Monday, July 30, 2012

Meyer Lemon Verbena Cake ~ An Ode to Mother

 Yesterday, we celebrated my amazing mother's birthday at the Mission Inn, in Riverside, CA. If you have never been, its an incredible historic inn, that has a phenomenal brunch on Sundays and awe inspiring Christmas lights in the winter. My mom is beyond incredible, words could never express how profound she is. The is the most seamlessly classy woman, somehow in an incredible effortless and never pretentious way. She is a wizard in the kitchen and at entertaining, she thrives on having a full home with full chairs at the dinner table.  A domestic goddess, she also earns huge marks from a feminist perspective. Super intelligent, my mother has balanced a 35 year teaching career, as well as a 12 year political career, while raising two children, maintaining a successful, loving marriage and countless philanthropic endeavors. My mom taught me the most powerful life lessons through example. As a little girl, I always saw my mom as fearless, unstoppable, focused and beyond strong. As I grow older, I see my mom not only as a superhero mom, but also as one of my dearest friends (don't worry this goes for you too, dad). The oh so special bond between daughter and parents, the unconditional love and deep friendship that we have is one of my most cherished aspects of life. It was such a pleasure to celebrate my wonderful mom, with my incredible family.

My Beautiful Mother and I 
In honor of my mom, I baked her a Meyer Lemon Verbena cake. I wanted something that would taste like summer air - crisp and fresh. This cake turned out very nicely but after a lot of modifications and "winging it" moments in the kitchen. Hopefully, my notes will make this easier on anyone who attempts this! My mom and dad said it tasted like lemon meringue pie as a cake. I made the frosting so it would be light and fluffy but not melt in the heat. We had to pack up the cake and travel for an hour in the summer heat with it, then it had to withstand dinner, then home with my parents. I froze the cake before our trip as well to ensure that it would survive intact. It worked!

Meyer Lemon Verbena Cake 

White Cake:
2 2/3 cups triple sifted flour or cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large egg whites
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lemon verbena - finely chopped (save yourself trouble and buy a plant, this is hard to find in a
grocery market)
2 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lemon Curd:
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice  
a splash of regular fresh lemon juice to taste, maybe a 1/4 cup
2 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest 
1 tablespoon regular lemon zest
1 and 1/2 stick unsalted butter - cubed
2 tablespoons of corn starch if needed 

2 cups heavy cream
1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of granulated sugar - more or less on your taste
1 tablespoon of lemon zest
1 tablespoon of lemon juice - fresh squeezed please!
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the curd: 
This must chill overnight, so plan accordingly. In a large saucepan, (preferably over a double boiler, but if you are cautious you can attempt without) constantly whisk eggs, yolks, sugar, lemon juices, zests over low heat until thick, about 7 minutes until thick. Be cautious not to scorch the curd. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter until incorporated. Chill overnight. If the curd is not your desired thickness, (I wanted mine to be very thick to hold the four layers) you can reheat it and add corn starch until it gets to your desired consistency. Chill.

Bake the cakes: 
I made two batches of this recipe for a total of four layers but either way will work just fine! Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two cake pans and set aside. In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking soda and salt, set aside. In a large bowl, mix egg whites, butter, sugar until combined, then add sour cream, vegetable oil until everything is well combined. Stir in lemon verbena, zest and vanilla. Pour into round cake pans, place in the oven for about 20 minutes or until an insert comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Make the frosting last: 
In a large bowl, mix heavy cream, cream cheese, sugar, zest, juice and vanilla until very thick. Cover and chill.

Assemble the cake: Carefully release the cakes from pans. Place one layer on a plate, spread the curd generously and evenly over the layer, repeat with another layer of cake until all assembled. Make sure its nice and sturdy if you are doing the four layers. Frost the cake.
 My tip: put tin foil in thin strips around where the cake will sit, that way, you can frost away and be messy, then remove foil and it looks like you are the cleanest cake froster in town! I garnished this cake with fresh, homegrown lavender that Todd grew. It was a hit!
The Mission Inn

The Mission Inn 


  1. What a nice post! Your mom was one of my favorite teachers. The cake looks beautiful!

    1. Thank you so much Tricia! I hear that all the time about my mom too! Thank you for reading! :)