This is another classic “Tina Cake” that pops up at some family gathering at least once a year. Inspired by a cake she enjoyed as a special treat on outings to Blum’s with her mother, this dessert is an absolute showstopper. It looks insane, and tastes even better. Light and airy but with a surprising crunch, you’ll be embarrassed by how much you can eat.
You can make the delicious lemon scented sponge cake that Tina uses for the base of her crackle cake, or you can make a box sponge or angel food cake with a bit of lemon zest mixed in, either works.
The cake is a little tricky because it burns sometimes. You have to be careful and not cook it too long, it can go dry really quick. But it what really makes a difference with this cake is the lemon rind in the cake. It gives an acid punch that works well with the sweet coffee crunch and whipped cream. This cake has no butter or oil, so it’s light and ever so addicting!
Make in 3 10-inch cake pans lined with wax paper
1 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted then measured
2 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
9 egg yolks
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 9 large eggs)
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, packed (there will be a little left over)
unflavored vegetable oil
2 tablespoon baking soda, sifted
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
5 cups heavy cream
5 tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoons vanilla
For the cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Adjust rack in the lower third of oven.
Grease or spray 3 10 inch nonstick cake pans and line the bottom with wax paper. Grease the paper as well. Sift flour, half of the sugar (1 cup and 2 tablespoons), and salt into a bowl; set aside.
Whisk egg whites in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer just until frothy. Add cream of tartar; whisk until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cups sugar in a steady stream, whisking until thicker, stiffer, glossy peaks form – about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Scoop white into a VERY large bowl (trust me, you’ll need it) and set aside.
In the same bowl you used for the whites, beat the egg yolks with remaining sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 2-3 minutes. Add water and beat until thickened, about 4 minutes. It should be very thick and pale. Pour yolk mixture over whites and gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle a third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture; fold to combine. Repeat two more times just until ingredients are incorporated. Gently pour batter into the pans and level tops with a spatula.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until top springs back slightly when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Invert pan onto a cooling rack, and cool for about 45 minutes.
To remove cake from pan, slip a butter knife down one side of pan and slowly trace perimeter to release the cake. When sides are free, cover cake with a rack and invert. Remove cake pan and the wax paper. Let the cakes cool completely.
For the coffee crunch topping: Generously oil a large baking sheet or line with a silicon mat or parchment paper; sift baking soda onto a sheet of wax paper; set nearby.
Combine coffee, sugar and corn syrup in a heavy, 4-quart saucepan. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. When mixture is clear and begins to boil, increase heat to medium-high; cook until mixture reaches 290°F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (mixture will foam up intensely). While still foaming, pour out onto prepared baking sheet. Do not spread (this will compress it) and let it harden and cool completely (about 30 minutes).
Crush into very small pieces using your hands or a knife. Store in an airtight container if using later.
For the frosting: Combine cream, sugar and vanilla. Whisk until cream holds stiff peaks.
To assemble: Place cake on a cake plate. Spread whipped cream between each layer about 1 inch thick and sprinkle with the smallest pieces and dust from the coffee crunch. Carefully stack the layers, repeating the whipped cream and sprinkling the coffee crunch. Spread remaining whipped cream over the top and sides of cake and decorate with as much coffee crunch as possible. Refrigerate until serving.