Daffodil Cake


Daffodil Cake

In the Box


“Kate rolled the paper and tied the ribbon around it and put it in the box and closed the lid.”

East of Eden, John Steinbeck


My family history includes a predilection for collecting. For some of us the tendency often veers into hoarding. Like a beacon I can see the disease shining on my collection of cookbooks and cake plates. And baking pans. I still have my button, ribbon and lace collections. One of my brothers who hoards without shame brought me a box stuffed with papers and a few rusted and bent enamel ware cups. I added the cups to my growing stash of enamel ware and wondered what to do with the stack of papers. Although my brother can read, he struggles. His Dyslexia has a more powerful grip than mine. It never occurred to my parents that we all had learning disabilities. We just needed more discipline and better study habits. The schools we attended didn’t notice either. I learned to work with it. My spelling and pronunciation is memorized. My brain doesn’t understand phonics. Although spellcheck is phenomenal sometimes it has no idea what word I want.

I recycled almost all of the papers. There were odd recipe booklets. One for Jello, water stained and torn. There were pages of someone’s school homework, receipts paper clipped together, lots of blank paper. I’m not sure where he got the box or why he brought it to me. I’m guessing it was an offering of friendship as we don’t spend a lot of time together. I riffled through the whole thing, becoming intrigued. Ten minutes into the sorting I found a recipe card for Daffodil Cake from McCalls Cooking School. The minute I saw the recipe card I knew I would make the cake. It was the best thing in the box.


With a description of “A Light and Lemony Cake” how could I resist? After all lemon desserts are a personal favorite. And I still have a huge box of foraged lemons. The Daffodil Cake is a combination of an angel food cake and a sponge cake. Part of the angel food batter is reserved and folded into the lemony sponge. Then the batters are placed alternately in the angel food cake pan and swirled together. Recipes from 1986 can be pretty darn wonderful. I took the whole Daffodil Cake thing very seriously by adding a coat of softly whipped cream spiked with lemon curd. After making the Daffodil Cake, there will be seven extra egg yolks. Which is the exact amount required for this voluptuous Lemon Curd recipe from the Miette Cookbook. Never underestimate the power of a lemon dessert to completely capture my undivided attention.

Lemon Curd

The Daffodil Cake is an exceptional cake for early spring. Light in texture and crumb, barely sweet and faintly whispering lemon it aptly recalls the first daffodils that peek though the remains of winter. Angel food cakes are not difficult. With just beaten egg whites for loft the technique is different from the usual cake. An Angel Food Cake pan or a tube pan is a must for a sky high cake that is light as a cloud. Just like any other recipe with beaten egg whites, the whites and yolks of the eggs can not be mingled. Separate each egg over an empty bowl. I used three bowls to separate the eggs. One for the egg I was separating, one for whites and another for the yolks. After separating each egg add the whites to the other whites and the yolk to the other yolks. This is the method I learned in pastry school for separating a large volume of eggs. Using a few extra bowls often circumvents wasted eggs. Use a scrupulously clean bowl to beat the egg whites. Any lingering residue of grease is the enemy of lofty egg whites. Respecting the egg whites leads to great rewards.

Daffodil Cake from McCalls Cooking School, Angel Food Batter
1-1/4C cake flour (sift before measuring)
1-1/2C sugar
1-3/4C egg whites (12-14), room temperature
1/2t fine grain sea salt
1-1/2t cream of tarter
1-1/2t vanilla extract
Yellow Chiffon Batter
5 egg yolks
2T cake flour
2T sugar
2T lemon zest
To Finish
1C whipping cream
1T sugar
1t vanilla extract
1-1/2C lemon curd
1 lemon, zested with a channel zester

