17 April 2012

Lemon layers + an april shower

Yesterday some friends and I celebrated my friend's growing belly that will become, in about two weeks, a little brother to her darling, toddling daughter. This kid's getting born into a seriously delightful family. I, of course, volunteered to express my love with copious amounts of butter, sugar, and flour.
I chose a lemon layer with blueberry buttercream, partly because of the flavors and partly because of the alliteration. Okay, mostly because of the alliteration. Food-crafting loses to word-gluing, but just by a bit.

The plan was to spend my Sunday baking and tasting and double-boiling at a leisurely pace. Instead, I got cake anxiety and found every reason not to start it until 9 o'clock at night. Note that I am sorely missing my stand mixer (quite literally, in my right arm), and that I only own one cake pan. Math time. 25 minutes baking/15 minutes cooling per layer, three layers. It was an unnecessarily late night.

The cake was supposed to be completely frosted in buttercream on the outside, with the lemon curd between the layers. The frosting recipe I used didn't make enough for the whole cake, so I improvised. Well, the clear-headed improvisation came about ten minutes after some foot-stomping, whiny fretting.

I actually think the end result is prettier, however I would have liked a thicker layer of buttercream on the sides. There's always next time, and this cake, my friends, will get a next time. Yum.

Cardamom-Lemon Layer Cake with Blueberry Buttercream
Cake and lemon curd adapted from Smitten Kitchen and buttercream frosting adapted from Spicy Ice Cream

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted self-rising flour*
  • 1 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 vanilla beans, scraped (or 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C/150C(fan). 
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and cardamom, and continue to beat until just mixed. 
  3. Divide batter equally among three springform pans, bottoms lined with parchment paper and buttered. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4-inches above counter, then dropping flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. 
  4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Let cool, then release from pans but leave the parchment paper on the bottom of the layers. Transfer to plates, and freeze for at least 2 hours.
  6. Level the tops and sides of the layers with a long serrated knife, and put back in freezer until you're ready to frost.
*Self-rising flour has both salt and baking powder in it, but you can make your own at home with the following formula: 1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour, minus 2 teaspoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Lemon Curd:
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups caster or fine white sugar (regular granulated sugar, depending on the granule size, may not dissolve properly, resulting in a crunchy texture- yuck!)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 4 lemons, juiced and zested
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  1. Place the ingredients in the double boiler over boiling water. Don’t let top pan touch the water. 
  2. Cook and stir until mixture begins to gel or thicken ever-so-slightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. 
  3. Cover and refrigerate it to thicken. 
Blueberry Buttercream:
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 sticks butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh (or frozen and thawed)
  • Extra blueberries, to decorate
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of lemon juice
  1. To make the blueberry buttercream, puree the blueberries and strain to remove the seeds and skins, and set aside. 
  2. Whisk together egg white and sugar in a large heatproof bowl. 
  3. Clip a candy thermometer to side of bowl. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until mixture reaches 160F/71C and sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
  4. With a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg white mixture on high speed until cooled and thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, 1 cube at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. If mixture is runny at this point, refrigerate for 10 minutes and then continue beating until it starts to hold its shape (this can take a while). Beat in blueberry puree, vanilla, salt, and lemon juice, until smooth and creamy. 
  5. Place in a piping bag, and pipe a solid ring of buttercream around the rim of your first layer. Spread 1/3 of your lemon curd inside the frosting ring, and gently lay the next layer on top, aligning the leveled edges. Repeat. 
  6. Frost the sides with a thin layer of buttercream, sealing down any crumbs. This is your crumb coat. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, then spread a thick layer of buttercream over the top of it with a spatula
  7. Spread a thin layer of lemon curd across the top of the cake, and "glue" a ring of blueberries around the edge. Put the cake back in the refrigerator so the frosting can set up; take out right before serving.