This lemony cake soars above all others in my repertoire, making it the soprano of golden lemon cakes. (It is the counterpart to the Chocolate Domingo from The Cake Bible, which I call the tenor of chocolate cakes.) It is extraordinarily light, tender, moist, and lemony — in a word: divine. It required 17 tests to perfect the texture. The breakthrough came with the discovery of beating the whites beyond the stiff peak stage, which gave higher volume, and raising the oven temperature slightly to set the structure more quickly. This cake is dedicated to my favorite soprano of the golden voice: the incomparable Renée Fleming. The special garnish is a stardust trail of powdered golden lemon zest.
4 large eggs, separated, plus 1 additional egg white, at room temperature
¼ cup canola or safflower oil, at room temperature
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp lemon zest, finely grated
¼ tsp pure lemon oil, preferably Boyajian
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (Note: unbleached all-purpose flour prevents the cake from deflating significantly.)
¾ cup superfine sugar
1¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350°F (325°F if using a dark pan).
Combine egg yolks, oil, water, lemon zest, lemon oil, and vanilla.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater: mix flour, all but 1 tablespoon of sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Make a well in the center. Add the egg mixture to the well and beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until very thick, about 1½ minutes. Set aside.
In a separate bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater: beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy. Gradually raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised.
Beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue beating until very stiff clumps form when the beater is raised, about 2 minutes.
Gently fold the meringue into the batter in three parts.
Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into a 9×3-inch springform pan. Run a small offset spatula in circles through the batter to prevent air pockets and smooth the surface.
Insert the rose nail, base side down, into the center of the batter so that it sits on the bottom of the pan. (The batter should fill a 3-inch-high pan just under half-full.)
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The cake will dome above the top of the pan. Avoid opening the oven door before the minimum baking time or the fragile cake could fall. Watch carefully. When the cake lowers slightly, and a wooden skewer inserted between the sides and the center comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven.
Let the cake sit for about 1 minute, just until it is no longer higher than the rim of the pan. Immediately invert the cake, still in the pan, onto the prepared wire rack and let it cool for about 1½ hours, or until the outside of the pan is cool to the touch.
Invert the pan again. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing it firmly against the pan and moving it in a sideways manner.
Remove the cake strips and the sides of the springform and release the bottom of the cake from the bottom of the pan, pressing the spatula against the bottom of the pan. Invert the cake and lift off the pan bottom.
Remove the rose nail and reinvert the cake onto a serving plate.
Excerpted from The Baking Bible, © 2014 by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.