2020 kicked my butt a little bit. As we all know, it was an incredibly stressful year for a lot of people, myself included. While many people spent a lot more time in the kitchen (remember back in March when finding flour was almost as exciting as finding toilet paper? …there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write), I ended up spending very little time in the kitchen and did not bake much at all.
I know I’m not the only one who was ready to put the entire year behind me on New Year’s. I’ve never really been big on making resolutions, but this year I am resolving to get back in the kitchen regularly. Baking has always been a creative outlet for me, and a way for me to reduce stress. I think we can all agree that less stress and more cake is a good start to making 2021 better than 2020.
So my first less-stress-more-cake contribution to 2021 is these mini lemons sandwich cakes. I just took a basic recipe for white cake, added lemon zest, and baked them in a mini muffin tin before turning them upside down, slicing in half, and filling with homemade lemon curd.
A few points:
When I added the lemon zest to the white cake, I added it to the butter and sugar before creaming them together. When adding zest to cake, I like to add it at this stage so it gets infused into the butterfat – I think this helps carry the flavor through the rest of the cake. I find that when you just fold in zest at the end, the flavor can get lost.
My mini cakes are not flat on the bottom, but this isn’t an issue unless it bothers you aesthetically. (Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.) If you do want a cleaner look, you can slice any domed top off the cakes before turning upside down so they sit flat.
Finally, these are great in the morning with a cup of coffee.
I dusted mine with powdered sugar, but a simple drizzled glaze of powdered sugar mixed with a squeeze of lemon juice would also be good. Or, if you really want to go to town, you will have 3 egg whites leftover from the curd, which you could use to make a meringue to pipe on top and lightly torch for a lemon-meringue-pie mini cake.
- 6 Tbsp butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cup AP flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 egg whites
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp milk
- 3/4 tsp vanilla
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- Zest of 2 lemons
- Juice of 3 large lemons
- 4 Tbsp butter, cubed
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan and then dust with flour. Make sure to take care with this step so your cakes don’t stick (there’s nothing more aggravating).
Make the lemon curd. Stir together the egg yolks, zest, juice, and sugar in a saucepan. Make sure to set aside 3 egg whites to use in the cake (they can be stored in the fridge for a day or two).
Cook, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the curd thickens. This should take about 10 minutes.
Off the heat, stir in the butter pieces until smooth. Pour the curd through a sieve into a bowl; this will catch big chunks of zest or any wayward pieces of cooked egg, and will help ensure a smooth texture. Cover the curd with plastic wrap touching the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
Refrigerate the curd until ready to use, or at least 1 hour. The curd can be made a day or two in advance.
Make the cake. Cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest in a stand mixer.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, milk, and vanilla.
Alternate adding the 1/3 of the flour mixture and 1/2 of the milk mixture to the creamed butter, stirring until just combined after each addition. Begin and end with the flour.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until done. Let the cakes cool for just 2 to 3 minutes before tipping out of pan onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing in half and filling with lemon curd. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!