Recently, we celebrated the Old Man’s birthday and I made the well-intentioned mistake of asking him what kind of cake he wanted. He yelped out his answer before I even finished the question: Robert E. Lee cake…a delicious, lemony, and incredibly time consuming undertaking.
Although the original recipe calls for real and full fat butter, it is just as good with vegan butter for those, like me, who have a complicated relationship with dairy.
The most important thing with this particular cake is to set aside about four hours to spend on it from start to completion (a lot of time is spent waiting for things to cool). So kick off your shoes and get your county music playlist ready to go.
It is worth every minute!
Robert E. Lee Cake
For the cake:
1 tablespoon of room temperature, dairy free vegan or real butter (I use Earth Balance sticks)
2 tablespoons and 2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 tablespoon salt
8 eggs—separate the yolks and whites
2 cups of sugar
¼ cup lemon juice—strained
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Preheat the oven to 350. Use the tablespoon of (faux) butter to grease two 9 inch layer cake pans. Then take the 2 tablespoons of flour and coat the pans, although you probably won’t need the whole 2 tablespoons.
In a large bowl, combine the 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Set it aside for now.
In a second large bowl, beat the yolks and sugar with an electric hand mixer until its thick, about 5 minutes. Add in the lemon juice and zest and keep mixing for another minute. Grab the flour mixture and add that to the egg mixture at about half a cup at a time, mixing thoroughly each time you add more.
Now, remember the egg whites? Take the mixer, with clean paddles, and beat the egg whites until they’re fluffy and stiff. This will take a little longer than you think. Then, spoon the egg whites into the batter and gently fold them in until they’re thoroughly mixed. Don’t rush this part.
Pour the batter into the two pans and smooth out the tops. You’re going to be stacking layers so making it smooth will help later on. Bake them in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool to room temperature.
6 tablespoons of room temperature (vegan) butter cut in pieces
¾ cup of sugar
¾ cup of strained lemon juice
6 egg yolks (you can save the whites for healthy omelets the next morning)
4 teaspoons of lemon zest
This part is pretty easy but takes a while. Just combine all the ingredients except for the lemon zest in a sauce pan. Cook it over low heat and stir constantly until it gets thick and curd-like. Don’t boil it or the egg yolks will curdle. Once it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon fairly heavily, scrape it into a small bowl and stir in the lemon zest. This will also need to cool to room temperature.
4 tablespoons of room temperature (vegan) butter
¼ cup of orange juice mixed with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 pound of confectioner sugar
2 teaspoons of lemon zest
My personal favorite part of any cake! In a large bowl cream the (vegan) butter, and then add in about 1 cup of confectioner sugar. After that is mixed, add in a splash of the juice mixture. Keep doing this until everything is mixed together—about 1 ¼ cups sugar and 2 tablespoons of juice at a time. Lastly, you’ll add in the lemon zest. You can omit this if you’d like though, the cake is already very lemony!
Cut the two cakes in half horizontally to make 4 thin layers. Go ahead and assemble the cake on your cake plate, it just makes it easier. Place the bottom layer on the plate and spread about 1/3 of the filling over the top. Then add the second layer and repeat until you have a fully formed cake. Now ice it and try to wait until desert to dig in.
Pookie is a poet and proud Ole Miss Alum who is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree.