A truly gorgeous citrus cake with lemon syrup and a creamy lemon curd filling. Top with some candles for a luxurious birthday treat. Taken from The Birthday Cake Book by Fiona Cairns (Quadrille, £18.99)
- For the meringues:
- 2 egg whites, at room temperature
- 120g white icing sugar, sifted
- For the cake:
- 250g unsalted butter, softened, diced, plus more for the tins
- 250g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Finely grated zest of 2 large unwaxed lemons and juice of 1
- 250g golden caster sugar
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- For the syrup:
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 5 tbsp caster sugar
- To fill and decorate:
- 300g crème fraîche or mascarpone
- 300g lemon curd, preferably home made
- 100g flaked almonds, lightly toasted
- Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
To make the meringues, preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place the egg whites and icing sugar in a scrupulously clean and dry metal or glass bowl and, using an electric hand-held whisk, whisk until they form soft, shiny, marshmallowy peaks. This will take eight to 10 minutes.
Drop tablespoons of the mixture on to the prepared tray and bake for 35–45 minutes. They are ready when they are crisp on the outside and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Increase the oven temperature to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Butter two 20cm round sandwich tins and line the bases with baking parchment.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl, then add the lemon zest, sugar, butter and eggs. Beat together and lastly add the lemon juice. Do not over-mix.
Divide the batter between the two tins. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until a skewer emerges clean.
Meanwhile make the syrup by mixing the juice and sugar in a bowl. As soon as the cakes come from the oven, prick them all over with a cocktail stick and spoon over the syrup. Allow to cool in the tins on a wire rack. When cold, remove the papers. Trim each cake level, and split in half horizontally.
Mix the crème fraîche lightly with the lemon curd, so that it is marbled, not completely blended.
Then, place one of the cakes on to a plate or cake stand. Spread with some of the crème fraîche mixture, and repeat to make four layers. Spread the crème fraîche mixture all over the top and sides. Lightly press the almonds all around the sides.
Place the meringues on top, you may not need them all. Finish with a sprinkling of lemon zest.