To make the confit vanilla lemons, add 100ml/3½fl oz of water, the sugar and the vanilla to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Cool until the liquid is slightly warmer than room temperature.
Put the lemons in a non-reactive bowl topped with the syrup. Cover and leave overnight.
To make the lemon sponge cake, preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Grease a non-stick 24cm/10in round cake tin with the salted butter and dust it with a little caster sugar.
Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl, adding a little sugar at a time to make a soft meringue-like mixture.
In a separate bowl, whisk the yolks until pale, then fold in the flour and lemon zest.
Fold the meringue into the egg yolk mixture and tip into the prepared non-stick tin. Bake for 25 minutes, or until springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean (or with a few dry crumbs). Cool before serving.
Mix the lemon juice with some of the lemon sugar syrup from the confit lemons in a small bowl. Brush the lemon liquid over the warm cake.
To make the mascarpone and yoghurt cream, mix the yoghurt with the mascarpone in a small bowl and add the lemon juice.
To serve, slice the sponge cake. Arrange each slice on a plate and dust with icing sugar. Spoon some yoghurt and mascarpone on the side. Garnish with the confit lemons, some mint sprigs and a drizzle of limoncello, if you like.
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