Lemon Debutante Cake

I am on a journey to learn more cakes, to learn new techniques, and to end up with at least a dozen different cakes that all taste equally amazing but where do you start? For years I had been doing a white cake that included white chocolate in the batter. I enjoy this cake but knew it was time to start trying more things. It’s not to say I wouldn’t make that cake again but I wanted to expand my arsenal. I wanted to achieve at least once cake a month that was a unique flavor and could support the season it was featured in. Being that it’s spring now it got me thinking of what flavors could I highlight. 

When I first started thinking about spring I thought about berries. Though these are spring then tend to come more towards the end of spring rather than the beginning. Then recently I was talking though my local co-op and noticed that citrus was the big things right now. They had more potions than I had ever seen before. This was kind of my aw-ha moment. As soon as I knew citrus was going to be my focus I knew what the next cake needed to be. Miette‘s Lemon Debutante Cake.

In my recipe gatherings over the years I had offend seen something called a lemon daisy cake. There’s something that the pale yellow and the innocence of the daisy that seemed so fitting to me. So I set out on this new cake.

Not knowing what to expect or what the challenges would be I began with making the cake. I should start with saying the my final cake was slightly over baked, leaving a dryer cake then I would have liked, and I didn’t get the height that I wanted. All in all thought this cake proved interesting enough that I will give it another go to see if I can get the lift and texture that I am looking for.

The cake is something Meitte calls a Hot Milk Cake. It’s like a genoise cake in that you start it in a bain-marie but it has the addition of dairy and baking powder. Before I get into the recipe I wanted to share a little how I approached some of my baking recipes lately as well as why I didn’t get the height I was hoping for on this cake.

So the recipe called for two six-inch round cake tins. I used two nine-inch square tins. Oh, and I didn’t increase the recipe. Silly me. I knew they were bigger but I didn’t know just how much so.

Recently I purchased a magazine called “Bake” in it they had a feature on a cookbook author for a book called The Bakers Appendix: The Essential Kitchen Companion by Jessica Reed. Long ago I learned the joys of metric cooking and baking versus imperial so learning that this book was designed to assist with all those pesky conversions I was excited. When I looked on Amazon I was thrilled to discover that this little book was only $11!

This book offers tons of conversions from liquids, to temperatures, and to powders. She even offers things like the volume of different sizes of cake tins and all the weights of all the parts of the egg in every size. All of this is hugely helpful when trying to figure out where something has gone wrong and how to correct it. When looking at the cake tin volumes I was able to see that the recipe called for tins that would make 4 cups of batter per tin and the tins I opted to use hold 10 cups. As you can see this is why I didn’t get the volume I was looking for. Now I know to double the recipe when I do this again. I wouldn’t have been able so easily access the problem with out this book.

The Hot Milk Cake

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray 2 nine-inch square pans with non-stick cooking spray and line with parchment. Sift together the following ingredients and set aside.

  • 184 grams All-purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt

In the microwave heat the following ingredients enough to melt the butter. Then set aside and cool to 85ºF.

  • 113 grams Unsalted Butter
  • ½ cup Whole Milk

Set up a bain-marie by putting a pot on the stove with about an inch of water and bring to a simmer. In a heat proof bowl that will sit on the pot whisk together the:


  • 300 grams Granulated Sugar
  • 3 large Eggs
  • ½ teaspoon Vanilla

Whisk these ingredients together until the mixture reaches 110ºF. The key here is to gently warm. Don’t have the pot at a roaring bowl. (Now I have to say I don’t know how ANYONE can whisk for 7-10 minutes straight. After about 1 minute or so my shoulder and wrist start to scream at me. Then it hit me, of corse after I was done, that I have an emersion blender set that has a whisk attachment that I could have used! Next time.)

Once the mixture has hit temperature and the sugar has melted pour the contents into a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high for 10 minutes to thicken and cool the mixture to 85ºF. Stop the mixture and add the dry ingredients. Mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the milk and butter mixture just until well blended and smooth. Stop the mixer, remove the bowl, scraped down the side and gently stir to ensure any unmixed bits get worked in.

