Joni Woolf: A touch of citrus brightens a summertime cake

Published 12:51 pm Saturday, September 2, 2017

We are always eating at Calvary Episcopal Church, so I’m always looking for something different to take to our covered dish lunches. For the past two events, I’ve made an orzo salad, among other things, but last week I wanted to make a cake different from the pound cake I often take. Those have become so easy, over time, and a bit boring, though the cream cheese recipe remains one of the best pound cake recipes, and it never fails me.
I went perusing the cook books, finding time to rearrange them on the shelves and finally counting them. There were only 57, not 60. So, I have been exaggerating. (Still, that’s a pretty good collection.). I considered Italian Cream Cake, but that seemed a bit heavy for an August lunch; I reconsidered the pound cake; then I settled on a “1,2,3,4 cake,” the recipe older than even I am, I suppose. I decided to frost it a little differently. I would make lemon curd to put between the layers, and then make a cooked frosting to cover the finished cake. It turned out well enough. I would have liked for the seven-minute frosting to have formed a somewhat crusty finish, but it didn’t. Still, it made a nice presentation and I suppose the best measure of any cake is that it was all consumed.

1,2,3,4 Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each one. Sift together flour and baking powder and add to batter alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla. Beat just until all ingredients are blended. Divide batter into three, 9-inch pans that have been lined with parchment paper, a little Crisco, and a dusting of flour. Bake until cake tests done, about 25 minutes. Let layers cool on wire racks 15 minutes, then invert onto rack and let cool.

Lemon Curd (this is almost too easy)
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
3 eggs, thoroughly beaten
In non-aluminum saucepan, combine first four ingredients. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Pour eggs into hot mixture, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring constantly about 5 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Pour into air-tight jar if you don’t plan to use right away. Keeps in refrigerator up to three weeks. For cake filling, let cool to room temperature before applying to layers.

Louise Dodd’s Seven Minute Icing
1 ½ cups sugar
2 egg whites
5 tablespoons water
Pinch of cream of tartar
6 large marshmallows (or 60 small ones)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Put all ingredients except vanilla in top of double boiler over simmering water. (Water should not touch top container.)  Cook, beating constantly with an electric mixer at high speed for about 7 minutes or until icing becomes stiff and glossy. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
Now, to put it all together: Put one layer on cake plate and pour almost half the curd over the layer. Place the second layer over this and repeat the process. (You may have to secure the layers with toothpicks; the curd tends to cause the layers to slide around a bit.) Add third layer and repeat process, using the remaining two or three tablespoons of curd to spread thinly on top layer. Now cover entire cake with the Seven Minute Icing, being careful not to smear the curd into the icing. Some time ago, I candied strips of lemon peel and keep them in the freezer. They make a nice topping for a cake with lemon inside so that diners might have a hint as to what’s inside. Of course, when most of us are choosing a slice of cake, we’re not that picky. If it has cooked white frosting, we’ll pick it up and take our chances.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at