When my friends Racheli and Shaya got engaged a few weeks ago, I knew a cake was in the works. And knowing that Racheli loves all things lemon made me reach for this recipe for lemon layer cake from Smitten Kitchen, that I'd been eyeing for months. And boy was that a good move.
This cake starts with Paula Deen's famous 1-2-3-4 cake, which I've used before. The recipe makes three layers, which Deb (of Smitten Kitchen, of course) thought would be quite high, and I agreed. So instead, like her, I made 2 layers, and 6 very large cupcakes.
But of course, I couldn't possibly skimp on the lemon filling, so instead I cut those two layers in to four, and filled them all with the delicious lemon curd that I kept licking off my fingers.
Then of course, came the frosting. This recipe called for the famous 7-minute-frosting, which is basically a mixture of whipped egg whites, sugar, corn syrup and a couple other ingredients, at exactly the right temperature, for exactly the right length of time, to produce a meringue like frosting. Notice the word exactly. Not quite my thing.
Nevertheless I forged on, and armed with my handy candy (tee-hee) thermometer, I began the process. Unclear of what the final goal was even supposed to look like, I was apprehensive and worried, but it did appear to be thick and shiny as per my instructions.
And then. Disaster struck. Bum, bum, bum. While whipping with my hand mixer (and by hand mixer, I mean stand mixer separated from the stand), I hit the thermometer (that wasn't supposed to be in there anymore) and cracked it, sending shards of glass throughout the frosting.
Now, while a stray piece of egg shell may not kill you, I sure as hell wasn't going to serve frosting with death fragments in it. Ok, perhaps I'm being a little dramatic, but man, oh man, was this frustrating.
But, being that this wasn't just any old cake my friends, family or coworkers would manage without, I set out for 7-minute frosting part 2. Which, by the way, is more like twenty minute frosting, and forty if you have to make it twice.
Now, while I'm pretty sure the frosting turned out how it should have, I'm not so sure how I felt about it. The cake - the cake was fantastic, super lemony and moist. But the frosting - it was kind of like a big gooey meringue. Which some people like. I was kind of on the fence. Of course, I conducted a hasty survey of the consumers (is there anything you'd like more at a party then some crazed baker hovering over your shoulder, asking "did you like it? did you like it?") and responses were split. Guess it's just not for everyone.
Anyway, I decided to try a fun technique I saw during my endless hours of food network watching, by rotating the cake as I drew lines around it with a spatula - to make a cool, ribbony effect. I'm not sure anybody but me noticed.
(Yes, those are avocados.)
Anyway, by now you're probably thinking, aren't you done already? I've spent more time reading this post than it probably took you to bake the cake. (And you'd be wrong). But we're far from done, because next came the writing.
Now, I've mentioned before that I hate writing on cakes, and it makes me super nervous. But here it was kind of necessity, so I thought I'd try a new technique and pipe the letters on to parchment paper, let them set, and then apply them to the cake. That way I wouldn't ruin the cake if my writing was, well, up to my usual standards. (Different fridge, different vegetables. And I spot an apple!)
[For my non-Hebrew-literate friends, on top is the Hebrew lettering for "Mazel Tov" which means congratulations.]
However, they just kept breaking (and being eaten), so I took a deep breath, and went for it on the cake itself...
...not bad. Perhaps I'm not off the guest list after all.
More importantly...a good time was had by all.
Of course, this was just engagement party, part 1. Just wait until you see what part 2 has in store.
Tip of the Day: Keep your candy thermometer away from whirring kitchen appliances! 'Nuff said.
Recipe: (from Smitten Kitchen)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
4 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Beat in eggs, one at a time, waiting until each is well combined.
Add the flour, baking powder and salt alternatedly with the milk, until all is mixed in.
Add in the vanilla.
Divided between 3 9-inch round pans or 2 pans and 6-8 cupcakes.
Bake on 350F for 25 to 30 minutes (about 15 for cupcakes).
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
zest and juice of 3 lemons
Mix all the ingredients together in a glass bowl.
Place in a double boiler - over boiling water - without letting the bowl touch the water.
Cook and stir the mixture until it begins to gel or thicken very slightly.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Cover and refrigerate to thicken.
Seven (Twenty) Minute Frosting:
5 tbsps water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 room temperature eggs whites
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk all the ingredients except the vanilla together in a stainless-steel bowl.
Set the bowl in a wide skillet with about 1 inch of simmering water in it.
Beat the mixture on low until the temperature reaches about 140F on a thermometer.
Beat on high speed for five minutes.
Remove from the skillet and add the vanilla, continuing to beat for two to three minutes to cool.
If you are using two layers, slice each in half. Place the bottom layer on a cake plate or tray, and spread lemon curd on top. Layer cake then curd, until the final cake layer - do not spread curd on the top.
Cover the top and sides of the cake in frosting.