have you ever gone to an amusement park or the zoo and gotten one of those frozen lemonade things you squeeze out of a tube? at first they’re so cold they paralyze your front teeth and brain, and then a few minutes later they’ve completely melted into warm sticky goo. there is a sweet spot, however, where the lemonade is perfectly frosty and refreshing. that’s what this cake tastes like. while chilling in the fridge, the lemon syrup moistens each layer, the preserves thicken, and the tangy frosting sets. oh yeah, and i stuck lemonheads in it for some crunch! it tastes like pure summer.
heads up: this cake takes a long time and requires chilling overnight. you also need a cake ring and a 6×20 inch piece of acetate. if you don’t want to buy either of those, you can just stack and fill the layers like a normal cake. if you do that, i would recommend doing four layers and not six.
cake (adapted from cooking classy)
- 3 1/3 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon zest (from about 6 lemons)
- 1 cup butter, room temperature
- 6 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- pink gel food coloring
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup strawberry preserves
- 1/2 cup lemonhead candies
preheat oven to 350º. grease and line one full jelly roll or sheet pan (13×18) with parchment paper. whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. add sugar and lemon zest to the the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. rub lemon zest with sugar using your fingertips, until the mixture becomes moist and pale yellow. add butter to sugar mixture and whip on medium speed until pale and fluffy. mix in eggs one at a time, adding in vanilla with last egg.
whisk together the milk and sour cream in a glass measuring cup. heat mixture in microwave just until no longer cold (you want room temp).
working in three separate batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, add 1/3 of the flour mixture (to the butter/sugar mixture) alternating with 1/2 of the milk mixture and 2 tbsp lemon juice (each time), and mixing just until combined after each addition. mix in food coloring until desired color is reached. bake 15-20 minutes, tenting with foil if browning too fast. remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes in pan, then invert onto a wire rack, or just a large piece of parchment paper on your counter if you don’t have a rack big enough.
for the syrup, combine lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. reduce heat and whisk until sugar dissolves. remove from heat.
for the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) until fluffy. add the powdered sugar and beat for five minutes. beat in the extract, zest, and juice. if too thin, add more sugar. if too thick, add more juice.
to assemble, cut out six 6-inch circles from the cake using a cake ring. you won’t be able to get six complete circles, but you can cut out semi-circles and smush them together. line the cake ring with a strip of acetate. put in your messiest layer of cake. brush with a bit of syrup. using a spatula or a bent spoon, smooth on some frosting. make sure to spread it all the way to the edges. sprinkle with lemonheads. repeat with another layer, more syrup, and frosting, but instead of lemonheads, spread on half of the strawberry preserves. repeat again with lemonheads. repeat again with preserves. repeat again with lemonheads. you should have one layer of cake left. put it on the top, don’t brush it with syrup, and frost (try and get it super smooth!). freeze overnight.
a few hours before serving, remove cake from the freezer. take off the cake ring and peel away the acetate. if desired, pipe a border of rosettes along the top edge. refrigerate until ready to eat!