushed down to the surface of the cream to prevent forming a skin. Refrigerate and cool completely before use.
- 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
- 2 cups sugar (Note – 1 cup is used with the egg yolks and 1 cup is used with the egg whites!)
- 6 eggs separated
- 2 cups all-purpose or cake flour
- 2 1/2 Tbsp of poppy seeds
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp lemon zest
- 2/3 cup greek yogurt (reduced or full fat), room temperature
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two 8 or 9-inch springform pans with parchment paper. Alternatively you can liberally butter your pans and dust with flour, however this is not as likely to keep your cakes from sticking!
Using a stand-mixer or hand-mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar together until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes on high setting).
In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, poppy seeds, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
To your sugar-butter mixture, add egg yolks one at a time, fully incorporating each one and scrapping down the sides of the bowl in between each addition. Beat in the lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add 1/3 of the dry flour mixture and combine. Now add 1/3 of the yogurt and combine. Continue alternating and mixing until all of the flour mixture and yogurt are mixed in. No not over-mix!
In a clean mixing bowl, add the eggs whites and remaining 1 cup of sugar. Whip vigorously until they reach stiff, shiny peaks. Fold the meringue into the batter, taking your time, and being careful not to deflate the mix. Do not over-mix.
Divide your batter amongst your cake pans. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, checking with a knife for doneness (knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out easily with little to no batter clinging to it). To avoid over baking, you may choose to check on the cakes every 10-20 minutes. The cakes should be visibly brown on top with no obvious wiggle in the middle when jiggling the oven rack.
Remove from the oven when done and cool for at least 15 minutes in their pans before removing and cooling on a wire rack. Cool completely before assembly.
- Candied lemons: thinly slice 1 lemon. In a wide pan, heat equal parts sugar and water (1 cup to 1 cup) until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon slices and cook until translucent (25-45 minutes depending on thinness). Lay them out on parchment paper and let them dry overnight or at least for several hours.
- 2 cups Blueberries
- poppy seeds for sprinkling
Split each cake in two horizontally to create 4 layers. This can be done carefully with a knife.
On your cake stand or plate, spread a small about of the pastry cream in the center to help stabilize the cake as you build. Add your first layer of sponge. Add 1/4 of your pastry cream, pushing it to the edges and smoothing out. Add 1/4 of your lemon curd, carefully spread it to the edges, making sure not to mix it into the cream below. Press about 1/2 cup blueberries into the layer, making sure they are evenly and generously distributed. Now add your next layer of sponge and repeat this process over again with the cream, curd, and blueberries until you get to your last layer.
For the top of the cake, you should still have about 1/4 of your cream and 1/4 of your curd. Go ahead and smooth out the last of the pastry cream on the top layer in the same way as the other layers. You might at this point choose to smooth out any pastry cream that has escaped the sides of the cake. This cake is a “naked-cake”, so there won’t be any frosting to cover the sides. Pour the last of your lemon curd on the top and carefully smooth it out to the edges, pushing it gently off the edge to create a dripping effect down the side of the cake. Add your candied lemon slices (if using), and decorate with remaining blueberries. Sprinkle on poppyseeds for a final touch.
It is best if you chill this cake for at least 15 minutes before serving (if you can wait that long!). The cake with keep covered in the refrigerator for approximately a week, but honestly we’d be surprised if you didn’t eat it all before then.
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