Divide the mixture between the prepared pans. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes fully cool before assembling. Once the cake is cool brush it with lemon simple syrup. This couldn’t be easier to make:

Lemon Simple Syrup

In a small sauce pan combine

  • 4 fl ounces Water
  • 2 fl ounces Lemon Juice
  • 50 grams Granulated Sugar

Place on the stove and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stir to resolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved remove from the heat, let cool, store in the fridge in an airtight container.

While You’re waiting for the cake and the syrup to cool move on to the lemon curd.

Lemon Curd


Set up a bain-marie by putting a pot on the stove with about an inch of water and bring to a gentle simmer. In a heat proof bowl that will sit on the pot whisk together the:

  • 200 grams Granulated Sugar
  • 4 fl ounces Lemon Juice (about 4 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon of Lemon Zest (I always use the zest from all the lemons I juice)
  • 7 large Egg Yolks

Whisk the mixture occasionally, cook the mixture until it thickens considerably and reaches a temperature of about 172ºF.

Remove from the heat and let cool for 20 minutes at room temperature. At that time the temperature should be about 140ºF add in:

  • 113 grams Unsalted Butter, room temperature, cubed

Mix in well. If it’s looking lump you can use a immersion blender to puree the mixture. Pour the contents into a storage container or a bowl and take a piece of plastic wrap and press it onto the top of the curd to prevent it from forming a skin. Let fully cool before you use it.


Lemon Buttercream Icing

This is the same icing that I made for the Raspberry Chocolate Cake that I complained about and had a ton of problems with. After those issues I tried a Swiss Buttercream for my Rosewater and Pistachio Cake. That too had many issues. Being a bit more clear headed and focused I set out to make Miette’s Italian Buttercream again. I had a couple small(ish) issues but in the end I had something really awesome.

After making the lemon curd I had 7 whites leftover. The buttercream called for five whites from large eggs. Since I only use duck eggs in all of my cooking this is an issue. The only reliable duck eggs I have found only come in “jumbo”. I turned back to “The Bakers Appendix” and looked up the weight of egg whites in large eggs. It just so happened that the weight of my whites for 7 jumbo duck eggs was almost double the weight of 5 large egg whites. To not have to dump extra egg whites I decided to make a double batch of buttercream, not because I was going to use that much but the buttercream is a bit finicky to make and freezes well. I went ahead, made a double batch of plain vanilla buttercream used what I needed, and froze the rest.

By taking my time, setting my my mixer next to the stove, and using the proper weight of egg whites I was able to make a wonderfully textured and silky smooth buttercream.

  • 400 grams Granulated Sugar
  • 5 ⅜ fl ounces Water

Combine the water and the sugar in a small sauce pan, melting the sugar, and raising to a temperature of 248ºF.


  • 5 ounces Egg White
  • 1 teaspoon Cream of Tartar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment add the egg whites and the cream of tartar. Whisk on slow just till the whites are frothy but not whipped. This is to prevent the cream of tartar from getting clumpy. Once the sugar as reached the desired temperature leaving the mixer on a low speed drizzle in the syrup in a constant stream until all the syrup has been added. Raise the speed slow as it builds up volume working towards a high speed. Once at the higher speed let run for 10 minutes to fluff and cool the mixture.

The goal is to get the mixture to 70-75ºF however I was only able to get my mixture to about 80º and it still worked. You don’t want the mixture too warm as it might melt the butter instead of whip it causing the mixture to split. To help cool the mixture you can fill a large ziplock with ice and hold it against the bowl while it’s running for the 10 minutes.

  • 1 ½ pounds Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

Once the mixture has cooled and with the mixer on a medium speed, add the butter one dollop at a time until all the butter is added. Raise the speed to high and beat till strong and fluffy. Add:

  • 2 tablespoons Vanilla

Mix well. At this point it’s ready to use.

If you would like to make the Lemon Buttercream  simply add 3 tablespoons lemon curd for every 178 grams of buttercream and mix well.


For this particular cake I opted for Meyer Lemons as I like their flavor more and I used them in every place the recipe called for lemon. You could probably do this with any citrus that you like so have fun! I think I am even going to try out a Grapefruit version of this cake at some point.



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