November 06, 2014
My close friend Susan Merrill challenged me to make her a Limoncello cake as good as the one she sampled recently in Sarasota. The cost of that cake in Sarasota was $80 – which I thought was a bit high…but after creating a cake of my own, I can see why the cost is so high.
I decided to make a mousse and layer it with Limoncello soaked cake using a spring form pan. Well, it turned out great, and Susan said it was better than the original she had in Sarasota (it had to be different for I had never tasted the original). It is now one of Susan’s favorite cakes – mine too.
Limoncello is an extremely popular liqueur in Italy. It is mainly produced in southern Italy especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula, and the coast of Amalfi, and the islands of Procida, Ischia, and Capri.
There are many fine Limoncello liqueurs on the market which can be found at any liquor store. However, if you are adventurous and want to make your own – it is simple to make, and you will find it well worth your efforts. I listed my recipe at the end of this recipe.
For the purposes of this cake, I use the fine quality Italian brand Villa Massa.
This is my standard “go-to” yellow cake I use for a lot of recipes…cupcakes, Boston cream pie, strawberry lush cake, caramel cake, southern coconut cake…I could go on-and-on. It can be made well in advance and frozen. I often make a few layers and freeze them for those spur of the moment occasions a dessert is needed…like always.
The butter, eggs, and milk should all be at room temperature. I leave them out for at least 4 to 6 hours.
If you are ever in a hurry, and you have forgotten to leave them out – there is a tried and true method to get them to the right temp.
Unwrap butter, place on dish and melt on one side for 10 seconds, turn it over and melt another 10 seconds. It is important to watch the butter while in the microwave for you want it soft, not melted. Depending on your microwave it may take a second or two longer or shorter.
Milk can also be warmed in the microwave, but make sure you do this in 5 to 10 second increments – you want it at room temp not warm or hot.
Lastly, place your eggs in a bowl and run hot tap water over them for about 15 seconds or so…depending on how hot your tap water is.
- 2 sticks salted butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 extra-large eggs
- 2 & 2/3 cups All Purpose Flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 ½ teaspoons high quality vanilla
- 2 – 10” round cake pans
- 1 – 10” Spring Form Pan
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your cake pans with pan baking spray.
In a mixer on the medium high setting, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and continue beating until light and fluffy, up to 5 minutes.
Sift the dry ingredients together. This is an important step. I use a large bowl with a fine strainer. A sifter is great if you have one. Remember too, that baking is a science, so be very precise in measuring all ingredients.
Use dry measuring spoons and cups. Never use measuring cups meant for wet ingredients for you have to tap them down to get them level and you don’t get a perfect measurement. Level the dry measures off with the flat edge of a knife.
It drives me crazy to see these TV chefs (Pioneer Women – who I love) scoop flour up and not level them off…it gives the not so talented cook the license to do the same. If you notice, Ina Garten and Martha Stewart always level their dry ingredients.
Gradually, and alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mix into the butter, sugar, and egg mixture. It is important not to over mix the flour. Doing so will activate the gluten and make the cake tough. Just lightly mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated – using your spatula to get the bottom of the bowl ingredients thoroughly combined.
Fill your cake pans evenly. I use a scale for I want as close to equal amounts in each pan as possible. You don’t want unequal amounts for the baking time will be off, and the layers will be uneven. If you don’t have a scale – use a wet measuring cup.
Once the pans are filled, tap them down and swirl, which evens out the batter and takes most of the holes out.
Place in oven and bake for at least 20 to 25 minutes. Because oven temperatures are often off, I recommend testing with an oven thermometer which can be purchased at any grocery store.
Start looking at the cake at the 20 minute mark. It should be done in 25 to 35 minutes. If the cake is separating from the edges, take it out. At this point it may be overdone. Most of the time, I will test with a toothpick at about the 25 minute mark. When sticking it into the center, if it comes out clean – it’s done. When you get more expert, you will be able to tell when a cake is done just by the feel of the cake…by lightly pressing it in the center to see if it springs back.
Once the cake is done – place on racks for exactly 10 minutes, then turn out of the pans and let cool on racks until completely cooled. If you want to freeze them, use plastic wrap, and wrap them twice. You will only need one of these layers for this Limoncello Mousse Cake…so freeze the other for future use.
If you are making the Limoncello Mousse Cake immediately, cut one of the layers in half and place half cut side up in spring form pan. Liberally brush the entire cake with straight Limoncello (close to a ½ cup per layer). It should be soaked like a rum cake.
