We made this for my dad’s birthday – three layers of lemon sponge, sandwiched with homemade lemon curd and mascarpone, a combination idea we got from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, one of our most-used baking books. The sponge was just a sponge; it was the filling that really made this. Homemade lemon curd is fabulous, more lemon-y than the bought stuff, but with none of the bitterness or acidity. We made rather a lot, but I’m fairly sure the spare will quickly be used up on toast!
I have to confess, this only ended up as a triple-layer cake because we made the three egg sponge mix before realising that the two 7-inch tins we had planned to use were, in fact, two 8-inch tins. Actually, we only noticed once we had put the mix in them and thought it didn’t look like much…! So we quickly switched to 6-inch tins, which worked fine, and I feel like three layers just seems that bit more indulgent, which is fitting for a birthday cake!
Homemade lemon curd (from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course)
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
150g caster sugar
100g butter, cut into small pieces
– Place the sugar and lemon zest in a bowl small enough to sit over a pan.
– Whisk the eggs and lemon juice together, then pour this mix over the sugar.
– Add the chopped butter to the bowl.
– Heat a little water in a pan until it is just simmering, then place the bowl over the pan. Keep an eye on the water to make sure it stays at that just-simmering point, whilst stirring the ingredients constantly.
– Heat the ingredients in this way, stirring all the time, until the mixture has thickened. This took us about 20 minutes (the recipe said 10 minutes for half this quantity). It keeps thickening once off the heat, so remove it when it has almost reached the consistency you want, but not quite!
For the sponge, you can use any 3-egg sponge recipe, adding the zest and juice of a lemon, and divide between three 6-inch cake tins. We used the all-in-one recipe from Nigella’s book, which didn’t rise very well (perhaps because it is made in a food processor) but kept better than my usual recipe (Delia’s):
250g butter at room temperature
250g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon baking powder
– Preheat oven to 180c and grease and line 3 6-inch cake tins.
– Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and well combined.
– Divide between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes.
When assembling the cake, you need around 150g mascarpone cheese and roughly two-thirds of the lemon curd.Use both between each layer, and simply sprinkle icing sugar over the top. As you can see from the photos, the lemon curd tended to spill out of the sides, which wasn’t exactly intentional but I thought it looked quite nice so I left it like that!