Lemonade Layer Cake, developed by Ann Taylor Pittman as a recipe makeover, has been loved by readers since it debuted in April 2002. When we retested it for this story, we felt we could make big improvements in the texture and flavor. Instead of using a lemonade product, we've made a concentrated fresh lemonade syrup that adds zippy citrus hits to the more-tender cake.
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. To prepare cake, lightly coat 2 (8-inch) round metal cake pans with baking spray; line bottoms of pans with wax paper. Coat wax paper with baking spray.
3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine buttermilk and low-fat milk. Combine 1 cup granulated sugar, butter, and oil in a large bowl; beat with mixer at medium speed 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1 tablespoon rind. Add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until combined.
4. Place 3 egg whites and cream of tartar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until medium peaks form, using clean, dry beaters. Gently fold egg white mixture into batter. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire racks. Loosen edges with a knife, and invert cake layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper, and discard.
5. To prepare lemonade syrup, while cake layers bake, combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar and next 3 ingredients (through 1 tablespoon water) in a 1-cup glass measure. Microwave at HIGH 45 seconds or until mixture boils; stir until sugar dissolves. Cool slightly. Pierce warm cake layers liberally with a wooden pick. Brush syrup over warm cake layers until all of syrup is absorbed. Cool completely.
6. To prepare frosting, place chilled cream cheese, 2 teaspoons rind, and 1 teaspoon juice in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Gradually add powdered sugar; beat at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat). Place 1 cake layer on a plate, and spread half of frosting over top. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top of cake. Store cake, loosely covered, in refrigerator.