Layer lemon mousse (recipe below) so it is a bit over an inch and a half on top of the soaked yellow cake layer…and put the other sliced yellow cake layer on top (cut side up) of the mousse and repeat. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or even better overnight. If you are in a hurry, you can place in the freezer for approximately 1.5 hours and refrigerate for an additional 3 hours – but it is always best if all the flavors have time to meld together overnight.
Decorate with fresh raspberries and white chocolate curls…or leave it alone and dig in with a fork.
Ok, screw-ups happen to us all. Some of my best creations have come from screw-ups. Here are a couple ways to fix this yellow cake if something negative happens.
OVER BAKED or FALLS ON THE COUNTER AND BREAKS APART:
Perfect for an English Trifle where you layer pieces of cake with macerated fresh berries (lightly sweetened with sugar and maybe some fine liqueur), cream filling, and topped with whipped cream in a beautiful clear glass bowl.
It can also be used for any cake using a coulis and or liqueur. Cut the over baked layers in half and liberally brush with Grand Marnier, layer with fresh sliced strawberries and top with whipped cream – keep layering. Refrigerate and serve in an hour or even the next day.
This delicious lemon curd is very different from the lemon filling I make for my lemon meringue pie which has corn starch as the thickener. This curd for the mousse uses only eggs to thicken, and it can be used in so many ways.
This recipe can also be made substituting limes for an incredible lime curd. Fill a small sterling silver bowl with the chilled curd and surround with beautiful fresh strawberries and it is perfect for a buffet table for brunch or evening.
- 4 lemons at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 stick salted butter at room temperature
- 4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
- 1 dash of salt – about an 1/8 teaspoon
- Double Boiler
Before they are squeezed, zest enough lemons to secure a tablespoon of lemon zest (2 to4 depending on the size of your lemons). You can use a microplane zester (which is the easiest method), or even a box grater.
Place all ingredients in your double boiler bowl and whisk until the eggs are well blended. The butter will not blend until it is warmed significantly after placing on the pre-heated double boiler.
If you do not have a double boiler, place an appropriate size stainless steel bowl over a pot with boiling water (using medium to medium high heat). Make sure the bowl does not touch the water. You want indirect heat and if boiling water touches the surface of the bowl, it is just like cooking on top or a hot burner directly.
Whisk slowly until the curd thickens so you can coat the back of a spoon. It is important not to overcook the curd for it will curdle and have a bad texture. Let cool completely. If you are in a hurry (and it seems as though I always am), ladle curd onto a baking sheet and place in the freezer for about 10 minute – that will cool it down fast.
I learned to make chocolate mousse when I was going to school as an undergraduate at the University of Dijon in Dijon, France. I was there to learn the language, not for cooking, but cooking (and eating) I did.
The French word mousse is translated in English to FOAM. A true French mousse should be foam like – light and airy…delicate if you will. I love mousse of any kind…key lime, Kara Kara orange, pomegranate, and even pumpkin.
Actually, a mouse is really easy to make. In addition to the ingredients, the key to a light and airy foam-like mousse is how delicately you fold in the whipped cream and the meringue to the curd. Watch the video.
- 1 ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoons high quality vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon Limoncello
Place all ingredients in a chilled bowl and whip at high speed until very thick. Be careful, over mixing will make butter. I’ll teach you how to make delicious homemade butter another time.
- 4 egg whites – room temperature
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon Limoncello
Place all ingredients in a clean chilled bowl (make sure there is no fat of any kind in bowl) and whip at high speed until stiff peaks form.
Put the lemon curd in a chilled large bowl, and gently fold in the whipped cream about two cups cream at a time. You fold by carefully placing your spatula through the center turning into the sides and through the middle again until totally blended together as one.
Do the same (even more gently) with the meringue. The reason I say even more gently is this is where the foam comes from, and you do not want to deflate your egg whites as you fold them into the curd and whipped cream mixture.
After making the cake, if you have extra mousse, ladle into cups or ramekins and chill. Top with fresh raspberries.
HOMEMADE LIMONCELLO RECIPE
Remove the peel from the lemon(s) with a vegetable peeler. You just want the yellow portion with no white pith. In a 2-quart jar with a lid, combine lemon peels and vodka, cover and let sit for 4 days at room temperature.
In a saucepan combine sugar and water, stir, and place over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves (without more stirring) – about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour into lemon vodka mixture, cover and let sit for a month in the refrigerator. Strain and enjoy.