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Lemon cake: a sweet-tart dessert to swoon for

Question: Food! Food! is a tiny deli in Austin, Texas, that serves the most delicious Lemon Curd Cake. The sweetness of the cake and the tartness of lemon complement each other perfectly. Please share the recipe.- Naomi Podolnick, St. Augustine, Fla.

Answer: Thanks to Mother Nature, who has been dispersing trillions of seeds for thousands of years, Texas meadows are blanketed with the brilliant hues of her wildflowers. Some of her best works flourish along the Lone Star State's back roads around Austin and Hill Country towns such as Marble Falls, Burnet and Johnson City.

Roadside fields of Texas bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush, interspersed with an occasional buttercup, provide a backdrop of natural coloration that photographers find irresistible. Many couples plan nuptials to coincide with seasonal posies so that the bride can pose among the blooms in her wedding finery, a portrait sure to enchant future generations.

A wedding cake, the sweetest symbol of the day, doesn't have to be white, couture or costly. A fanciful cake, taking its inspiration from wildflowers, can be decorated with blossoms and leaves to bring a note of romance and color to any wedding theme. Traditionally, the multitiered cake is served after the bride and groom join hands to cut the first slice.

But more and more brides are intrigued by the idea of "cake for one." Individual squares of cake, decoratively iced and piped with leaves or swirls, are monogrammed, tucked into boxes, and bound with a silk bow. The boxed cake can be eaten during the reception or taken home to nibble later. It's said that if an unmarried woman sleeps with a piece of wedding cake (boxed, of course) under her pillow, she'll dream of her own wedding and future spouse.

A flavored wedding cake is an intensely personal choice. One bride was overheard saying to her new husband, "I love you more than raspberries," as she sprinkled a handful of the red berries over the cake. Others compare their love to their craving for chocolate. Lemon devotees desire fresh, tangy flavor. Every bite of the Lemon Curd Cake from Food! Food! is redolent with lemon: fresh lemon juice, lemon zest and lemonade!

LEMON CURD CAKE

Lemon cake:

8 ounces sour cream

1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

2 lemons, zested

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lemon curd:

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 lemon, zested

6 egg yolks

4 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small pieces

Lemon icing:

2 sticks butter

5 to 6 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup lemonade

1 lemon, zested

Lemon cake: In mixing bowl, combine sour cream, lemon juice and lemon zest. Set aside. In large bowl of mixer, cream butter; while gradually adding sugar, beat at medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time. In mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat to blend after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely before icing.

Lemon curd: In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and egg yolks. Whisk to blend. Pour mixture into top of double boiler over simmering water. Heat mixture, whisking continuously, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, piece by piece, until melted. Cool. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until needed.

Lemon icing: In large bowl of mixer at medium speed, cream butter. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, lemonade and lemon zest. Set mixer at high speed and mix until light and fluffy.

Place one layer on a cake platter. Spread 1/2 of curd mixture onto cake. Repeat with second layer. Frost cake with icing. Yields 10 to 12 slices.