Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ten-Layer Lemon Cheese Cake

Many Southerners remember this cake from childhood, but it’s rarely found on tables today. There is no cheese in the recipe and it’s not even distantly related to a cheesecake. This heirloom is simply white cake iced with lemon curd. Published lemon cheese recipes are scarce in all formats. Even an online search turns up more New York style cheesecakes than it does this Southern classic. It’s properly pronounced with no space or breath between lemon and cheese.
I’d love to hear about any of your family connections to a Lemon Cheese Cake or memories of this famous cake. I can talk good cakes all day! If you had it as part of a special occasion in the past, you’ll remember it.

Ten-Layer Lemon Cheese Cake

Vegetable cooking spray
4 1/2 cups cake flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
5 large eggs
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
Lemon Curd

Preheat oven to 350˚. Coat 3 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray. If you have more cake pans of the same size, prepare them as well. More pans makes little layers easier.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla in a second medium bowl.

Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer, and beat at medium speed 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Increase speed to medium, and beat 1 minute. Pour 3/4 cup batter in each prepared pan.

Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until centers of cakes spring back when pressed lightly with your finger. Remove from pans to wire racks while cake layer is still very warm; cool completely. Respray pans, pour another 3/4 cup batter in each, repeat baking until all layers are complete.

Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread a thin layer of lemon curd to edges (about 3 tablespoons per layer). Repeat procedure with remaining cake layers and curd. Spread remaining curd on top and sides of cake. The lemon curd is translucent so you will see the layers of the cake.

Lemon Curd

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
12 large egg yolks, beaten

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat; stir in sugar and next 2 ingredients. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the warm butter mixture into the egg yolks. Whisk well to combine. Whisking constantly, whisk egg yolks into the butter mixture in the saucepan. Place over low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until 170˚ is reached, about 10 minutes. Pour into a mixing bowl placed over an ice water bath. Whisk to cool curd to room temperature. This prevents the yolks from curdling while cooling. Whisk well if curd develops a layer on top while sitting.

Copyright 2015 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved.


The Southern Sideboard said...

This looks amazing! My neighbor's Grand used to make one. So glad to have this recipe and can't wait to try it out. Happy Easter.

n3centz said...

Mama's mother used to make these! Somehow, the recipe got lost over the years. Mama wanted me to make one for her birthday a few years ago and I hunted and hunted for the recipe, both in our treasure trove of hand-written recipes and online. The one I found was passable, but not the same as Grandmama's, so I am thrilled that you've shared yours!!

Rebecca Lang said...

I hope it stands up to your Grandmama's when you try it! Please let me know. Sometime's when your grandmother cooks something, that alone makes it better. Happy Easter to your family!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

My Mom and Grandmother have made this cake at Christmas for over 40 yrs. I always thought the pronunciation was "Lemon Chess" and they were saying it wrong. Looks like they were actually right! I have never seen this cake anywhere else! My husband loves it too.

Unknown said...

My Mom and Grandmother have made this cake at Christmas for over 40 yrs. I always thought the pronunciation was "Lemon Chess" and they were saying it wrong. Looks like they were actually right! I have never seen this cake anywhere else! My husband loves it too.

Rebecca Lang said...

It is confusing with lemon chess pies being so common in the South. I hope your New Year is off to a great start!

Unknown said...

Lemons are also a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, iron, and magnesium, and are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, and copper, as well as folate and potassium.


christimac said...

This is awesome! I have been google searching the history of this cake for the word "chess" in American southern history and yours is the ONLY site that accurately portrays what I grew up eating. My grandmother and great grandmother used to make this cake all the time-southern Georgia, even back to non-electric kitchens. Your pics look just like their cakes! Mema told me that her mom said it was called "cheesecake" because the cake, before it is cut, looked just like a big wheel of cheese: Thank you for posting the recipe for this delectable cake-I'll be trying this recipe to compare;)

christimac said...

Also, I have fond memories of all those cake layers laid out all over my grandmother's tiny kitchen on brown grocery bags (she didn't own wire racks) while she was working on the lemon "filling". Thanks again!

Shirley A Harvey said...

Have been looking for this for years. My Great Aunt and mother use to make this cake.
Was the best cake ever. Thank you so much.