Cooling Daffodil Cake

  1. Sift together 1-1/4 cups four and 1/2 cup sugar. Resift a total of three times. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tarter on high speed until soft peaks are formed. Reduce the mixer speed to low speed and gradually pour in the remaining cup of sugar. Beat until stiff peaks are formed. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the vanilla with a whisk. Sift a fourth of the flour mixture over the top of the bowl and with a whisk use fifteen strokes to fold the flour into the egg whites. Turn the bowl a quarter of a turn after each stroke or fold. Repeat three more times to incorporate all the flour into the egg whites. Fold ten more strokes to throughly blend the flour into the egg whites. Set aside 1/3 of the batter for the yellow sponge cake.
  2. Heat the oven to 375°. To make the yellow sponge cake combine the egg yolks, cake flour and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at high speed until very thick. Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the lemon zest. Fold in the reserved angel food cake batter with a whisk using fifteen strokes. Turn the bowl a quarter of a turn after each stroke or fold.
  3. Spoon batters alternately into an ungreased 10-inch tube or Angel Food Cake pan, ending with white batter on top. To make the swirls use a knife to cut through the batter twice. Gently smooth or flatten the top of the batter making sure the batter is clinging to the sides of the baking pan.
  4. Bake the cake on the lower oven rack for 35-40 minutes. When done the cake will be golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed. Invert the baking pan on it’s feet or over the neck of a bottle for 2 hours to cool. Loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a long spatula. Once the sides are loosened, push the cake bottom up to remove it from the sides of the pan. Use the spatula to loosen the cake from the bottom of the pan. Once separated from the bottom of the pan the cake will easily separate from the center tube. Dust off the crumbs and place on a cake plate to frost.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment add the whipping cream and begin beating on low speed for one minute. Gradually increase speed. While the mixer is running sprinkle in the sugar and add the vanilla. Whip on high speed until soft peaks are formed. Add one cup of the lemon curd and mix on low just to combine. Remove the bowl from the mixer and with a rubber spatula scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and fold in any remaining lemon curd. Frost the cake with the whipped cream. Garnish with lemon zest if desired. To serve the Daffodil Cake use a knife with a serrated edge to gently cut the cake with a sawing motion. Alternately use a big serving fork with long tines to gently pull or cut slices of the cake. Do not press down on the cake when cutting. Serve the Daffodil Cake with the additional lemon curd and whipped cream.

Frosting Daffodil Cake

Daffodil Cake


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40 Responses to Daffodil Cake

  1. Carol Sacks says:

    I’ll be right over and I’ll bring tea:) Wow, Deb, so clever. And, on a serious note, your posts are always so evocative. This one is another sterling example of that ability to move with words.

  2. As always, what gorgeous photography, Deb! This cake looks very scrumptious…Lemon is perfect to welcome Spring, don’t you think? I do accept deliveries. 😉

  3. What a find! This cake is sublime. I too love lemon, and this recipe is at the top of my to-do list.

  4. Deb, I must make this cake for my mom. I’m certain she must love lemons, but that isn’t really the reason. Her favorite flower is the daffodil. When they make their appearance each Spring, I bring her a bunch to brighten her apartment. I’m sure this cake would delight her just as much as those canary colored blooming beauties.

    • Deb says:

      What a lovely comment Mary, thank you! The McCall’s Cooking School recipe card depicts the Daffodil Cake surrounded by a mass of fresh daffodils. Your Mom would love it!

  5. This is so timely – first off, I am thinking about Passover desserts and we often make a sponge cake. Not with flour, of course, but matzo meal. I wonder if I can adapt this cake recipe to work. My meyer lemon tree, even after the frosty winter, still bears fruit. And secondly, I was recently going through a very old file cabinet (read a little bit of hoarding here too) and found some of the most useless and entertaining things – no great food recipes but the original warranty for the hot air popper my son is using for popcorn at college for the second generation and my typewriter instructions (woah on that revealing age comment!).

    I’ve had trouble removing cakes from my tube pan, I thoroughly enjoyed your picture of that step and hope that my attempt at bottle balancing will yield better results this next time.

    And finally, I swear I am going to insist you teach a food styling and photography class one of these days. And that’s all – I am done drooling over your post for now.

    • Deb says:

      Oh Beth! What a scrumptious comment! I don’t know if my ability to engage with my environment has changed from last year but there are lemons everywhere! I don’t ever recall so many ripe lemons in the urban environment. Angel food cakes do want to stay in the baking pan which is very different than a cake with butter in the recipe. Crumbs happen but the cake will release from the pan!

