Thursday, May 9, 2013

Michael's Limoncello Cream Cake

Every year for Michael's birthday, he comes up with some crazy elaborate, delicious, ridiculously rich, and usually involving chocolate/peanut butter monstrosity of a cake request. Yikes, that was a crazy run-on description!  For a few years, I'm pretty sure he and his brother, Josh, were in a competition to see who could get the best, most decadent cake out of me.  So when he requested an Italian cream type cake this year, I was a bit surprised (and honestly excited).  I decided to make a limoncello cream cake using his homemade limoncello (we are currently working on a post for this, too!).  Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur made by infusing alcohol with lemon zest, then adding simple syrup.  It's traditionally served very cold (stored in freezer) and sipped in small amounts as a pallet cleanser.   But back to the cake....

I started looking for inspiration, searching for lemon cream cake recipes similar to those at some of our favorite restaurants.  A few days into my search, I came across this recipe which is based on several other recipes... we all get inspiration from somewhere, right?  It was the closest thing to what I wanted, and with a few minor additions/changes, it was perfect for my Michael.  The only real changes I made were using limoncello in both the lemon curd, and in place of the lemon simple syrup, as well as adding a layer of limoncello soaked lady fingers to the center of the cake.  The result was lovely, luscious, lemony layers (go ahead, say that 5 times fast!).  The hardest part of this cake (aside from trying to make it while Peanut 1. destroyed the house, 2. constantly asked to be picked up, 3. threw a fit because she couldn't have the microplane zester), was that it was time consuming.  Not only do the steps take awhile, but there are several times throughout the process that the curd, cake, filling, etc. just has to be chilled.  Needless to say, this will be a special ocassion cake.  As I said before, the majority of the recipe and directions are from Sara Schewe's recipe from, but here's how Mama makes it:

Limoncello Cream Cake

Lemon Curd
adapted from Sherry Yard’s Secrets of Baking
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 c. limoncello (alternatively, use 1 c. lemon juice and omit limoncello)
  • 3 whole eggs (large), at room temp
  • 4 egg yolks (large), at room temp (reserve whites for cake)
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, diced 

1. Fill a medium saucepan 3/4 of the way full with cold water and heat over medium heat. Make an ice bath (ice and cold water) with a medium-sized bowl, set aside.

2. Zest the lemons and combine the zest and sugar in the food processor and blitz for about a minute to make lemon sugar.

3. Juice the lemons and limes, add limoncello, set aside.

4. In a large heatproof glass bowl, combine the lemon sugar, eggs, and egg yolks, and whisk for about 30 seconds.

Place bowl over simmering water until sugar melts (rub a little egg mixture between your thumb and finger – the sugar has dissolved when it no longer feels gritty). Pour in lemon/lime juice.

Whisk until curd is the consistency of sour cream and reaches 160 F. Remove from heat and start whisking in the butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated. Pour the curd through a sieve to remove any zest or lumps. Place bowl in ice bath and place sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to cool quickly and prevent a skin from forming on the curd.

5. The curd can be refrigerated up to a week ahead of time.

adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
  • 2 cups + 1 ½ teaspoons all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup + 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
  • 4 large egg whites (reserve yolks for lemon curd)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 

1. Preheat oven to 350*F.  Prepare two 9 inch round pans by buttering, lining the bottom in parchment, buttering again, and dusting with flour (there should be no shiny spots on the pan if it's all covered).  Sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.

thinking out loud:  have you ever sifted using a wire mesh strainer?
2. Whisk egg whites, buttermilk, and vanilla in large measuring cup.

3. With a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix sugar and lemon zest on low to release the zest’s oils. Add butter and cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.

4. Reduce speed to low. Add flour and milk in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Increase speed to medium high for a minute to incorporate more air.

5. Divide batter between two 9-inch round baking pans lined with parchment. Bake 30-35 minutes at 350*F or until an inserted cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pans, remove parchment, and cool completely on wire racks (right-side up).

Lemon Simple Syrup (I used limoncello in place of this, but here's an alcohol-free alternative)
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) sugar
  • 3/4 cup (177 mL) water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Cool.

  • 1 batch lemon curd (see above)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • lady fingers
  • 1/4 c. limoncello

1. Beat cream cheese and sugar until well blended. Mix in lemon curd on low speed.

2. Whip cream to stiff peaks. Fold cream into lemon mixture by hand. Refrigerate.

when is the last time you whipped cream by hand?
let me tell you, it's very tiring...
yet fulfilling...
but mostly tiring...

Vanilla Crumb Topping
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) cold butter, cut into 20 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 Vanilla Wafer crumbs (my addition, adds a little texture)

1. In a blender or food processor, process wafers into fine crumbs.  In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, butter, crumbs, and vanilla with fingers until clumps form. Separate clumps into small crumbs.

To assemble:

1.  I found it was easier to assemble this cake using a spring form pan.  Place first layer, bottom-side up, in the bottom of a spring form pan. Brush with limoncello.

2.  Remove 1 cup of the lemon filling, set aside.  Spoon half of the remaining filling over the cake, then top with limoncello soaked lady fingers. 

3.  Spoon other half of the remaining filling, then top with second cake layer, dome side up. Brush with limoncello or simple syrup.  Refrigerate for about an hour or longer to allow the cake to set.

4.  Remove from pan and place on cake pedestal.  Spread thin layer of lemon filling on top and sides of cake. Press crumb topping into frosting to adhere. Refrigerate, again. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before cutting and serving.

messy looking?
no worries, it will come together

see, better already

make another mess with the crumb topping...

and there you have it!

If you love this recipe, check out Making Mama's Kitchen cookbook, now available for pre-sale!!

happy hubby :)


  1. Thank you for sharing this. I've made it several times and everybody loves it. I looked through a lot of limoncello cake recipes, but your's is the best.

    1. Thank you! You made my morning :) I am glad you've enjoyed it. Did you see I published my first cookbook?! Check out the store section if you'd like to purchase one and I'll be glad to send you a signed copy. Choose local pickup and I'll waive the shipping! Just be sure to type in your address so I know where to send it :) All proceeds are going towards our adoption fund. Have a great day and thanks again for starting mine with a smile!