Shirley , Tallahassee, FL

Margot said...

Wow, 10 layers! This cake sounds and looks amazing :)

sandi said...

Thank you thank you my favorite cake.... always my birthday cake..... l8wes it with vanilla ice cream . Glad to find the recipe. Rich dept. Store sold theses as southern favorite .

Anonymous said...

I am immensely grateful to have found this "Authentic Recipe" My mother used to make this around Christmas time with her famous 4, which were CARAMEL, CHOCOLATE, COCONUT, AND THE REIGNING QUEEN: LEMON CHEESECAKE!! My mother passed in 2008 at 91 years old, and this recipe is my favoritE. everyone seems to have a different one (or an embellished one),if my BIAS for GENUINE SOUTHERN RECIPES IS EVIDENT GOOOD!! A true Southerner will always recognize AUTHENTIC GOURMET CULTURE, this RECIPE IS THE REAL DEAL, Thank you so very Much. 12/5/2017

Unknown said...

My aunt used to make this cake, and like many of the other commenters had a difficult time finding a recipe online remotely close to he one I remember. Thank you or sharing, going to buy lemons and bake one tomorrow!

Unknown said...

Made it for Thanksgiving 2018. My sister-in-law and her sister loved it. This recipe was requested immediately. Brought back memories.

Unknown said...

My grandmother best friend use to make this cake for our family for years. And when she wasn't able to bake anymore she passed the recipe to me. Over the years the recipe got lost. Im so glad i have found a recipe i can try.

Unknown said...

My Great Aunt use to make this when I was a little girl. I think it was the best cake I have ever eaten. I really wish I had more of the old cake recipes. She use to make layers of chocolate cake to.
Thank you so much for this recipe.

Marion said...

About the "cheese" part:

The 19th-century American cookbooks I've seen often feature recipes for cheesecake that include no cheese at all; instead, they consist of pastry shells filled with a rich custard, which they call "curd". Bizarre, until you think of lemon curd (sometimes called "lemon cheese") - also a rich, cheese-less custard. That, I would bet, is why the old cookbooks called those tarts "cheese cakes", and perhaps also why your cake is named what it is - because it is made with lemon cheese/curd.

Interestingly, those same cookbooks always feature jelly cakes, something else I'd never heard of. You might already know this, but they are almost exactly identical to your cake - a stack of thin, round cakes with jelly (or sometimes light custard) in between the layers. The cakes are always baked thin, as yours are, rather than being horizontal slices of a thicker cake.

Anyway, this old post helped solve my "cheese cake" perplexity, so I thought I'd leave a comment. This really is a "heritage cake"!

Unknown said...

I made this as a challenge/suggestion by a friend and I am so glad I did. A beautiful cake. I did not cook the lemon curd long enough which I will fix the next time I make this.

ATLdesigner said...

As kid growing up in south Alabama in the 1970s and 80s, I always loved having a lemoncheese cake for my birthday. I haven't had one in years and I'm going to use your recipe to make one this year! My birthday is on Thanksgiving Day so I know it will be eaten! Your recipe looks just like the one my mom always used. Her cake would be anywhere from 5-10 layers and had lots of lemon zest. (She is looking for her recipe in old Southern Living cookbooks.) We'll see how I do!

Unknown said...

I remember us having this at my grandparents house when I was young at Christmas. In the past year I have started making cakes to sale and this has been a popular request. Only thing after it sits a while it's wanting to form a slight bit of a crust. What can I do to prevent this. I'm cooking in a double boiler. please help

Unknown said...

This was the only thing my Mother baked for holidays. She loved making it! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Anonymous said...

This is the most delicious cake ever. My grandmother made it when I was a child. I have made it a couple of times, but not often. It's not that difficult so not sure why. But think I'm going to do it this year.

Anonymous said...

I bake for sale, anve been asked for a lemon layer cake. I’m a southern girl so immediately my mind went to my momma’s lemon cheese cake from when I was growing up. I began to search for an “old-fashioned lemon cheese layer cake”. When fI found your recipe, I knew I had hit the jackpot! Thanks so much for sharing! Ella/BlackGirl Delights.