We love eating lemon creme cake at our favorite Italian restaurants although each restaurant’s version is very different. It’s extremely intense lemon flavor makes it a perfect summer dessert. If you love lemon, you really should try it! I am using a simple cake mix, and the cake and the curd and even the mousse can be made ahead.
LEMON CURD (MAKE AHEAD) (ADAPTED FROM KARLA EVERETT’S LEMON CURD RECIPE)
8 large egg yolks, reserve whites of three, room temperature
1 1/2 c sugar
2/3 c fresh lemon juice (from 7-8 zested lemons, egg-sized)
lemon zest, finely grated from the 7-8 lemons used for the juice
1 stick chopped butter
3 tsp lemon extract
CAKE (IT’S EASIER IF MADE AHEAD)
10-inch springform pan
1 Duncan Hines moist deluxe white cake mix
1 box lemon pudding and pie filling, not instant, 3 oz.
3 egg whites, reserved from some of the 8 yolks used in the curd (room temperature)
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1 1/3 c water
LEMON MASCARPONE MOUSSE (SHOULD BE MADE SEVERAL HOURS AHEAD AND PLACED IN THE FRIDGE)
3 pkg mascarpone cream, room temperature, 8 oz. each
1 recipe lemon curd (made ahead and cooled)
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 Tbsp lemon extract
1 Tbsp limoncello liqueur
LIMONCELLO SOAKING LIQUID
2/3 c water
zest of two lemons, egg sized
6 Tbsp white granulated sugar
2 tsp lemon extract
7-8 Tbsp limoncello, lemon flavored liqueur
optional: white chocolate bar for grating
mint and lemon slices or
raspberries and raspberry sauce
1. LEMON CURD: (Make Ahead) Roll room temperature lemons to loosen the juice inside. Then zest 7-8 lemons using a fine grater. Cut lemons and use a strainer to strain seeds from juice as you squeeze into a bowl.
Limoncello Creme Cake2. Separate the 8 egg yolks and reserve 3 whites for the cake.
3. In the top of a double boiler, mix egg yolks, sugar, the 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, and the lemon zest from all of the lemons.
4. Bring the double boiler to simmer and keep it there. Simmer and whisk constantly. Both the temperature and the whisking are necessary to prevent curdling. Simmer and whisk 10 minutes in this fashion until it becomes a thick pudding-like consistency.
5. Remove from heat and whisk in lemon extract. Add butter.
6. Whisk until it dissolves completely.
7. For a smooth lemon curd, strain the curd to remove the zest. You can leave it, though. I leave it in because I like the slight chewiness one gets from the zest.
8. Once the curd is strained, it’s nice and smooth like pudding.
9. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap touching the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Place bowl in the refrigerator to cool completely. This will be used to make the mascarpone mousse. (My curd makes around 2 cups, and whatever the recipe makes, I use it ALL in the mousse.)
10. CAKE: (Can bake the cake a day ahead.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Spray cooking spray onto the pan. Place parchment paper in the bottom, and then spray paper too. Dust slightly with some dry cake mix.
11. Mix pudding mix and cake mix. Then add 3 egg whites, 2 tablespoons of oil, and 1 1/3 cup of water until the cake mix is moist. Mix 2 minutes (according to package directions).
12. Pour into springform pan. Place this into a larger roasting pan in case of leaking.
13. Place into the oven for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
14. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before removing springform sides.
15. After removing springform sides, place the cake in the freezer for cooling. If baking the night before, I place it into the refrigerator and then place it into the freezer for about 2 hours the morning before I assemble the cake.
16. LEMON MASCARPONE MOUSSE: (Should also be made several hours before assembling to help the mousse set up before assembling.) Whip mascarpone until smooth. Continue to beat while adding sugar and lemon extract.
17. Check to see that sugar is dissolved. Then continue to beat while adding lemon curd. (If you stop beating while adding these ingredients, the acid of the lemon could curdle the mascarpone.)
18. Add limoncello while beating. When it’s smooth, chill in the refrigerator. (I do not remove all of the zest caught in the beaters or wire whip. There will still be some in the mousse.)
19. LIMONCELLO SOAKING LIQUID: Combine water, sugar, and lemon zest in a saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring consistently until sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the heat up to medium-high and bring the syrup to a boil.
20. Remove the pan from heat and let sit for 2 minutes. Strain the liquid to remove lemon zest.
21. Stir in the limoncello and the lemon extract. Keep the syrup covered until ready to assemble the cake.
22. TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Remove cooled cake from the freezer. Using a bread knife, carefully split layer into two layers, cutting all of the way through. Remove top layer, carefully, to wax paper with the cut side up. Carefully, loosen the bottom of the springform pan from the bottom layer by sliding knife or spatula between parchment paper and pan bottom. Then slide cake onto a cake plate with the cut side up.
23. Using a pastry brush or a spoon, put limoncello soaking liquid on each layer. (This is why I use the springform pan and cut the layers instead of using two or three round cake pans. The cut layers really allow the liquid to absorb into the cake.)
24. Using half of the mascarpone mousse on the layer of cake on the cake plate, smooth it out, and then place it into the freezer until well set. If you rush this, the mousse will squeeze out when the other layer is placed upon it. Return other layers to the freezer also.
25. Carefully, place the top layer onto the frosted bottom layer.
26. Spread mousse along the top of the cake. You can frost the sides of the cake if you want, but I do not always do that.
27. Grate white chocolate on top of the mascarpone mousse. Chill cake for several hours. It takes a while for the mousse to firm up and it’s even better the day after it’s assembled.
28. GARNISHES: When slicing, you may garnish with fresh mint and a lemon slice. Or, it looks really great garnished with a raspberry and some raspberry sauce.
29. NOTE: This can be made alcohol free by omitting the limoncello in the mousse, by increasing the sugar in the soaking liquid, and using lemon juice instead of limoncello.