I was super excited when I got the October 2012 issue of Bon Appetit with “best-ever layer cakes” on the cover. But not all of them looked that exciting, honestly. Then I signed up to help Zach and Clay of The Bitten Word with their cover-to-cover project — in which readers made every dish in certain food magazines.
I encountered my first problem with this recipe immediately. I simply don’t understand why you have to butter and flour the pans, then put parchment paper in the pans and butter the paper. That doesn’t make sense to me. It is also nearly impossible — the flour makes the paper slide around the bottom of the pan, so buttering the paper is a nightmare.
Then there was the fact that this cake creates so many dirty dishes. For some reason, a magazine that prints recipes for ice cream cake that call for store-bought ice cream is, in this case, making you grind your own almond meal. I wouldn’t mind so much if it make the food processor and the lid attachments dirty, but it does. Ugh.
So, 900 steps later, I finally got the cake in the oven. Then I realized that the lemon curd is supposed to chill for several hours before you can mix it into whipped cream for one of the fillings. It was around this time that I first considered throwing the cake out the window. But I didn’t.
Just for fun, the baking time seems to be off on this. These layers all looked overdone about 10 minutes before the timer went off, but they were fine on the inside.
This lemon curd worked better for me than the time I tried making it before… but I see no reason why you couldn’t just buy a jar of lemon curd when you’re picking up the strawberry jam. It will save you several dishes and you don’t have to worry about 3-4 hours of cooling time.
So, after letting the cake layers and the lemon curd sit overnight, I finally had the lemon cream filling. But I wasn’t done. There was still meringue frosting to be made… and it requires really hot sugar syrup. I don’t know why.
You’re probably starting to see why I was over this cake by this point. But clearly I still needed to assemble it. You don’t have to frost the sides, which is interesting, but there is a lot going on between the layers.
First there’s some strawberry jam, and I would recommend slathering a lot on there since the fruit flavors add a lot to the cake. Next is the lemon cream, and you will (inexplicably) have a ton left over, so go ahead and use a lot. Then you need to pipe a bit of the meringue frosting around the edge.
We’re on the home stretch! Now you just need to put the second layer on, do the jam-lemon cream-meringue thing again, put the third layer on top and glop a bunch of meringue on the top of the cake.
I tried to do the swirly peaks on top like the photo in Bon Appetit, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it to stand up that high. Sigh. But I do think the cake looked pretty cool. And everyone at work loved it. They’re still talking about it weeks later.
So, if you have a reason to spend hours making a cake (for example, trying to impress a boy), this may be the recipe for you. But I don’t think the end result is worth the effort. I’d tweak the recipe so there aren’t so many steps, or try something like chocolate-peanut butter cake instead. Or maybe Smith Island cake. Yum.
In the spirit of the cover-to-cover challenge, I followed Bon Appetit’s recipe as closely as possible. The only real difference is that I didn’t notice it called for 8-inch cake pans, so I used 9-inch pans. If you have any questions about the recipe, please email me or leave a comment. And to see all the recipes from Team Bon Appetit, visit The Bitten Word!