  6. Gretchen says:

    Deb, you make everything you bake look like a masterpiece! And this is yet another prize to add to your collection. Most impressive!

    • Deb says:

      Thank you so much for the delightful comment Gretchen! It brightened my morning! I hope you finding a bit of spring sunshine!

  7. Deena kakaya says:

    Lemon is my absolute favourite ingredient in bakes and your stunning pictures absolutely do justice to the feeling of promise, light, spring season freshness. I love your detailed methodology. I don’t know much about dyslexia, but I am even more appreciative of the time and love you put into your touching posts. X

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for the gracious comment Deena! I appreciate your kind thoughts! We are kindred spirits when it comes to sweets, lemon is my personal favorite too!

  8. Cathy says:

    Wow! It looks gorgeous! Your beautiful photos have captured that light and airy lemony feel. Yum!

  9. shannon says:

    lemon sponge + angel food! what a lovely idea for a spring cake; hoarding/collecting DOES have its advantages, including some really great recipes you don’t see much anymore. our family does the same: we have a penchant for old things, family stuff, and odd finds, and we “collect” with restraint (although sometimes we’re light on the restraint, depending on what it is). 🙂 this is lovely, Deb.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for the kind and gracious comment Shannon! I’m so happy to hear of your collecting hobby! My collecting begins innocently enough until it grows into near obsession. I’ve always been an “all or nothing” type! LOL

  10. Oh wow, Deb. You would never suspect that you find it difficult to read and choose words. I feel humbled. Beautiful words, images and recipe – so fluffy and heralding of warmer, longer days. I wish I had a bit of hoarding gene as I will have got rid of some awfully useful things over the years in my quest for tidiness and a semblance of order.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for the gracious comment Kellie! I can and do read and choose words, it’s just that I can not do so phonically. I must memorize how to spell and pronounce words. And since I can not memorize or remember every word, I am often at a loss as to it’s spelling. We were never tested so I am not sure if my brother has the same, exact problem. My brother struggled throughout his schooling, dropping out early in High School. He struggles to read the newspaper. Out of four children I am the only one to complete a college degree. We are all spelling impaired!

  11. Another gorgeous looking post with a delicious cake recipe. I’m in Germany right now, but when I come home I will bake this cake.

  12. What a perfect excuse to finally add an angel food tube-pan to my hoarder-stash of cooking and baking trinkets.
    This cake looks absolutely amazing, Deb, I’m so happy you shared this with us!
    With the start of spring I am craving EVERYTHING LEMON and can’t seem to get my fix, but I think this cake might be my cure (once I buy that pan, of course)…

    • Deb says:

      Thank you the great comment Natalie, I appreciate your thoughts! I”m happy to be the excuse for buying another baking pan! LOL

  13. What a gorgeous spring cake, this would be such a treat for Easter!

  14. I love lemons and love desserts that use lemons! This is a really beautiful cake – its colors definitely justify the name! Beautiful post – beautiful photography, as always!

  15. Patty says:

    Your Daffodil cake is such a beauty Deb! I love lemons, lemon curd, Spring and cake-so this recipe has it all going on for me 😉
    I’m from a family of collectors too-I think it’s interesting how the collections take on different meanings as time passes-now I’m thinking- how come I have all this stuff in my bookcases????

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for the gracious comment Patty! Collecting has it’s merits and can be a joy. But, for me and my birth family collecting can jump the track into undeniable hoarding. And sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference, LOL!

  16. What a gorgeous cake, Deb (and as always, your photography is wonderful)! I love the dual-color batter, and lemon curd is such a special treat. I think I should dust off my angel food pan!

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for such a lovely comment Alyssa! I would definitely recommend dusting off your angel food cake pan!

  17. What a deliciously, refreshing idea!! Everything about this cake screams summer and I am so ready for a little sun and fun!

  18. I knew from the name of this cake it was going to be something I’d love! Lemon and angel food and lemon curd–perfection. What a great find!

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