My grandma was horrified to learn I made my own birthday cake, and apologized several times for my “having” to do so. No apologies necessary, I wanted to do it. I have very few occasions in my life that really warrant cake, and not enough excuses to make one. I’ll be darned if an opportunity for making cake comes along and I miss it.

The recipe is adapted from Sur La Table’s Art of Baking, which, in my humble opinion, is the best baking book I own. All the recipes are excellent, and it does a great job of also explaining all of the steps, what to look for along the way, how to correct potential mistakes along the way, as well as all the why’s and how’s. The recipes range from fairly easy to more involved, but the simplicity and thoroughness of the directions make this book accessible to even beginning bakers.

Comprised of 4 individual components, this wasn’t a particularly quick or easy cake–none of the steps were difficult, but I was less than efficient at putting things together. However, Many of the components could easily be made in advance; the assembled cake was better on day two as well, after the ingredients had some opportunities to “mingle.” Thus, despite the fact there are a lot of little steps, it is easily manageable to get the bulk of the work done ahead of time.

The cake itself is a simple sponge cake–a variety I’d never had the opportunity to taste before moving (briefly) to Poland, where sponge cakes seem to be more popular (perhaps the market is just less saturated with just-add-water mixes?), and have since fallen in love with. It is exceedingly light and fluffy, sweet but not overwhelmingly so, and has a slightly eggy taste, which was masked by a refreshing drizzle of lemon syrup. The marscapone frosting wasn’t overly sweet, either, thanks to the gentle sour-tangy bites stemming from the lemon and cheese. It was fresh, creamy, and airy–a perfect compliment to the delicate sponge. For added lemon flavor, a bright burst of lemon curd was layered in between each cake level. The result was a cake that was truly impressive and tasted (and looked) very professional.